The Syrian Exodus: The car bomb attack in Damascus only adds to the worries of Syrians agonizing over whether to stay or flee
Mahmoud, a gangly young man in his 20s, has just been let out of prison. His legs are stained by dark stripes of electric shock burns. It was the third time he had been locked up by President Bashar al-Assad’s security services, and each time he gets taken in for protesting, the torture gets worse. It doesn’t cow him, however — the day he was let out, he went to a protest. Now, smiling and laughing, he busies himself by taking pictures of the torture marks.
Over a crackling Skype line, Mahmoud’s mother talks to an activist in Lebanon, just a stone’s throw away from this mountain town that was once a popular summer resort for Gulf tourists. “We are looking at places he could go to. He should leave Syria,” says the activist.
“No,” his defiant mother says. “No.”
As the school year ends and the uprising grinds on into its 15th month, many middle- and upper-class Syrians are agonizing over whether to leave the country. Now, another atrocity will weigh on their minds: Two explosions ripped through the capital, Damascus, on the morning of May 10, killing at least 55 people near a military intelligence building and wounding 170 more. A Syrian filming the smoke plume from the first explosion caught the earth-shaking sound of the second blast on camera. The Syrian government blamed the attacks on “terrorists,” while the Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group, blamed the regime for orchestrating the attacks. Syria’s state news agency published gruesome images of those killed in the attacks.
This bloody escalation in the battle between Assad and his opponents — and possibly others, such as the self-styled jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has claimed responsibility for some recent bombings — seems certain to hasten the departure of both activists and regular Syrians. They will join a growing flood of their fellow compatriots: Since the uprising started in March 2011, over 54,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey — and that’s just the official number of those who have registered with the United Nations’ refugee agency. Roughly 300,000 more Syrians have been displaced from their homes and are still living within the country.