Lone voice reveals fear, division in Syria's Homs

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 23, 2012 3:55 PM
Lone voice reveals fear, division in Syria's Homs

By Mariam Karouny

HOMS, Syria (Reuters) - Rushing out of the Rawda Cafe in the heart of Homs, the man berated journalists for not visiting rebel-held areas of the city.

"Killing is everywhere," he screamed.

"I am 65 years old and I have no life - what happened to my country, what happened to my country?"

His agitation drew a crowd of supporters of President Bashar al-Assad who accused gunmen of stirring violence in Homs, scene of some of the worst bloodshed of the 10-month uprising.

"What are you doing here? Go to Baba Amro, go to Khaldiya," the man continued, referring to opposition strongholds which activists say have come under heavy fire from Assad's forces.

"What are you seeing here? Everything is clear in Syria, everything is clear," the man shouted. Until then, the journalists accompanied by heavy security had been struggling to find Homs residents to speak to on a government-organized trip.

When asked what he thought was happening in Syria, the man shouted: "Ask him, ask the president what is going on in Syria, what is going on in the country. Don't ask me."

The United Nations say 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown, but authorities say they are fighting terrorist groups who they say have killed 2,000 soldiers and police.

Some of the men attracted by the commotion tried to calm the man down and take him back inside the cafe. The crowd grew, with many pro-Assad voices.

"What are you talking about? The city is safe," another man told him.

But he hit back: "How could you say that? How could you say it's all safe - can you walk around?"

"I go wherever I want," the other man countered.

The man turned to the journalists and said: "They will come and get me, I fear for my life, nobody will hear about me if I give my name now. They will torture me, I will disappear."

A man in his 50s whispered: "You see this man saying it's safe? He is security, from the intelligence."

Two old men standing next to him nodded, with angry looks on their faces. "Do not listen to them, they're security," one of them said. The other two nodded.

Assad supporters said their lives had become a nightmare and they did not feel safe. "The city is full of armed groups, they have killed us and raped our women," shouted one man.

Another shouted: "We were fine until the armed gangs appeared, they have caused the misery."

The man who started the scene tried to argue but his friends pushed him back inside the cafe.

The crowd dispersed.