'When rebels and security forces struck a truce recently that could end the blockade trapping him in the last rebel-held district in the city of Homs, pastry chef turned antigovernment activist, Bebars al-Talawy did not feel safer or freer. Instead, he was sure it meant choosing surrender or death, calling it the start of “the final countdown to the end of my life.”
If he stays, he fears arrest, by the government or by rebel leaders who have made deals with it. If he goes, that means accepting safe passage to insurgent-held areas still pounded by Syrian, Russian and American airstrikes. Though security forces will not be inside the district, he said, “they have power over the rebels inside,” enough to make them round up the wanted and the draft dodgers. “They will get rid of all rebels who joined the revolution,” he said. “We will be liquidated one by one.”
At night, he said, he walks in the outskirts of Waer. Sometimes he goes to a park, sometimes to a destroyed gas station where he once hid from security forces. “I like sitting there, digging up memories,” he said. “Sometimes I listen to the Quran, sometimes to revolutionary songs, to help me be more patient. This is all because of the Dara’a children,” he said, sarcastically blaming the boys in that southern city, whose arrests in 2011, for scrawling antigovernment slogans on walls, set off early protests. “They should ban selling spray paint to children.” '