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In East Ghouta, Defiance and Self-Reliance

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says 100,000 deaths in Syria are a “stain on the world’s conscience” and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon admitted that his organization failed to stop Syria’s war from escalating.

Written by Saeed al-Batal / East Ghouta Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes

To people on the ground, especially in rebel-held areas, it simply feels like the world left them behind.

<div source=’picture’ id=’8371′ flow=’alignright’ />

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-8371″ alt=”Syrian rebel Abu Shaar laughs when he hears the news that US will not strike after all. Credit: Saeed al-Batal” src=”×194.png” width=”300″ height=”194″ /> Syrian rebel Abu Shaar laughs when he hears the news that US will not strike after all. Credit: Saeed al-Batal[/caption]

“Only an idiot waits for help to get his freedom. The whole world is against us,” said Abu Shaar, one of the first people in Douma to take up arms against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in May 2012.

“Assad killed over 150,000 people—you want to tell me that for another 1,500 the world is going to care? That’s hilarious,” he said. He could not stop laughing when he heard that the U.S. might not strike Syria after all: “I told you so.”

Civilians living under siege in Eastern Ghouta—the area on the outskirts of Damascus where hundreds were killed in a chemical weapons attack last month— say they never had much faith that a U.S. strike would occur.

“If you ask me bombs have no nationality or religion, and we had a lot of them the last three years. I doubt that another bombardment is the solution that we are looking for,” said Um Fares, 35, manager of Amalee, a Douma organization helping the disabled. “Of course we don’t want to be attacked by America or anyone else, but what can I say? Bashar pushed us into a place where we might welcome the devil if he could help us.”

Amalee has struggled to stay open because of the large number of wounded people and their limited amount of supplies. Prosthetic limbs, much-needed, are now impossible to come by.

And there is mounting frustration here with the U.N.

“First they refuse to leave their fancy hotel, then they finally come to take samples—yet they still aren’t sure who is behind the chemical weapons attack,” said Um Fares. “The U.N. is the most handicapped organization I have ever seen.”

<div source=’picture’ id=’8372′ flow=’alignright’ />

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-8372″ alt=”Half a mile from Abbasid Square, this building in Jobar was hit by 10 aerial strikes following the chemical attack. Credit: Saeed al-Batal” src=”×198.png” width=”300″ height=”198″ /> Half a mile from Abbasid Square, this building in Jobar was hit by 10 aerial strikes following the chemical attack. Credit: Saeed al-Batal[/caption]

Omar, 26, used to study business and management and cut short his studies to join the protest movement.

“Assad has many allies. He used to dine with the French president; he kept the Israeli border quiet and let the Russians have Tartous. From the beginning we knew that no one would help us but God, and nothing has changed,” he said. He now manages Ahrar Douma (Free People of Douma), a small opposition media office in Ghouta.

“Let’s stop dreaming about help of any kind. You can’t depend on anyone but yourself. Whether they strike or not we are going to continue until we see a new dawn for this beloved country.”

Abu Nedal, 57, is notorious for his bad temper. This vegetable stand owner has lost most of his family in the two and a half years since the revolt broke out.

“I don’t give a [expletive] if America strikes or not. I’ve seen the worst and whatever comes next can’t be worse than this,” he said. “If the blue monkeys (known in popular culture for mischief) come to help us, then rule over us I don’t mind. Even the devil himself would have more mercy than Bashar.”

“America has done nothing for the FSA until now, so why would they suddenly help? We don’t have oil,” added Abu Maher, a sniper in Jobar, a rebel-held northwest district of Damascus city. “I don’t trust anyone but my own gun. It has to be the Syrians who overthrow Bashar, not the Americans,” he says. “All we ask is that the true face of the regime is exposed to the world.”

Khaled is just nine, but has strong opinions.

“So what [if they strike]? With or without them we’re going to win. Why do we need anyone’s help when we have God? I can fix everything. Just give me a gun with one bullet and bang! I’ll shoot Bashar and all the problems will be gone and I can go to Happy Land,” he said, referring to an amusement park on the airport road.

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