Night in Damascus; Why I didn’t have any cigarettes!

Night in Damascus; Why I didn’t have any cigarettes!
Mon Nov 25, 2013 14:08:07

For the first time in my life I bought cigarettes, not from a shop at the corner of a street close to my home, or on my way to work, but from a surprised shopkeeper in the middle of Damascus, in war-torn Syria.

(My conversation with the shopkeeper)

: Sir... Give me a couple of cigarette packs.

- What kind of cigarette? What brand?

: I don’t know.. I don’t want them for myself.

- Not possible son... The one who you are taking the cigarettes for can’t smoke just anything...

: OK... No problem... Give me one of each you have.

His astonishment, the shopkeeper, was really amazing to see when he was putting the cigarette packs in a plastic bag. The poor man may even didn’t get any money for them if he knew who I was buying them for.

In my short visit to the historic city of Damascus, which is relatively safer than most of the large cities in Syria, I have witnessed so many amazing, scary and sorrowful scenes, but this one could be the most regrettable experience I had here.

Since we got here, I was happy that no one in our crew smoked, not even the drivers, because I really get irritated, but I never thought that a day would come that I would deeply regret not having cigarettes with me.

Last night we were about to pass from a remote area at Damascus suburbs. We reached a security point, far away from the city. I’m not sure but I think hours had passed from the time the new guards should have come but they hadn’t and the poor soldier at the post had to stay there alone for hours until they arrived.

His face was filled with exhaustion. He could barely stand but he was so determined to be thorough in doing his job and checking all the cars lined up in a long queue. He had to be like this; after all life and safety of his compatriots depended on his job; a careless mistake could endanger so many lives.

It was our turn. He checked the car and our identity cards and when he found out that we were Iranian journalists, he started welcoming us and expressing joy. For a few seconds his face changed from the tired and strict security guard to a happy young face smiling in joy. He told us that we could go, but he paused a second and said, ”Hey... do you have any cigarettes?”.

And I was devastated that why I didn’t have any. There were no shops for kilometers away and there was no one to ask for a cigarette to give him at that time of the night and we knew he wouldn’t ask others because we saw him trying to put on a strong and yet polite face while checking all other cars.

I’m sure even if someone else offered him to take one, he wouldn’t accept it for the grave security condition they had been suffering and he should be cautious about.

During my nearly one-month visit to Damascus, I have been noticing something about Syrian military forces that can’t be described by anything other than ‘poor soldiers’.

Most of them young, are standing at the front line of one of the most dangerous places in the Middle East, getting ready to face with highest levels of brutality that the war in their country has showed them, while they are all dubbed as “Assad men” and not “Syrian soldiers” defending their people.

It seems like nobody in mainstream media sees them as those who are risking their lives for saving their country.

When I asked one of the citizens about them, he said, “Some of these soldiers may have been critical of the government at the start of the uprising, but things have changed now, with so many foreigners entering our country and killing everyone on their way, many now feel the duty to protect their country first, and then think about reforms”.

“Lives are in danger every minute of every day, how can someone think about who is in charge, we should first have security to remain alive, and then think about who is better to rule,” he added.

It has been a long time since the ‘uprising’ in Syria turned to a charged-insurgency with many foreign hands fueling it and spreading it to anywhere they can.

Many now call it a ‘civil war’ but here in Damascus, there are many who see their people falling victim to foreign plots.


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