Hasan is an engineer who lives in Damascus and writes here about government forces engaging in recent days with elements of the Free Syrian Army in some of the biggest conflicts in the capital since the start of the war. When demonstrations began in March of last year, Hasan became a member of an independent group of citizen-reporters who share reports on daily events of the revolution in many neighborhoods of Damascus and its suburbs. Hasan is not his real name and he declined to identify where he lives to avoid being discovered by government security.
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Hasan in Damascus, Friday, July 13, 2012
Do you remember the map I made for you early in the protests that showed the few neighborhoods where demonstrations were being held and the many areas of Damascus where no one was marching for change? Now, things have changed. As a start, you can light the map of the capital all with red: Red for protests, arrests, patrols and some areas of blood and clashes.
I believe Assad is very mad at Damascus. He tried hard to deal carefully with the demonstrations in the first few months but now the Free Syrian Army is located as sleeper cells in most Damascus neighborhoods, especially the outer ones. I believe the regime is trying desperately to repel the FSA, which is now near to the capital.
The battle for Damascus has begun
Friday is the first time Assad forces used heavy machine-guns to stop a demonstration in Nahr Aisha to the south. Palestinian people in Yarmook demonstrated. They marched from several mosques and gathered near Waseem mosque with thousands of participants.
He tried hard to deal carefully with the demonstrations in the first few months but now the Free Syrian Army is located as sleeper cells in most Damascus neighborhoods, especially the outer ones – Hasan in Damascus
It lasted for about three hours starting from Madares street and to the Falasteen mosque and the square where it was attacked by security forces using stun grenades, machine-guns and a sniper aiming to the head. They lost about 10 martyrs.
A funeral and demonstration by Palestinians and Syrians in Damascus on Friday
Assad forces in armored vehicles also stormed Kafarsouseh to the south and Shaghour in the southeast on Thursday. They also shelled the farms in Kafarsouseh using mortars.
It looks like Damascus is on fire.
Friday started after a night of demonstrations all over the city in response to the awful massacre in Tremseh in Hama suburbs. All neighborhoods of Damascus demonstrated after Friday prayer.
Kafarsouseh started to host the FSA several months ago, but no real conflict happened. Some of the most powerful brigades are located in Kafarsouseh, and they have been protecting demonstrations there. Soon, they got stronger and had some clashes with Assad forces when they were protecting the demonstrations there.
Fighting started in the suburbs two months ago
Assad believes that FSA inside Damascus is supported mainly by the brigades in the suburbs, so Assad started to hit the suburbs.
The fighting has been going off and on in the suburbs but never inside Damascus. It is now escalating inside Damascus and in the very near towns.
The FSA became especially strong in the suburbs near Damascus to the east, called Ghouta, which include Douma, Harasta and tens of towns.
The first neighborhood to be hit was Barzeh in the northeast, which was shelled by mortar about two months ago, and then they stormed Qaboon also northeast and Qadam in the southeast. I don’t have details about how FSA fighters were working, but I believe they were entering the city from the suburbs and would secure a path for a retreat after to their main locations in the suburbs.
…many people here grew afraid that Assad might commit massacres such as what happened in Houla and Tremseh and that his fall is getting closer – Hasan in Damascus
Assad is now attacking the outskirts of the city. Hameh and Qudsaya, which are close to the city in the northwest, were shelled and stormed during the last month. I was inside the city then and I was able to hear the shelling and clashes.
Damascenes fear a massacre in the capital
Residents of the capital started forming their brigades and coordinating with the nearby brigades because many people here grew afraid that Assad might commit massacres such as what happened in Houla and Tremseh and that his fall is getting closer. Now some people think the regime may shell Damascus with all kinds of weapons before Assad escapes if he has the chance, or maybe he will use other types of weapons.
People here believe Assad will do whatever he can to take revenge from them when he believes he is falling.
I believe that FSA is working for a great cause. They endanger their lives for our protection and freedom, though sometimes they make mistakes. This is pretty normal as it is impossible for them to cooperate well.
Brigades are formed from defected soldiers and some people from the neighborhood who join them leaving their civilian life and provide information about the area. Some brigades are not strong enough so they seek help from nearby comrades.
Even if the regime’s days are numbered, we must still fight now. The only way is to stand and face him by all means.
As a human and a weak civilian, yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid Assad forces and my pro-Assad neighbors, who are armed by the way, will attack me and my family and I can’t do anything as I’m unarmed and not trained for such cases.
Even if the regime’s days are numbered, we must still fight now. The only way is to stand and face him by all means – Hasan in Damascus
I’m still living in my place, but I had to move for a while to several locations near and inside Damascus, especially when friends are arrested or we suspect a leak in our networks. But as a freedom fighter, I believe there must be a price for freedom. We all have to pay as the whole world let us down and they let Assad kill us. All of those responses are “we condemn” and they just tightened the sanctions which I believed at first will be helpful. But it turned out that Assad won’t be hurt. All he had to do is to suck more from us and raise prices.
David Arnold coordinates the Syria Witness project at Middle East Voices and reports on Middle East and North Africa affairs for both Voice of America and MEV. The Syria Witness project publishes on-the-ground citizen reporting, giving Syrians the opportunity to offer to a global audience their first-person narratives of life on the streets of their war-torn country.