Previously Calm, Unrest Reaches Syrian Capital

As Western nations increasingly push to end the violence in Syria, tension has reached the capital Damascus. Last June, a woman there who blogs under the pseudonym "Jasmine Roman," described Damascus as a city removed from the demonstrations that were taking place elsewhere in the country. Renee Montagne talks with her again, to see how things have changed 11 months after the anti-government uprising began in Syria.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. In Syria, neither deepening international isolation or a diplomatic visit by Russia has stopped government forces from bombarding its own people. And as bullets and rockets rained down on cities like Homs, the capital Damascus is also feeling the pain. Last summer, we reached a blogger there who goes by the pseudonym Jasmine Roman. At the time she described a city removed from the demonstrations that had overtaken much of her country, a Damascus that was normal. We reached her again 11 months into Syria's uprising.

Hello. Thank you for getting on the line with us.

JASMINE ROMAN: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Tell us, does daily life in Damascus feel differently to you than the last time we spoke with you?

ROMAN: Yeah, definitely. In the beginning you didn't see many changes since Damascus evaded the bloodshed encountered by other cities. But now especially with the Syrian pound losing 50 percent of its value against the dollars, with the scarcity of very essential materials, people feel that at any minute the security situation will be shifted to our(ph) security situation, like other cities. So it's changed drastically since we talked last time.

MONTAGNE: When you first talked with us - and this was last summer - could you ever have imagined what we are now hearing and seeing in Homs? Machine guns throughout the day, rockets coming in - raining bullets, as one person there put it - could you have imagined that would happen in your country?

ROMAN: Well, actually, most of Syrian people, including me, were living in denial. Even though we felt that, yeah, the worse is coming, the worse is approaching day by day, we - we did not want to believe that we will have another Iraq or Lebanon or Libya. We were always saying that, no, Syria is different, Syrian people are different. Unfortunately, we're here now.

MONTAGNE: Well, is there any going back from this?

ROMAN: I hope so, but I don't believe there would be any, because the regime does not want to stop killing. The opposition at the same time is somehow not united and they also do not want to have any dialogue with the regime. What we see, actually, is just conflict of power between the regime and opposition while Syrian people are lost in between.

MONTAGNE: You recently wrote that moderate Syrian voices have fallen silent, either by choice or by force. Yet it seems that your voice, which is a moderate voice, has gotten stronger.

ROMAN: I don't want to say that they were uncourageous(ph), but talking to you right now is a big risk for me, especially that, I mean I'm just talking by my mobile, so not many people would take this risk to raise their voices.

MONTAGNE: Although I imagine it helps that you're able to speak under a pseudonym.

ROMAN: Yeah. I mean this is the only precaution, actually, I took. Even now I mean I don't feel comfortable talking on the phone, 50 percent of my concentration would be (unintelligible) my words(ph) because it's really scary to be caught or to be arrested. And you know, being arrested in Syria is much, much more dangerous and much, much more brutal than being killed.

MONTAGNE: Jasmine Roman is a Syrian blogger speaking to us on her cell phone from Damascus. Thank you very for taking the time to talk with us.

ROMAN: Thank you.

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