Walking Down a Damascus Street

Walking Down a Damascus Street

On the last weekend of June I was in Paris to feel the heartbeats of the revolution from newly exiled Syrians. This is one story that is more funny than shocking, but I found it telling a lot about the creativity of the youth and the dumbness of the regime.

* * *

It was in the first days of the revolution in Damascus. People were gathering for demonstrations, usually simply by praying in some mosque, only to find themselves surrounded and outnumbered by the regime’s numerous security services and paramilitary gangs. Typically they would be beaten and arrested before even really hitting the street.

Some young activists, feeling that they should do their part, tried to be innovative. They knew that some groups are organizing demonstrations in other parts of the city, so they decided to simply walk down the street in a group and see what happen. They even ordered in advance a meal in a nearby restaurant so that if they will be asked why they walk in the street they will have a perfect alibi.

History is never easy to describe accurately. Nardeen says they were some fifteen of them walking together. Khaled says they were no more that seven or eight. But then Nardeen reminds him that Yousef brought his girlfriend and her little sister. So he also recalls two more friends that came by. When they already counted fifteen names between them, he gave up.

* * *

As they were walking in a loose group down the street, talking and laughing, some security vehicles were slowly driving just after them. But that was not a full proof. In the next corner they turned to a small one-way street, walking against the allowed driving direction.

This was too much! Here the police angrily turned on them and stopped them. Within minutes they brought a bus full of heavily armed “Amn” (security). They were surrounded and forced to climb the bus. At their protestation that they did nothing illegal, the police angrily claimed that they conspired to walk down the street and divert the security forces’ attention from demonstrations elsewhere.

After some time the girls were released. The boys were taken away in the bus, beaten and also released within a few hours.

This time, you may say, the police was vigilant and smart and understood the plot directly as it folded. But somehow our activist, with their limbs aching, felt victorious.

* * *

For political analysis of the same period you may read Free Haifa.