No sects please: we’re Syrian

“Rita” in Syria writes: It was the day of the funeral for a martyr in Midan, the epicentre of anti-regime protest in Damascus. My friends and I were running away from the shabiha (paid thugs in the service of the regime) who had come to attack the funeral procession after it had turned into an impromptu protest.

They started shooting and firing tear-gas canisters at the mass of protesters. We quickly made our escape through the narrow alleys off the main thoroughfare. Unfamiliar with the neighbourhood, we found ourselves trapped down a blind alley. As if by miracle, two young women in their early twenties dressed in the traditional white jubba worn by conservative Sunni women during prayer waved to us from a balcony overlooking the alley, signalling for us to enter their house. In a blink of an eye, all nine of us protesters found ourselves being ushered into the sanctuary of this family we did not know.

The regime goons had invaded the neighbourhood: all we could hear was the sound of gun fire cracking the air. The family welcomed all of us, guys and girls without hesitation or question. The lads from our group moved with the father and the son to a separate room, while us girls remained in the living room. The two daughters were frequent protesters, and told us that at each protest or funeral, a member of the family keeps an eye on the alley where protesters like us come fleeing from the shabiha and get trapped. It turned out that we weren’t the only activists that had sought refuge with them.

Despite our varied backgrounds, we spent the afternoon talking like old mates while drinking juice and coffee. No-one made mention of which sect they belonged to and the question was never asked of us – directly or otherwise. Within a short while, neighbours and relatives in the same building had got wind of what had happened and came to see us. An elderly woman told us about her son who had been detained for two months by security intelligence forces. After three hours, the young men of the apartments building drove us out of Midan – making sure the way was clear of regime goons – until we arrived at a safe spot to hail a taxi. [Continue reading…]

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