How was Syria before the war?

Citadel at Aleppo

Citadel at Aleppo

By: Shiva of Gandillac from our partner site Micmag.net

In 2005, a few months after the bombing that killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, I had the opportunity to visit Beirut. The city was under a great deal of pressure and it was impossible to get a camera to film. I decided, on the advice of friends, visiting from the neighboring country and influential: Syria. I discovered in Damascus very friendly people, a feeling of not being abroad. I could take out my camera as if nothing happened. Nobody paid attention. At the Umayyad Mosque, I asked permission to film.

 

The guards favoured me with a broad smile. I discovered a place of recreation for children, naps for men and for women discussions. Only a few groups of very serious Iranian Shiites come to visit and collect loudly before the tomb of Ali. A guide told the history of their prophet, women cry and men groaned in honor of their idol.

 

There was this majestic mosque in a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. 

 

I traveled the country. In each city, the Syrian people were wonderfully welcoming and friendly.  The only real mishap was experienced during a bus ride between Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor. Knackered after heat exposure coupled with food poisoning, fever and feeling of dying, the bus was stopped at a checkpoint by soldiers. As I said, at the time the war was raging in Iraq. This was an Identity check. I was the only foreigner and I could not find my passport! As a result, the bus leaves without me.

 

I was detained and presto conducted to the office of the commander. My belly torn by my food poisoning, head exploded by fever, I was looking nervously my passport that I finally found. Too late, I was in the net. I had to repeat my English name, the profession of my parents, their year of birth, the maiden name of my mother, why I was in Syria etc … Not once but at least 15 times.  It lasted 3 hours. My repetitive questioning was interrupted by Iraqi refugees marching past me to the military leader who took pleasure to let them stand staring at me straight in the eyes with delight. At one point, the man stood up, he gave me his hand and said: “Welcome to Syria Enjoy your trip!”

In Aleppo, I was surprised to discover gay Syrian Jews who refused to film but I wore the Star of David

In their shop. They told me that there is still a Jewish temple in Aleppo. Their discretion was essential to live quietly without problems with the authorities and other religions. Aleppo is one of the most beautiful souks in Syria. I noticed that the children worked very hard young.

In short, there was at that time a very pleasant atmosphere from knowing that most Syrians were approaching me for the vast majority of spyware plan.

 

The system being used was based at the time on a self-monitoring and a system of informers organized .Syria at that time was a well displayed dictatorship.  The portrait of Assad father and son plastered everywhere. It could be found at the entrance of the city as well as at the entrance to historic sites. However, an apparent calm, civil concord seemed to be at work … Many religions coexisted in harmony. In short, Syria was a nice country despite the heavy plan policy and human rights problems. There were rumors that torture was widespread in the jails of the capital … Camera in hand, no soldiers, no one has asked me about my intentions and the goal of this work …

Syrie avant la guerre by ouakthecat