Douma, Syria – On Tuesday, May 25, one day before the Syrian election, an international delegation, which includes a number of observers from the U.S., visited the war-torn cities of Douma and Jobar just outside Damascus. The observers viewed tunnel networks used by terrorists during the six-year occupation of the city and spoke to residents who had returned after the city was liberated in 2018 by the Syrian Arab Army.
Soldiers guided the delegation through the city riddled with rubble and bullet holes as far as the eye can see. The area had been occupied by the Saudi-backed Jaish al Islam from 2012 until 2018. During this time it saw vicious battles between the terrorists and the Syrian army. The delegation walked into several entrances to the tunnels Jaish al Islam used to travel efficiently underground in the area to the northeast of Damascus.
The tunnels’ steel beam framework, dug into the bedrock, and miles-long construction are a testament to how well-funded and prepared the reactionary insurgents were. All evidence suggests that construction of the tunnel network began well before the outbreak of war in 2011. Soldiers told the delegation that the funding came from the U.S. and Saudi governments.
One resident of Douma, a man named Hassan, described life under Jaish al Islam as “worse than the worst.” He explained through a translator that the insurgents executed people every week for reasons such as being LGBTQ or working with the government.
The delegation also entered the hospital where some of the purported “chemical weapons attack” footage of April 7, 2018 was taken. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has found no evidence of chemical weapons attacks, they said in a report that was suppressed until a recent leak. The White Helmets, an organization funded by the U.S., British, Saudi and other allied governments, has been accused by international journalists of staging the footage.
Amidst all the destruction was the beginning of a reconstruction effort. Hundreds of residents have begun moving back into buildings that did not sustain too much damage during the battles. Electrical lines, water pipes, satellite TV dishes, and various shops stood in certain blocks as the first signs towards rebuilding a community. A fully repaired waterpark and arcade is set to reopen the day after the election as a place for the many children in the city to play. The reconstruction has been slowed by U.S.-imposed sanctions, which make it nearly impossible to import vital building materials.
When asked if he was voting in the upcoming elections, Hassan told Fight Back!, “Of course! The price of bread has gone from 2000 pounds to 100 pounds after the occupation. Me, my wife and my children are all voting tomorrow.”
A group of small children, although ineligible to vote due to their age, voiced their support for the incumbent president by chanting “Bi ruh, bi dam, nafiq ya Bashar,” which roughly translates to “With the soul, with the blood, we are with you Bashar.”
A member of a film crew in Douma working on a documentary about the war was asked for his opinion on the claims from the U.S. and its allies that the election was fake. He responded in English that “they can say what they want. The Syrian people will decide who is the president. America and Europe don’t decide. Only we decide. The Americans and Europeans don’t know what we went through with the terrorists. Only we know.”
Ten years since the beginning of the war, the Syrian people are collectively working on a stable and peaceful future. In spite of the devastation caused by years of war and sanctions on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mood in all areas visited by the delegation has been hopeful.
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