Raids, Coronavirus and internet in Syria’s capital Damascus

Taxis in Sabaa Bahrat Square, center of the capital, Damascus - April 20, 2019 (Enab Baladi)

Taxis in Sabaa Bahrat Square, center of the capital, Damascus - April 20, 2019 (Enab Baladi)


Damascus – Nour al-Huda Khayata

Every one or two weeks, sounds of explosions shake Damascus for a few minutes. After the raids, which usually take place at night or after midnight, people in the street start talking without hesitation about a new Israeli attack.

The raids would not stop men from playing cards at the al-Kamal coffee shop, nor would it freeze the dice that stumbles on the wooden table around which two old men sat, putting on thick glasses, while they continue to curse their clumsy luck for not scoring full points with the dice.

Israeli raids are no longer an essential event for the residents of Damascus. The event, when repeated, loses its momentum, and these raids, according to the locals, are accurate and do not target civilians.

Someone might say: “May Allah damn Sharon,” as time froze in that person’s memory to the period when Ariel Sharon was the Occupation state’s prime minister, while no longer caring about who came afterward. The locals have memorized and understood the lesson, and the conflict axes were fixed in their conscious and subconscious as well.

With the same indifference, the inhabitants of Damascus face the Coronavirus, as they seem to care less about the situation, i.e., neither the government has taken any precautionary measures, nor people have followed any preventive steps regarding their health, food, or even behavior.

Restaurants, cafes, celebrations, and meetings … Everything in the city is the same. The hoses of narghile are still hanging behind the doors in cafes and restaurants. Lips and mouths alternate on the same tube, without bothering to take precautions against the Coronavirus or caring about the safety of others.

The Syrian population developed an unprecedented state of indifference, as they suffered the imaginable horrors of warfare. Maybe Syrians do not consider the Coronavirus as a real danger, or they still do not realize the seriousness of the situation.

“The real danger is not to have the Coronavirus; the real threat is that my postponement of military service is over in March,” said a young man, mocking the emerging deadly virus. Tens of thousands of university graduates, just like this young man, have sent their identification and university documents to be scrutinized in the military recruitment centers for more than two months. Those documents are still stuck carrying with them these young men’s dreams to have a new authorization to delay their military service, extending their stay in “the oldest inhabited capital in history” for an additional year.

The young man laughs whenever someone talks to him about the Coronavirus subject, saying that “the Coronavirus has spread… However, there are other more serious dangers that no one knows about yet, or maybe they do know but act like they do not.”

In contrast to the state of indifference about the decisions and fateful events taking place in Syria, the people’s reaction was “fierce” regarding the decision to come up with a monthly prepaid package of internet service. Thus, internet users in Syria became extremely thrifty when it comes to using their net packages, as a simple like on a particular post necessitates a thorough evaluation of costs nowadays; on the other hand, watching video is inaccessible, and no one can blame you for it.

People on the street are murmuring and lowering their voices while cursing unknown persons. You can frequently hear them swear: “May Allah damn those bastards,” without specifying the people they are cursing.

Syrian families need the internet as much as they need food and water to survive. For them, the internet is the only way to get entertained and communicate with others, as they are unable to afford any other means of entertainment.

Families in Syria spend many hours on the internet, which constitutes for them a getaway from the hardships they face daily.

Many Syrians respond when they are asked about the importance of the internet in their lives that “the internet is a 1000 times more important than the Coronavirus and all Israeli raids.”






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