''Tomorrow's morning in Damascus and Ghouta will be completely different from hundreds of previous ones''

Anhar Kochneva about how East Ghouta fell under the control of Damascus

''Tomorrow's morning in Damascus and Ghouta will be completely different from hundreds of previous ones'' Photo: Mouneb Taim / ZUMAPRESS.com (riafan.ru)

The Syrian army has recently entered liberated Ghouta. The negotiations on withdrawal of insurgents and members of their families culminated in success. Anhar Kochneva, a columnist for Realnoe Vremya from the Middle East, predicted such an outcome already a month ago. In today's column, written for our online newspaper, the journalist tells how the transference of settlements under the rule of Bashar al-Assad is going and what 'surprises' the armed groups, which occupied this territory until recently, have left for the government.

The insurgents withdraw from East Ghouta

What Damascus had been waiting for a long time has happened. Almost without fighting — at lightning speed by the standards of war – the insurgents have left East Ghouta. On March 31 at about 5:30 p.m., the Syrian armed forces officially announced the transference of East Ghouta under their control. The army officially entered Ghouta.

Until recently, only the town of Douma was remaining in their hands (officially it is reported that it is about 7% of the territory of the former gangster enclave). In the Damascus region, the territory of Palestinian Yarmouk Camp, seized by the bandits, remains under the control of the bandits.

The first buses to transport those wishing to leave Douma arrived into place. They will be transported to the long-suffering governorate of Idlib and the city of Jarabulus in Aleppo Governorate. Douma is the famous stronghold of radicalism in Syria. If earlier someone met in Damascus women with fully covered faces and black gloves, they probably saw women just from the very Douma. This city is considered to be the champion in Syria by number of local women married to Saudi Arabian citizens.

After it became impossible for the militants to curb the flow of civilians wanting to escape from the enclave, much of what the supporters of the militants preferred to conceal but what was known to the vast majority of Syrians was confirmed. First of all, the claims that people were afraid of the army and voluntarily staying in the enclave captured by the militants were completely shattered.

''Almost without fighting — at lightning speed by the standards of war – the insurgents left East Ghouta.'' Photo: Samer Bouidani / dpa (riafan.ru)

Can you imagine a sane person who on his own initiative would quit his job and study, the opportunity to move freely around the country, eat normally, go to shops and markets, sit in cafes in the evenings, etc. and would go for seven years under house arrest? As soon as people got an opportunity to break out of the enclave, they did so. Some people in the blockade even paid for the freedom of others with their lives: there were some reports about shooting by militants of rallies with the requirement to give the public the opportunity to leave. Nobody could leave through the established by authorities 'corridors' for a few days: those dared were fired and not let by the militants. But in the end, people tired of the hardships were no longer afraid and massively went to the exit points organized for them by the army.

Human shield on the way to 'democracy'

A huge human flow was going in spite of the fact that these passes were repeatedly fired by the fighters who had kept people for years under slogans of bringing them freedom. Almost four years ago, I saw civilians leaving the blocked areas of Old Homs. People were taken out by any vehicle, with pain and misery reminding a transport, they were exhausted, carried on hands. Already there it seemed that the flow of people was never-ending. But at the time there were only about 600 people.

After people began to leave the territory of 'freedom' and 'democracy' in tens of thousands a day, the version that the militants had kept them as a human shield was confirmed. When there already was no people behind whom they could hide (a large military operation could not be started because of a high likelihood of civilian casualties), the fighters quite quickly chose the evacuation.

Harasta became one of the first liberated settlements of the enclave. At inspection of the territory by government soldiers there were found warehouses, literally crammed with a variety of products. On some boxes, there were emblems of humanitarian organizations. But how much pathos there was in the accusations from the militants in the address of the government, which allegedly did not let the products into the blocked enclave and starved people!

Back in 2013, 'pocket' sheikhs of the militants officially allowed the population of Ghouta to eat cats and dogs. But as it turns out, they themselves could afford much more than the usual human food. Blocked by militants people were telling about the fact that they were forced to starve. Many of them had not seen flour for several years: from grains people had only oat at best, with which in peacetime they fed animals. They got used to grind it into flour and bake bread from this flour.

''After people began to leave the territory of 'freedom' and 'democracy' in tens of thousands a day, the version that the militants had kept them as a human shield was confirmed.'' Photo: Associated Press/SANA (world.wng.org)

Not without provocations

The army, which found these abandoned warehouses, confiscated the finds and began to distribute them to the inhabitants of the surrounding houses. Those who came out of the enclave first of all received water and food from representatives of the army and the Red Crescent (the analogue of the Red Cross in the Arab countries). Then those who had no relatives or friends in Damascus at whom they could temporarily stay were accommodated in camps, where they were also provided with food, mattresses to sleep etc. Some children born during the siege had never seen a normal life or all kinds of candy and sweets. And it's not that there were no such things — there were. But they, who didn't receive 'salaries' from the fighters, couldn't buy such 'excess'.

According to people who escaped from the hell of Gouta, they were asked, for example, 15,000 liras for a kilogram of sugar. That's about $30. Today, even those who live in the territory controlled by the army and get paid, this amount is about half of the monthly income, and people in Gouta for several years were generally deprived of the opportunity to earn something. While the 'revolutionaries' were squeezing the last from them under the fear of starvation.

By the way, it was not without attempts of provocation. The military managed to detain as many as 36 potential 'shahids' who tried to sneak with explosive belts in buses prepared to be sent to Idlib. By the way, six of them were women, and one, the 37th – a mined little child. The bastards tried to blow up the buses with insurgents from the enclave and lay the blame for this on the government army. They do not feel sorry even for their own people for the sake of such provocations.

It will take some time for the mandatory procedure of inspecting and demining the territory. It will take time for removing the barricades blocking the roads, for conducting electricity to the houses. The scope of work is going to be huge. But already tomorrow's morning in Damascus and Gouta will be absolutely different from hundreds of the previous ones.

By Anhar Kochneva