The road to Damascus

As Syrians head back to Damascus from Lebanon, differing opinions on what the future will hold for their country.


    The flow of traffic at the Masnaa border - the main transit point between Lebanon and Syria was both ways on Wednesday.

    There were Syrians who were making their way back to Damascus after a week of intense clashes in the capital. Some undoubtedly couldn't afford to stay in Lebanon for a long time but many put on a brave face.

    They said that their relatives and friends informed them that it was now safe to return to their neighborhoods. But you could feel their fear and anxiety because they know the conflict in their country is far from over. The battle for Syria will have to be won in Damascus.

    "We heard that the situation is much better," a woman  from the upscale area of Muhajareen twho prefered not to give her name told me. "All I want is for stability to return to our country. I don't support any side. All I want is for this conflict to end."

    Syria is still in crisis. The government managed to flush out opposition fighters from a number of districts in Damascus but clashes were still taking place at the outskirts of the city.

    A young woman who appeared traumatized and frightened made her way to Lebanon from Tal, north of Damascus.  Too scared to speak, all she would say was that government forces and opposition fighters were engaged in battles in her town.

    The majority of those who fled over the past week were from the middle and upper classes of society. There were those however who need assistance to survive. Some managed to find accommodation in public schools in the Bekaa region.

    Um Ahmed was one of them. She fled her district of Hajar Aswad a few days ago. At the time she - like many others thought Damascus would fall to the opposition.

    That didn't happen.

    "What can we do, the Free Syria Army  has only  light weapons, and the regime is pounding us with heavy weapons. but Bashar al-Assad  has already lost the fight in our eyes.  The hearts and minds of the people are against him," she said

    Some disagree. I spoke to many who crossed into Lebanon who believe their "refugee status" would not last for long.

    "There are a few terrorists in my country and they (government forces) are finishing them off," Sami Salim said.

    The armed opposition is viewed with suspicion by some from the capital - the seat of government power which was largely spared the violence seen in rural areas.

    "I think both sides are wrong but I want to know why the FSA is hiding in residential houses. How could they do this to us. There are children and women there. they are even hiding in mosques," Amal from the district of Midan said.

    Among those who have taken refuge here are army defectors. Ahmed - who for security reasons didn't give us his last name - believes the rebels will make a comeback and ultimately Assad is fighting a losing battle.

    "The people of damascus are  mostly against Bashar.  The government doesn't even know who it's fighting anymore so they may even been shelling close to the homes of pro government families. And this will make them turn against the regime," Ahmed said.

    One man at the border was so confident that "95 percent of Syrians" are opponents of the government.  I asked him to explain why then so many have told me over the past few days that they are behind the army's actions and that the government would ultimately prevail?

    "They are lying. They are just scared because they know they have to return," he argued.

    One woman who fled the fighting last week and was in a taxi driving back home clearly was. "I left because I had a fight with my husband. We managed to resolve our differences over the phone so now I am going home," she told me with a smile on her face.

    It is hard to quantify the support either side in this conflict enjoys. But no one can deny that Syria's society is divided. And not supporting the government may not necessarily mean supporting the opposition that has evolved.

    "For forty years, Syria was the safest country in the world," one man said. "It will never be the same again."

    He refused to blame a side for Syria's new reality.



    Visualising every Saudi coalition air raid on Yemen

    Visualising every Saudi coalition air raid on Yemen

    Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states have launched more than 19,278 air raids across Yemen.

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Many Pentecostal churches in the Niger Delta offer to deliver people from witchcraft and possession - albeit for a fee.

    Why did Bush go to war in Iraq?

    Why did Bush go to war in Iraq?

    No, it wasn't because of WMDs, democracy or Iraqi oil. The real reason is much more sinister than that.