The Daily Beast reports: Deir Ezzor, a once relatively prosperous city of more than 300,000 people, is modern-day Syria in a microcosm. When anti-government protests broke out in 2011, the government sent in tanks. When rebels occupied the city, the ideals of those who protested state repression were betrayed by the arbitrary arrests and Islamist repression of al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. Now, half the city is occupied by the Islamic State, which for more than a year has been besieging and starving the other half controlled by the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad — with the complicity, current and former residents say, of the government itself.
What’s left today of government-controlled Deir Ezzor is a poor and tired population. Some of those people are stubborn, or proud: having survived nearly five years of a war that has killed more than 250,000 of their fellow Syrians, they refuse to abandon their homes. Most, however — the vast majority — are there not because they choose to be, but because they have no choice. Many are refugees from other areas of Deir Ezzor province or from the city’s other half, taken over by the Islamic State in July 2014, on the other side of the Euphrates River. [Continue reading…]