Syria's Trouble

After more than six years of war, nearly a fourth of all Syrians live in exile. The loneliness of those who remain hangs like thick fog over Damascus, the capital. ...
I traveled to Damascus recently.... I was almost always accompanied by a government-registered escort, which seemed to make some people reticent, and there were parts of the city I wasn’t allowed to visit.

Still, it was impossible not to notice how Damascus had been altered since pro-democracy protests erupted nearly seven years ago, only to be crushed by President Bashar al-Assad and then morph into a civil war.... ...
There are fewer checkpoints in Damascus than before, the streets are bustling later into the evenings and electricity has been completely restored. Still, some afternoons, government forces blast artillery into rebel enclaves on the city’s edge; in retaliation, rebels fire shells into the narrow lanes of the old section of the city, not long ago killing a shopkeeper playing backgammon with his neighbor. ...
Mr. Kozah and his wife, Olga, a jewelry designer, left for a while, too, only to be pulled back home earlier this year. He said he missed walking along the narrow warrens of the old city, greeting his neighbors, on his way to Nowfara, his favorite cafe. He missed the orange tree in his courtyard. He missed the quiet of the mornings. When there are no bombs, he said, you can still hear birds.

I asked him how the city had changed, which struck me as a harmless question, but it made him burst into tears. His wife left the courtyard where we were sitting.

One of her brothers disappeared four years ago and hasn’t been heard from since, Mr. Kozah said softly after she was out of earshot. Her father’s jewelry shop was looted clean.
- SOMINI SENGUPTA, They Stayed Put, but Their City Disappeared, NYT, NOV. 21, 2017

Insurgents unaffiliated with the Islamic State still hold patches of territory, besieged and bombarded by government forces, near the Syrian capital, Damascus; in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib; and along the border with Jordan. Tens of thousands of people are missing, including civilians believed detained by the Syrian government. Twelve million Syrians, half the population, have been driven from their homes.

On Tuesday, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, which tracks war casualties through a database of victims identified by name, said that since March 2011, at least 26,446 children had been killed in the conflict, a vast majority by government forces. ...
Opposition members like Ms. Atassi say lasting peace will be unattainable without accountability for war crimes like chemical weapons use and torture.
- ANNE BARNARD, Assad and Putin Meet, as Russia Pushes to End Syrian War, NYT, NOV. 21, 2017

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