Local reconciliations in Syria: supporters and opponents

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A rebel fighter (L) walks past Syrian National Defence Forces (NDF), an armed unit of volunteers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad operating under Syrian army command, in the town of Babbila, a suburb of Damascus, during a cease fire agreement between the group controlling the town and the regime on February 17, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Louai Beshara)

By: Racha Abi Haidar

Published Friday, February 21, 2014

While the government sees the recent reconciliations with some opposition fighters as a step forward, some Syrians are not pleased with this approach. Where do Syrian citizens stand and how do they feel about reconciling with former fighters?

Damascus- Life in Damascus is as normal as it can be. The sounds of artillery shelling and fighter jets became a part of daily life around the city, just like traffic jams. While some taxi drivers complain about the heavy traffic, others understand that the security measures “are meant to protect us.” A normal 10-minute commute through the city and its suburbs now takes up to half an hour due to the many checkpoints and heavy security procedures and examinations.

In the capital, security and political issues are the main topics anywhere you go, and today, local reconciliations are a top priority.

In some towns in the Damascus countryside, such as Moadamiyeh, Barzeh, al- Qaboun, Yelda, Beit Sahem, al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and recently Babbila, hundreds of fighters abandoned the “revolution.” The Syrian flag was raised over city halls and government buildings while sieges were lifted.

Cameras were rolling when army men shook the hands of fighters once described as “terrorists.” They were both carrying their guns, but were no longer quick on the trigger. These towns distanced themselves from the war, even though they had been offering a safe haven for opposition fighters before.

Distrust and resentment

Yet, Syrians are divided between those supporting such reconciliations and others opposing them. Some who have lost loved ones in the war expressed their resentment, while others believe that “it is about time to put an end to the bloodshed,” saying “the country is more important than anything else despite all the agony.”

Nader is a former fighter with the pro-Assad National Defense Forces. He volunteered last year and participated in many military operations, then had to leave due to his injuries. He had joined many fierce battles and knows his enemies quite well, more than any other citizen.

He firmly opposes such reconciliations. “What’s the guarantee these people won’t stab us in the back? They still have their small arms with them,” he said.

“We defended our land in the face of terrorists and now they became regular citizens?” he added.

His friend Imad, also a volunteer who fought against the armed opposition, does not hide his resentment. “This is unacceptable… I feel that my friends’ and family’s blood [was shed] in vain,” he said.

Imad explained that in some regions where reconciliations took place, families have sent food aid to militants. “This happened in Moadamiyeh, where food aid has been sent to Daria.”

“What about those in the fields and on the fronts? I understand their feelings,” he added angrily.

However, another man said, “the regime is exhausted from war, and the reconciliations are in its best interest, meanwhile militants and residents were compelled to abide, they were hungry…. That’s ridiculous. Those fighters were coordinating with other militants in regions that the regime hasn’t reached yet, they were planning terrorist attacks…how should I accept such reconciliations? This is a war, they should be held accountable.”

Yasmine, meanwhile, talked about her uncle, a father of two, killed while fighting along the Syrian army. His wife lost her brother forty days later. “Who will take care of her and her children now? How would she live in the same region as the murderer of her husband and brother?” she asked resentfully, “that’s not fair,” she added.

Her story is not the only one of its kind, there are thousands of other martyrs. Everywhere you go, you hear stories about a relative killed in the war.

Yet despite her anger, Yasmine quoted an old saying of Antoun Saadeh: “I have to forget my own bleeding to heal the wounds of my nation.”

“We want peace”

Others, meanwhile, are tired of all the fighting; they want to end the bloodshed across Syria.

“We don’t want to fight, we want peace in any way,” a driver said, stressing that “the army should monitor the militants....What guarantees that they won’t turn against us again?”

A local café owner confessed that deep in his heart, he does not support the reconciliations process, “but the country has to go forward.”

His friend added, “There’s nothing we can do, what can we say? Let’s get through with this so we can be relieved.”

Nael lost two of his children in the war, but despite his sorrows, he said, “The country is dearer than anything else… we should preserve Syria even though I don’t support the reconciliations.”

For the government, “the reconciliation process won’t stop, it is a strategic choice regardless of the political negotiations,” an official told Al-Akhbar.

“The reconciliations were guaranteed by President Bashar al-Assad, that’s why no militant who stopped fighting the state was ever harmed. The president is committed to this option because it spares towns and cities further destruction and bloodshed.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

This is the the most laughable excuse for an article I have ever read. Ms. Abu Haidar, the real terrorists are the Assad family and their regime and we Syrians will never forget. Shame on you.

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