Sunday, 27 December 2015
The District of Jobar
'There are numerous places, regions, villages, cities and urban neighborhoods that come to mind when we remember the beginnings of the Syrian Revolution and the stages of its transformation into armed struggle that went before the war currently raging. Among these places, the Jobar district, which stretches from the east to northeast of the Syrian capital, has a special status, and this for several reasons.
Among these reasons, there is the fact that Jobar had been a hotbed of peaceful protest and that this neighborhood had seen on April 22, 2011, a huge demonstration march through, where the inhabitants of many of Damascus suburbs came together with those of many areas of the capital with the goal of walking to the Abbasid Square, which is just 500 meters from Jobar, to organize a sit-in. When they got to the neighborhood of al-Zablatani, regime forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing and wounding dozens in a few minutes, and arrested and tortured several hundred others. Young men exposed their bare chests to the forces of "order" to demonstrate their peaceful intentions but were shot mercilessly in the most significant and unforgettable historic step.
Among the reasons, too, there is the fact that young people of this district had risen in armed revolt in late 2012, Jobar thereby becoming the most advanced front line against regime forces in the outskirts of the capital Damascus. This earned them the highest concentration of bombings a limited geographical area has ever known, both aerial and ground-to-ground missiles fired by heavy artillery and tanks. The people of Jobar also had to undergo the second use of sarin gas by the regime (in March and April 2013), four months after Homs and four months before Zamalka, Arbin and the outskirts of Mu'dhamiyyet al-Sham (three Ghouta localities of Damascus where 1500 people died August 21, 2013).
Another features of Jobar we should also mention is the fact that since the end of 2013 and to date, it is subject to incessant attacks by the army of Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi (Shia) militias.
Despite all this, one can see the defenders of the neighborhood, some holed up in basements and other highly visible, holding their positions, not giving up one inch. When al-Assad, on New Year's Eve 2014, claimed to have visited Jobar and have reviewed his armed forces (after alleging that these forces had broken through), photos circulating the next day showed that he had not exceeded the limits of al-Zablatani, and the person with whom he was seen exchanging a warm handshake was not one of his frontline soldiers, but Muhammad Ahmad Aïssa, a senior Lebanese Hezbollah officer.
Thus, the biography of this neighborhood summarizes an entire segment of the epic hidden Syrian Revolution. It also summarizes one aspect of its tragic fate. As Syrian journalist and photographer Said Al-Batal wrote in his brilliant article entitled "Syria: quietly close their eyes" (published on the website of the Association Bidâyât in Arabic and in French in L'Express) after visiting this area in October 2014, expressing more accurately and more deeply what life is like in this little corner of the earth forgotten as it is trapped behind a wall of fire, which is an outrage for all of humanity:
"During my Internet searches, I came across a photo of Jobar, yesterday, under the bombs, taken from another point of Damascus ... And I shuddered.
I shuddered, not because I managed to get out from under the rubble framed in this picture. I shuddered because it reminded me that there was someone on the other side! I had forgotten that there could be someone who sees, hears, that thinks, dreams and photographs the bombs falling on us. Someone who has his thoughts and his faults, someone who is my reflection, the theory that there are others in our reality. My confinement has made me forget the other. I had come to think that we were alone in the world; the only thing that was on the other side of the shore, was death, rocket, bomb or a bullet.
Do you think my photos, I am on the opposite bank, make you feel something when you look at my eyes? Is it possible, that you are so absorbed in your concerns, the tumult of your lives, to also forget our existence?"
To Jobar neighborhood and its inhabitants, or rather what remains of it, admiration and heartfelt greetings.'