Roughly twice a week several carloads of people set off from middle-class areas of central Damascus for a ‘party’ in the unlikely setting of Qudsaya, an impoverished hill town about eight miles northwest of the city. As the guests drive up the steep streets to the town’s small central square, young men, some with scarves wrapped round their faces, look out for signs of danger. The ‘party’ is actually a protest against Bashar al-Assad’s regime; government security forces may appear at any moment. My first two attempts to get to Qudsaya failed when armed police and militia showed up at the last minute and the demonstrations were cancelled. Along with Barzeh, a northeastern suburb of Damascus, Qudsaya is the nearest place to the capital where there are regular protests against the regime. The bombardment of Homs has monopolised media coverage, but confrontations are going on in scores of other towns and now affect several outlying districts of Damascus itself. As is the case all over Syria, the majority of the protesters in Barzeh and Qudsaya are unemployed young men from poor homes. But they are getting more and more support from the Damascus middle class.
LRB 22 March 2012 | PDF Download