A rare insight into Damascus
It is rare in current reporting on Syria to find anything that goes beyond sensationalist headlines about Islamic extremists, massacres, battles won and lost. Horror stories about cannibals compete with more horror stories about rape as the international perception of Syria and its people spirals ever downwards.
But the New York Times’ recent reporting by Anne Barnard bucks the trend, showing the complexities of life in Damascus while at the same time exposing some of the regime’s ploys to control the Old City of Damascus. Barnard and her interpreter were taken by their government minder to attend one or two of the so-called ‘reconciliation’ committee meetings held in Maktab Anbar, the Ottoman palace which serves as the headquarters of the Old City’s municipal offices. But even though they were shown these meetings as examples of how the communities are cooperating to protect their neighbourhoods, they were able to see through the charade and identify many of the same attendees as members of the armed ‘neighbourhood militias’ and observe that ‘security’ was the main topic rather than ‘reconcilation’. If only more media reporting was as perceptive.