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Despair and debauchery in Assad's capital


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The English-language edition of Der Spiegel has a fascinating and harrowing report from Damascus as Assad’s Russian-backed forces seek to crush the remaining rebel resistance in Aleppo. Civilians surrounded by the madness of the Syrian cvil war are turning to many different things to cope, including the city’s bars and dance clubs. As the article explains, Damascus nightlife has boomed as the Syrian war has raged on. Here’s an excerpt:

Hundreds of fighters from IS and the radical Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham are still in the former Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, located in Damascus just four kilometers from the dance floors and the bars. The fighters have bored tunnels beneath the entire quarter, using them to crawl under their adversary’s positions. Shots from snipers occasionally ring out among the destroyed buildings.

Those who aren’t forced to look at the violence try to block it out. Many of the young people who have come to terms with the war no longer read the news; they don’t want to know what exactly is taking place in Aleppo. “The less you know, the better your life,” says the bartender Kinan. They flee into their fantasy worlds, go hiking, smoke marijuana, take sedatives, get drunk at parties or seal themselves off. Most of the others have already left the country.

But a lot of others in the city have lost the ability to smile. They are the ones who continue following the news. Life, they say, has become black and white, and no matter which side they are on, they are tired. And sad. Depressed. Because their country is dying.

Tens of thousands of others, meanwhile, can’t be seen on the streets at all. They are hiding in apartments and basements from military service and the secret services. They are hiding from torture and death.

Damascus has become a triptych of hedonism, fear and ruin

Image: Young Syrians partying the night away in Z-Bar in the Old Town of Damascus. Via Der Spiegel.