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Two Syrian Women, Two Very Different Perspectives On War


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block.

To Syria now and two views of the war that has claimed more than 70,000 lives over the past two years. Among the latest developments: Airstrikes over the weekend on a military complex outside the capital city, Damascus. Those strikes are presumed to have come from Israel, aimed at stopping weapon shipments to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Today, I spoke with a spokeswoman for the Revolution Command Council, rebel forces in the northern Damascus suburbs. Out of safety concerns, she goes by a pseudonym, Susan Ahmad. And she felt those airstrikes very early yesterday morning.

SUSAN AHAMD: It was a very huge explosion. All the windows and doors burst open. Glass fall apart and they broke. It was...


AHAMD: Sorry. You heard that?

BLOCK: I did hear that. What was that?

AHAMD: That was explosion. I think they are going to shell us today because they sent us - warned that they will shell us.

BLOCK: And when you say they, you're referring to the Syrian military in this case.

AHAMD: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that is right because they have tanks here at checkpoints and they shell us. In my area, which is under the control of the regime, actually we get shelled every few days. But in the areas after the control of a Christian army, they got shelled everyday.

BLOCK: Well, let's go back to the attacks that you were talking about yesterday. The big explosion that you heard. Could you pinpoint exactly what the targets were from those Israeli airstrikes?

AHAMD: They were to the weapons store between Maraba and Ed Draij. They put many weapons, they stored many weapons there.

BLOCK: Do you have any sense of how much of that airstrike might degrade Syria's military capability?

AHAMD: Oh, God. I can't tell, like, precisely. But I know that it will harm it very, very much. So it's not really good. Maybe if you want to be optimistic, we can think that it's OK that we got rid of these weapons, so Assad won't use them against us. But at the same time, Syria's losing because we paid for these weapons. And now we have two enemies. We have to face Assad inside Syria and Israel is going to attack us.

BLOCK: So, you now see Israel as the enemy even though Israel was targeting the Syrian regime that you're fighting against.

AHAMD: It is an enemy actually. Let me tell you something. I don't think that Israel is going to do us a favor. We have been like fighting the regime for two years, and this is the first time Israel do such a thing. So it is not for the sake of the Syrian people.

And something else, for many years we thought that Assad regime is, let's say, the enemy of Israel or the first one who resist the occupation (unintelligible) and so-and-so. We were like fool - actually they were just fooling us. It seems though that Assad is the best ally of Israel, because he always kept the Israeli borders safe.

BLOCK: Wait a minute, Ms. Ahmad, let me stop you there. Are you saying that the Israelis colluded with President Assad to bomb his own military?

AHAMD: It is one of the options actually, yes.

BLOCK: Let me ask you this, Ms. Ahmad, if the Israeli attack degrade Syria's military capability, why would that not be a good thing for the rebel side, for your cause?

AHAMD: Because when I am thinking, actually, I think like a Syrian, I don't think like an opposite person or from the rebels or whatever. Assad is not going to live forever. We are going to get rid of him. So after that, we need to rebuild the whole country. So having a very, very big country so (unintelligible) just to protect our country against anyone who wants to come and take part of this cake, because they see Syria now as a cake, you know. Like Iran is ready to take its parts. Iraq as well. We know don't know other.

BLOCK: Well, Ms. Ahmad, thank you for talking with us today.

AHAMD: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's Susan Ahmad, a pseudonym. She's spokeswoman for the Revolution Command Council outside Damascus.

For a very different view of the war in Syria, we turn to the city of Latakia on the Mediterranean Coast. It's an area that's been relatively untouched by the war, aside from a flood of refugees. That's where we reached the Reem Dagman. She's an Alawite, the same minority group as President Bashar al-Assad. She says she fears a new Islamic state if Assad's regime were to fall.

REEM DAGMAN: As a member of a minority and as a woman, we have so much fear here. You know, here we are living in Latakia and in other places. For me, as an Alawite and as a woman, we live here. We can go to the beach and swim. We can drink. But if the Islamists and the extremes came to here, all of this will be gone - we can't live here. We can't impose what it's like in Egypt, it's the Islamic Brotherhood is ruling there. You can't impose this in Syria.

BLOCK: Apart from the extremists, I wonder, as an Alawite, if you share the concerns that have been expressed by people say that that because the Alawite are associated with the Assad regime, that if the Sunni majority were to take power that there would be reprisals. There would be - you would be held responsible for the crimes of the regime.

DAGMAN: No. No, I don't think so that's our main concern. Our main concern is from the Islams.

BLOCK: Would you describe yourself, Ms. Dagman, as a supporter of the Assad regime?

DAGMAN: I'm supporting the country. I'm supporting to save the law - the enforcement of the law in the country. I don't support chaos. I don't support violence. I'm against violence. I'm with dialogue.

BLOCK: And how do you process what has been going on in your country over the last couple of years, and the tens of thousands - 70,000 people - who have been killed? What do you make of that?

DAGMAN: It's a conflict. It's a conflict between armed opposition and the Syrian army.

BLOCK: And when you hear of Sunni villages that have been wiped out, massacres carried out by the Assad regime or by the Shabiha, do you believe those reports when you hear them?

DAGMAN: You know, if you see these villages - if you say there have been massacres in these villages, there's no civilians in these villages. They're the fight between two sides.

BLOCK: And the women and children whose images we've seen who've been killed, who are they, do you think?

DAGMAN: I have no idea.

BLOCK: What to you would be a positive outcome at the end of this fighting? What would you want to see in Syria?

DAGMAN: What I want as an outcome of this fight, to stop this violence; and everybody come on the table and talk.

BLOCK: And Bashar al-Assad to remain in power?

DAGMAN: Let's go to the boxes - to the election boxes.

BLOCK: Go to the election boxes. In other words, have a vote.

DAGMAN: Yes. Yes.

BLOCK: Ms. Dagman, thank you very much for talking with us today.

DAGMAN: Thank you very much for having me.

BLOCK: That's Reem Dagman. She is an Alawite living in Latakia, Syria.


CORNISH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.