On Friday, June 29th /u/youcefhd’s took time from the Old Center of Damascus to make the following AMA at Reddit’s Syrian Civil War sub. What follows is an edited transcript, with the questions and answers sorted into several subject areas.
Disclaimer: Responses have been edited for grammar and spelling.
Description of Self:
This is (my) personal experience. I live in Damascus, Syria. Two cousins of mine were killed by extremists. Two were abducted for months for ransom (possibly raped). A friend of mine died as (a) volunteer in the Red Crescent, another one possibly died under torture of government soldiers. A friend of mine is fighting in Homs with the Free Syrian Army. I’m a Shia minority and considered an infidel by most opposition groups. I witnessed an explosion that killed 40 people just outside the university gate.
Opinions of Conflict
Q: There seems to be no good side?
A: We have a saying here: ‘two choices and the sweetest one is very bitter’.
Q: Is it clear-cut to you that there is a right and wrong side of this conflict?
A: If you go back to the root of the problem and want to play the blame game, then it’s all the government’s fault. Not right now. Both parties have committed enough atrocities to earn them a place in Hell.
Q: Who do you support in this conflict?
A: On the ground I now don’t support (n)either party. The explanation I have is simple: the FSA and NUSRA wants to kill me and my family. The SSA is killing other people families. I refuse to be part of it. Politically I’m completely lost
Q: Do you see more support for SAA then FSA? Or who is getting the most support in Damascus and Syria?
A: At the beginning of the conflict Sunnis saw the FSA as angels and the SSA as demons. The opposite can be said about Alawites and Christians. Now most people realize that both parties are rogue and merciless and are fed up with the never ending conflict. but you can still see people that blindly support the FSA or the SAA and deny all their crimes
Q: As a Shia, do you fear for your future in Syria when the commander of FSA said he will wipe you out, Link:http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=e13_1369088363#comment_page=3
A: Yes, It’s my biggest concern and a situation I don’t wish for anyone. It was painful when we discussed as a family the fact that some Nusra insurgents might come banging at the door. My mother suggested that, since we’re in the first floor, jumping out the balcony
– Follow-up Q: As a Shia myself, why don’t you support SAA. If it was not for them you would be dead now, so I don’t see it.
– Follow-up A: I won’t support someone because “without them I’d be dead” As there are innocent people who would be alive today if it was without SSA. that’s what I believe Shia is about: refusing injustice even if it means you die.
Q: You said one of you friends was torture by government soldiers, do you know why and what happened?
A: Many friends of mine were falsely prisoned and tortured by the government. One of them is Christian and his name is Mario spent 3 months in prison and was forced to confess under torture that he’s a Salafi. But that specific friend I was talking about was prisoned by the government and his body was found later somewhere in the countryside with torture marks.
Q: Would you join the SAA if it meant saving your family from a potential massacre?
A: Will I join the SAA is something I think of everyday but I can’t find an answer. But I currently think not. Especially as a Shia I was brought up to never compromise and to never fight for some who’s unjust even if it costs me my family’s life and mine. I hope I’ll have the same opinion if I get in that situation
Q: Do you think it’s getting better of worse after Qusair?
A: I didn’t participate in any of the protests but many of my friends did. I participated in a government rally in April 2011. They fooled me at that time and I thought that no government is stupid enough to do the atrocities they were accused of, especially in Syria were many people loved the president prior to the revolution. Regarding the new advances of the government in Qusair. I think it’s hugely overrated. Qusair is important but this is definitely not the turning point of the war. Without Hizbollah’s help they couldn’t have done it and I doubt Hizbullah will spread it’s troops all over Syria. But for the moment the momentum is on the government side. But I saw the momentum shift many times and the new arms the US sent to the rebels will balance things back.
Opinions of Global Actors:
Q: What do you think of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s role in this conflict?
A: They’re the worst. Their motives are purely sectarian and that’s it. They really don’t care about lives of other people than Sunnis.
Q: What’s your opinion on The US supplying arms to the rebels?
A: That’s utter b*llshit if they supplied weapons two years ago I would understand. The FSA could have won the war easily if they did. But their intention is clear now. They don’t want anyone to win they just want the war to go on for years.
Opinions on Media:
Q: Do you think the various media outlets are doing a good job reporting the situation?
A: The media, especially Al Jazeera, had the biggest part in the revolution here. They constantly broadcasted news with an obvious aim against the government. I honestly blame the Al Jazeera almost as much as the government for what happened. Social media had an equally important role, especially Facebook, which is very popular here. News, false news, propaganda and gore scenes circulate on a daily basis into every household. One would think that social media would be a better platform for broadcasting neutral news but in reality I saw it do more damage than good.
Q: How was the Syrian government before the war?
A: I loved Syria before the war. We had one of the lowest crime rate(s) in the world in 2009. Mainly because the police are so brutal that no one will risk being a criminal. We were one of the top ten exotic destinations in tourism in 2010 (I think that was decided by CNN) we had a rouge government with many officials stealing public money. No political freedom what so ever. But we lived side by side with no differentiation between religions contrary to all the Middle East, which was the best thing. The prices of food were so low that I was very happy with the 20$ that my dad gave every month. And as college student it was more that enough
Q: How are people surviving financially?
A: The financial side started to take effect when the price of the dollar doubled from 100 to 200 liras in six months and really getting harder by the moment as many expect the currency to soon collapse and think it’s a miracle it made it so far. For young men like me, there almost 0 percent chance to get a job. People only employ someone who has to support a family, which I find good.
Q: If you could leave Syria, would you?
A: I want to leave as soon as possible. But I sure hope I can comeback someday and spend the rest of my life back here
Q: After the beginning of the protests the government introduced reforms to the voting system. Do you believe that those changes will make Syria more democratic? Or do you think Assad just agreed on reforms because of his bad situation?
A: I agree with you and I think it’s one of the mistakes of the opposition that they refused to take part in any elections at that certain times (perhaps they were pushed to ). They could have demanded UN supervision and it would have solved everything. Now I think things are more complicated and the terrorists won’t leave easily. But I certainly hope democratic elections in 2014 will happen. It would be the key to the solution.
Q: Do you like tea?
A: Tea is my addiction. I really love Tea that much. :D
Q: What would you like to happen to Syria (realistically speaking), would you like a certain side to win?
A: I would like for the president to agree to step down but in organized way that won’t give the extremists any influence over the government. I’d like the silent majority that is peaceful and loving to speak out and organize them selves in a political movements that would heal the wounds
Q: What outcomes do you prefer?
A: I would prefer the rebels winning as fast as possible. With good leaders that would negotiate and maintain peace with government supporting regions. But if it’s all up to me. I have a weird answer. I am a engineer and I don’t believe that letting people choose is necessarily the best answer especially in the Middle East .So in a dream world I would assign a council of 4 people chosen under scientific personality and IQ tests to unsure they’re selfless, giving smart negotiators and true universal citizens. They would be our dictators and would guide us through this dark age. That’s weird I know :)
Q: Do you think Sunni and Shia will ever live in true harmony?
A: The current events in Egypt and Lebanon say that the hate is growing in the region. If harmony ever to be accomplished you’d have to be some kind of a dictator and you would need to shut down TV channel that sell sectarian hate to the people. Arrest the clerks that are hateful to others and rearrange the religious education system that is almost always hateful in both Sunni and Shia mosques. Even then you’d need a generation or two to stop it but of course you can always divert the hate into other things if you have strong enough propaganda.
This link will take you to the original AMA: http://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/1h9yrw/iam_a_syrian_citizen_living_in_syria_ask_me/