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Images of Damascus

Damascus is resisting. Under siege on pretty much all four fronts since a little after the outbreak of the crisis in Syria in 2011, the capital has nonetheless managed to remain standing. There is a shortage of water and electricity and prices for anything are prohibitive for wage earners paid in Syrian lira. Before the crisis a dollar cost 50 lira, now it costs nearly 550.

 

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A corner in Damascus’ old city. Photo by Pablo Sapag M.

Pablo Sapag M.

 

Damascus, Syria. – In spite of everything, Damascenes are dealing with the adversity. With or without their regulars, the old cafes remain open as usual. As do all the offices of Syria’s administration which is displaying resilience.

With barricades and ramparts to prevent terrorist incursions into Damascus, for Syrian ministries, courts and other state services in the city – more so than in any other place in the country – it is business as usual (or even more than this).

For the Suq Hamidiyeh, the Damascene bazaar where owners have painted their shutters in the colours of the Syrian flag, it is also business as usual. Damascus has always been nationalist.

This was the case in the final phase of the Ottoman Empire and also during the occupation of the French upon whose departure in 1945 the Damascene parliament was bombed, causing the loss of dozens of lives.

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Inside the Al Faranj synagogue. The non-denominational Syrian state protects all religions. Photo by Pablo Sapag M.

In the Syrian capital, everyone knows who the enemies are: yesterdays, today’s and the perennial ones. For this reason, in the old city there is an Israeli flag laid out for passers-by to step on.

People are reminded in the streets that some of the jihadists who besieged the city – now the threat is only from the east where the opposition have strengthened their positions in the district of Jobar and in some locations on the eastern Ghouta outskirts – are being treated in Israeli hospitals.

This is why sometimes every two or three hundred metres an exhaustive military or police check is carried out, even in the pedestrian maze of the old city.

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Bab Touma is the Christian sector of Damascus’ old city, a place where mortars regularly fall. Photo by Pablo Sapag M.

Despite the enormous barricades of earth and stone which block the avenue which connects Jobar with Abassid Square incursions are sometimes inevitable.

From there or other places suicide bombers can enter and wearing a bomb belt kill dozens of people, disrupting normal activities and leaving a hiatus which is disturbing.

A case in point is the corner of the Argentina and Brazil avenues in the middle of the Muhajereen district of the city.

There, a well maintained obelisk is a reminder of Argentina’s Bicentenary of Independence which like the rest of Latin America has always shared links with Syria – maté, introduced by returning Syrian emigrants, is consumed here just as it is in the Southern Cone.

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Check points to prevent terrorist infiltrations in Damascus. Photo by Pablo Sapag M.

Damascus remembers its emigrants and in particular its multi-denominational character. The temples of the three monotheistic religions which were born in Syria open beside each other under the umbrella of the secular Syrian state whose capital is, of course, Damascus.

(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – nigelconibear@gmail.com)

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