Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A report from a protester in Homs

I asked a protester in Homs with whom I communicate to describe life in Homs:  "A year ago Homs used to be a city with a large town charm. Today everyone tries to get home by 5 o’clock. During the day things go on as normal, except that it’s no longer unusual to come out of one’s home in the morning and see or hear of a body dumped in the streets sometime during the early morning. In just one week I saw two dead shabihs on the street. When the security forces came to collect the second one, they arrived in no less than three APCs, and had their rifles aimed at balconies as if expecting to get shot at. They were in and out in a matter of minutes.
At night, we have gotten used to the sound of explosions and gunfire. There are lots of checkpoints in the city. The army’s APCs have been painted blue, apparently someone in the regime believed that international observers would be making their way to Homs.
The heating fuel shortage is crippling. It’s eased off a bit this past week, but a lot of the city has no gas and no mazot. It’s not a situation unique to Homs, it’s the same all over the country. Not even well connected Baath officials can get a drop of mazot, and the army had confiscated all the small trucks used to transport it.
The army invaded Baba Amr a dozen times, but don’t stay for long. Their checkpoints get hit at night and the rate of defections is very high. Demonstrations in Baba Amr pop up just minutes after the last troop carrier leaves the neighborhood. The black market rate for the dollar is 58 liras. That’s obscene, it used to be 47.5 a few months ago. In most parts of the city there isn’t any food shortage, most bakeries still operate, and donations and assistance pours into the worst hit areas.
Everyday I see young men in electric wheel chairs, slowly moving down the streets, young guys who were crippled from bullet wounds or beatings. There have been numerous cases of women being kidnapped, flyers put up on walls warn people in which areas the kidnappings occurred. It’s a terrible state of affairs when you see a flyer on a wall announcing a death, and are then relived when it turns out the deceased died of natural causes, and wasn’t shot or beaten to death, like so many flyers announce.
Defections; yes, they are numerous. Bags of clothing get collected every week for the defectors to wear. Most demonstrations you see on TV are protected offscreen. Otherwise the army would have hauled every single one of us into the streets and broken our bones. Now, they can’t arrest anyone in the most restive neighborhoods unless they go in with a dozen APCs and troop carriers.
As for the ditch the army is digging around parts of Homs, I’ve seen it. It’s five meters wide and two meters deep, but already in some parts people have managed to fill it up. It’s a ridiculous idea, but when it comes to Homs, the regime has run out of ideas. The only thing that will subdue this city is chemical tipped Scud missiles.
Hope this helps."