Here & Now Here & Now

Support the news

Steve Inskeep's 11th Floor View Of Damascus09:11
Download

Play
This article is more than 7 years old.
In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, smoke rises after explosives were dropped by a Syrian government warplane in Yabroud near Damascus, Syria, Monday May 20, 2013. (Shaam News Network via AP)
In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, smoke rises after explosives were dropped by a Syrian government warplane in Yabroud near Damascus, Syria, Monday May 20, 2013. (Shaam News Network via AP)

NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep has been reporting in Syria for the past week.

He spoke with us on Friday from the 11th floor of a hotel in Damascus, Syria's capital, where there are only a tiny number of foreign reporters.

While the city is open for business and there are cars on the highways and expressways, Inskeep saw black smoke rising from the “not-so-distant suburbs.”

"It’s a city that is attempting to pose that life is normal. At the same time, it’s a battlefield."

Syrian government artillery and airstrikes are the loudest strikes, and sometimes the rebels will reply with mortar and small arms fires.

“It’s a city that is attempting to pose that life is normal. At the same time, it’s a battlefield,” Inskeep said.

He said he's not sure how the city functions or how the economy functions. Many people are out of work and living with relatives because their homes have been destroyed.

Businesses are destroyed as well. A nearby car dealership has no cars for sale — only the burnt-out remains of cars.

“You’d hear gun fire every night,” Inskeep said. “Mortar shells apparently flew over our heads and smashed into a street about a block away from us. It’s urban combat, and it’s combat with civilians nearby.”

Inskeep and his team are in Syria on government visas, so they haven’t been able to speak with or embed with the rebel forces.

However, support for the Assad regime isn’t universal, even in government controlled territory.

Steve Inskeep. (Linda Fittante)
Steve Inskeep. (Linda Fittante)

The residents are “hoping that the rebels are defeated because they believe the government’s description of the rebels as foreign terrorists.”

However, this is complicated because Hezbollah — the Lebanon-based Islamist militant group — has come out publicly supporting Assad’s forces.

It was assumed this was the case even before Hezbollah’s public announcement.

Ultimately, Syrians do agree on one thing.

“A lot of people simply say they want the war to end,” Inskeep said. They are open to a negotiated solution.

Whether the rebels or Assad’s regime is open to this, is still questionable.

However, Inskeep compares the situation in Syria to the one in Bosnia. After a protracted war there for years, the peace negotiation — however flawed — has lasted for the past two decades.

Guest:

This segment aired on May 31, 2013.

Support the news

Support the news