Mini-republics: A Syrian village seeks to survive amid carnage

Christoph Reuter reports: The St. Lucie cherry trees were in bloom when the calamity began. It was not unexpected. Indeed, the men of Korin and surrounding villages had done their part to bring it about. Since winter, after two years of an almost static front line, they quickly overran several of the Syrian army’s last outposts in the Idlib Province. And soon after regime troops fled the eponymously named provincial capital at the end of March, the bombs arrived. It is a pattern that has often been seen in Syria: Soon after rebels take an army base, an airport or a city, the air force arrives to pound them from above.

For weeks, regime helicopters circled at an altitude beyond the range of rebel weapons and repeatedly dropped half-ton barrel bombs on Korin. On at least one occasion, a cylinder full of chlorine gas outfitted with detonators was dropped on the village, which is located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Turkish border. Sukhoi jets appeared between the clouds and fired rockets at those buildings that were still intact. Thirty-one people died — a number smaller than it might have been because the residents of Korin, accustomed as they are to fleeing violence, had retreated to the olive groves that surround the village when the first bombs started to fall. For a while, they lived in tiny shacks among the trees — shelters that had been built in more peaceful times.

The air strikes began to wane around the time when the olive trees bloomed. The jets were needed elsewhere; additional villages were in need of punishment. And in Korin, the villagers returned from the olive groves. Soon, around three-quarters of the erstwhile population of 11,000 were again living in the town, collecting stones and organizing cement and tarps to repair their homes. If the war weren’t still going on, one could almost have called it a peaceful summer.

It was the calm between the storms — a fragile calm, not unlike that of a tiny boat on the high seas. After all, Korin and the entire region surrounding it, with hundreds of towns and villages, have been living for almost four years in a state of anarchy.

It is almost as though someone had devised a wicked experiment to see what happens when everything that serves public order is suddenly removed. When police, courts and indeed the entire state simply disappears without a new one replacing it. And when the old state reappears periodically to spread death and destruction. It is a situation reminiscent of End Times science fiction tales in which marauding hordes find themselves in a constant battle for fuel, water and women. But what is it really like? [Continue reading…]

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