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Damascus residents fear regime reprisals | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Many Syrian political activists are certain that the Syrian capital will be the scene for the final battle to topple the al-Assad regime, however they also fear that the Baathist regime will seek to carry out systematic reprisals against Damascus residents upon its ouster, particularly as the city is surrounded by heavily armed pro-regime troops and militia.

A Damascus political activist working with the opposition Local Coordination Committee [LCC], who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat under the name “Farah”, revealed that “Bashar al-Assad will not easily surrender Damascus, even if he believes that his regime has been toppled. There is a spirit of retribution in the decisions of this man and those around him, and this spirit will be transformed into a burning desire for revenge, particularly against the residents of Damascus, the city which rose up against al-Assad after he believed that they would stand by him.”

The Damascus-based political activist added that the Syrian capital failed to effectively join the revolution during its first months, but the Syrian capital – which is known for indecision and close family ties – broke its silence when the suppression and violence being carried out by the al-Assad regime exhibited religious and sectarian aspects. She stressed that the people of Damascus will not sit idly by whilst women and children are being killed, and so they took to the streets to protest against the Bashar al-Assad regime and its violence.

For his part, Adnan, another Damascus-based political activist, confirmed the presence of fears that the al-Assad regime could seek to avenge itself on the capital’s residents. He told Asharq Al-Awsat “two critical changes prompted Damascus to join the Syrian revolution, namely the proximity of the rural areas that joined the revolution in its early stages to central Damascus, and secondly the presence of the Free Syrian Army [FSA] in major Damascus suburbs, launching operations against the institutions and centers of the ruling regime.”

The Syrian dissident also stressed that “the final battle will take place in Damascus, as the regime will fight violently in this city, not to defend it, but to destroy it, because al-Assad is well aware that the majority of the social fabric of Damascus stands against him.”

As for the FSA and whether it is capable to positively resolve the battle for Damascus, Adnan told Asharq Al-Awsat “the FSA’s capabilities are modest in comparison with the regime’s arms” adding “the regime’s forces are stationed on the peak of Mount Kassioun [in Damascus], and they can destroy the city with artillery, if they want.”

Damascus, is 105 square km, and is the second most populated city in Syria, after Aleppo. The Syrian capital’s approximate 2.6 million residents are living in a state of fear, not simply due to the on-going battles between the al-Assad regime forces and the FSA, but also because they fear that the regime may turn its guns on the unarmed residents of Damascus, should it be convinced that its ouster is inevitable. For his part, Syrian media activist, Tariq, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the al-Assad regime has stationed its military brigades in Damascus, and has ordered Republican Guard brigades to defend al-Assad in the city.” He added “should a possible battle break out, it will be the people of Damascus who will pay the price for this.”

Tariq also asserted that the presence of a Sunni majority that opposes the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus will not positively resolve the battle, particularly as the regime has armed the Alawite neighborhoods of the capital, particularly the Mezze Jebel neighborhood.

The city of Damascus has found itself at the center of frenzied military and security deployments and positioning, including the arming of Alawite militias to control the city’s entry and exit points. Political activists revealed that the pro-regime Shabiha militia are playing a primary role in securing the Syrian capital and suppressing any anti-regime protests or demonstrations that break out.

The al-Assad regime had been pointing to the stability in Damascus as evidence that the Syrian revolution was not widespread or broad-based, however the increasing demonstrations and FSA attacks within the Syrian capital over the past few days has served to counter this claim.