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Phenomenon Spreads in Damascus: Citizens in Military Costumes | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People walk towards the last checkpoint, which is controlled by Syrian regime forces, while waiting for permission to leave the besieged area of Moudamiya Al Sham, in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

London- Statements made by Colonel Abduljawad al-Awad on imposing penalties against cab drivers who wear military fatigue triggered the topic of soldiers blackmailing and intimidating citizens in the capital Damascus and all regime-ruled areas in Syria.

The colonel’s statements caused surprise and sarcasm among Syrians and on the social media. He actually shed light on one of the phenomena spreading in Damascus in the past four years- civilians (men, women and kids) wearing the military costume.

This phenomenon reflects the militarization imposed by the regime on those who remained in regions ruled by it—this doesn’t mean that the regime imposed the military costume but civilians are doing this voluntarily to avoid trouble at checkpoints or the long queues to receive bread or fuel, in addition to steering clear of blackmailing and stealing.

Hamed N., 50, is a taxi driver and a volunteer in the security forces. He said it’s oppressing to impose penalties on cab drivers who wear military costume.

Hamed added that dozens of volunteers at security agencies and soldiers work as drivers after their working hours and they should not be pressured because they are already “tired and exhausted on all levels.”

University student Nabil, 20, said he fears those who wear military fatigue the most and avoids getting in contact with them because he views them as “psychos and power-obsessed.”

In addition to militarization signs in Damascus, windows-tinted vehicles cause panic among not only civilians but also traffic police officers. This phenomenon seems to be unstoppable despite warnings of the Ministry of Interior.

However there is a security body granting licenses that permit drivers to cross checkpoints without stopping—traffic police officers don’t dare to stop them. This actually made it possible for stealing and kidnapping gangs to carry out their operations in broad daylight in front of the police, checkpoints and civilians.