Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria’s besieged cities, shares her stories of life in the war. She recently moved to Damascus to continue her education, in the face of the ongoing war that has destroyed her local schools. Her father was killed in the violence and she now lives with distant relatives in the capital.
Life in Damascus is completely different from life in eastern Ghouta. It’s like the difference between heaven and hell. To me, moving from my town in eastern Ghouta was like immigrating from a backward country to a developed European nation, except the border between the two is just a simple metal barrier.
Once I was in Damascus, I was amazed to see normal life going on. Food, clothes, gas and electricity are all available, at normal prices. Sometimes, the electricity goes out for a few hours in Damascus and people complain of the heat – but it’s nothing compared to the long outages in Ghouta. Lights flood houses and roads at night, so bright compared to the dim light in Ghouta that that I had to wear sunglasses!
In Damascus, schools still have teachers. Public parks, restaurants, playgrounds and clubs have employees. The population here only has to worry about the rare shelling and military checkpoints.
While the young men in Ghouta mostly enlisted with the Free Syrian Army, here you often see boys and men the same age walking around in nice clothes, trying to flirt with some girls. Their desires are still alive, while those in Ghouta live with worry and hunger. I won’t deny that I’m enjoying luxuries here, where the markets are filled with people and where I can have ice cream, which I hadn’t seen in Ghouta for more than a year.
But not everything is normal. This is still a city in the middle of a war. Damascus is filled with life in the daytime, but much of it stops at night, for people are afraid of being out at night.
Many here blame people from opposition areas for our country’s turmoil. If they know you’re from a known rebel town, apartment rents go up and everything becomes more difficult. I tell them we ate cattle feed and they don’t believe me. I tell them prices are incredibly high, that food aid is being stolen, and they don’t care. They even think we live in luxury because of the aid they hear about, being sent to Ghouta.
My mother insists on staying in my hometown; she believes the local children need her in her job as a devoted teacher. I hope she decides to move to the capital where life is easier and more comfortable. As much as we might suffer here in the capital, it won’t be remotely close to what we went through during the last winter in our town. The more I remember what our people suffered in that winter, the more I want to move away from the suffering and pain. I hope my mother decides that we should move here permanently.