As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between News Deeply and a 24-year-old Syrian architect. She’s from a middle class Sunni family in Aleppo; the situation in her neighborhood got so bad that her father sent her, her mother, and her sisters to stay with friends in the city of Tartous, an Alewite stronghold that hasn’t seen unrest. Her father is still living under siege at home.
Do you see any movement in the streets in Tartous? How is life in public places?
It’s totally normal – as if there’s nothing is going on in the country.
Is it crowded? Are there people in the streets? Is there an influx of people into the city?
It doesn’t seem so to me, but residents are saying that compared to what they’re used to, it’s very crowded.
How are the prices of bread, gas, everyday items?
Prices are higher here than they are in Aleppo and Damascus, but the residents say it’s because it’s a tourist town.
How is the morale in Tartous? What’s the mood? Hopeful? Scared?
The people are not scared, their morale is 50-50. They have high hopes [that Assad can control the situation]. They’re afraid of what happens if he can’t.
So many people here have children in the Syrian Army. Every two or three days they receive word that one has died. Every family is losing a child or two, their sons, to the Army. You can see that they are living in silent pain – they are losing their young people. They’re not being bombed, but they’re in pain from losing their children.
The youth who aren’t in the army are being threatened with kidnappings, because they’re Alewites. If they leave the heavily Alewite populated areas there’s a high chance they’ll be kidnapped or killed by Sunnis.
Among the soldiers from Tartous who are being killed, some are being killed by bullets – they’re considered the lucky ones. People are receiving their bodies with a heavy heart. But others are being killed by torture, cut off body parts, subject to inhuman treatment. That is more painful. If a soldier is killed by a bullet or bomb, their families accept it with less pain.
Are they still apologists of the Assad government? Taking his side?
You can say that everyone here is supportive of the regime. There are no oppositionists. If people in Tartous find out that someone is supporting the opposition, threatening their security, they directly inform the authorities.
Are the official government offices still operating in Tartous?
Everything is still working, those offices are still open. The notary, the courts, everything is working. Services haven’t stopped.
Are there traffic police in the streets? Is there order? Are people following the rules or is it anarchy?
No, everything is normal, there are traffic police in the streets and everyone is obeying the rules. People are stopping at the lights.
What’s the cost of a taxi? Has it gone up?
It’s normal, it hasn’t changed. [Editor’s Note: In Aleppo, by contrast, taxi prices are up at least fourfold).
As a girl, do you feel comfortable going out alone, freely?
You can, but I am afraid to. That’s because I have a fear inside me after being in Aleppo for months. But all the girls here go outside on their own.
Are you seeing refugees in Tartous?
There are some refugees in private homes. They rented those homes or had friends to stay with. There are also some empty government buildings that are being used to house them.
Are restaurants still open? Are people out late, going to cafes and clubs, having fun?
Yes, there are cafes and restaurants, working normally. But there is no fun. There is no party outside. People are mourning. Their children are dying. Even the numbers of weddings are down, people are postponing their happy occasions.