Damascus ‘Bubble’ Belies Violent Reality of Assad’s Syria
Syria marked Traffic Day this month with five programs on state-run television and radio fostering road safety and responsible driving.
On the streets of the capital Damascus, motorists are lulled by sprinklers feeding lush traffic circles studded with yellow and purple spring flowers. The theme of benevolent government is underlined by news in Tishrin, the state-run paper, which reports that the state spent 80 million Syrian pounds ($1.25 million) last year treating more than 19,700 people bitten by stray dogs.
More than 14 months into the Syrian uprising, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is projecting a facade of normality belied by a breakdown in security and a proliferation of defensive emplacements. Sandbags, blast walls and heavily armed men seek to protect government buildings in Damascus, where suicide bombers killed at least 55 and injured almost 400 in twin attacks on May 10.
Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s second city, need to appear normal and under control to support the government’s narrative, Rime Allaf, associate fellow of London-based Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program, said in a telephone interview from Vienna.