Syrian Blogger Monitors Country's Uprising

Originally published on June 14, 2011 6:32 am
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Let's hear a voice now from a country where it's hard to get reliable news. Few Western journalists have made it into Syria. Others have to work from the country's borders to cover anti-government protests and a crackdown by the army. We also listen, when we can reach them, to citizens inside the country. And we spoke by way of the Internet service Skype to a woman in Damascus. She's been blogging under a pseudonym - Jasmine Roman.

M: In Damascus, I can tell you, you can hardly notice anything changed since the unrests took place, you know, in March, in other cities. In Damascus, people seem like living in another planet actually. Of course, people are not going out as they used to be, but everything is just normal; it's just like before. There is no demonstrations. There is no indication of what's happening in Syria, so you cannot rely on Damascus to know what's happening.

INSKEEP: Now, when you say that things have been normal in Damascus, almost as if nothing is going on on a day-to-day basis...

M: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Is that because people in Damascus still support the government, or because people in Damascus are afraid to speak out?

M: Well, you can say both. Basically, in Damascus, people are more or less from middle class and upper middle class, and they don't want any change, because they don't want to risk it, you know, whether financially, socially or whatever. And also, you have some people who might want to have changes in the country, but they don't dare, because as I said in my writings, there are great social pressure on people and moderate voices are not being heard, as usual. So you're either anti or pro. And it's much easier to get yourself in the pro box or pro container, because people would accept you more. And...

INSKEEP: You mean pro-government. That's what you're saying.

M: Pro-government. Yes. And some people also are afraid to speak because they are talking about 40 years of oppressing, so it's not easy to ask people to speak their minds.

INSKEEP: And what kinds of things are you hearing if you run across someone who is not so well off or who has not benefited in some way from the Assad regime? What do they say?

M: Basically, they got fed up of 40 years of oppressing regime, and they just don't buy these lies told by the state's media about what's happening. So, of course, they would take the protest's side, but in different tones and size. Maybe they won't say it directly, because we have another problem, that the protest itself is leaderless and it's not well organized. They don't have specific agenda to follow. I think if they unite they would attract more people and audience to evolve around the protest.

INSKEEP: How uncomfortable is it these days to have a discussion at a dinner party or in any other setting? Do the discussions frequently get into uneasy territory?

M: And this would make the Syrians lose the golden chance to make a real change in the country. And it's really overwhelming to have this conversation, even sometimes with the closest friends to you, because they won't accept you. And this is how I described it in my writing, the social pressure, daily battle to keep living, surviving and trying to have, like, moderate voice on your own.

INSKEEP: Thank you very much for taking the time. I appreciate it.

M: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.