Abu-Habl market in the Syrian capital’s Midan district, once a lively and bustling shoppers’ destination with irresistible offerings of delectable cuisine, has turned desolate. It has been abandoned in Ramadan by its cheerful visitors who were replaced by forlorn armed figures and their killing machines, according to residents of the area.
In behind Damascus’ upscale Mezzeh neighborhood, prickly pear fields were ravaged by the tanks of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in revenge against farmers who supported the opposition.
In Zabadani, a summer resort city 50 kilometers north of Damascus, the fertile lands of fruit trees bearing delicious apples, cherries, peaches and pears were also severely damaged by indiscriminate shelling.
The bitter taste of war has been particularly pungent for Syrians during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims who abstain from food and drink daylong come together at sunset in group iftars (breakfasts) around tables lined up with varied and delicious dishes.
“It is especially difficult for children, even those who don’t fast yet, because they are used to special food in Ramadan,” said Abu Imad, a father of three.
The man, who owns a grocery shop in Damascus, said it was increasingly difficult to find food products, including bread, vegetables and meat in the Syrian capital because the transportation routes for distributors have been blocked by security checkpoints set up by the regime’s army.
He explained that passing through checkpoints can prove costly for commuters who have to pay heavy bribes to go through.
“Markets are barely open, the price of vegetables has doubled 10-fold, the living conditions are terrible and to obtain fuel you need a million wasta (clout),” said Abu Abdallah via Skype from Hama, a city renowned for farming, with large yields of crops and quality meat products.
“There are many people in Hama who have not had meat in four months. Its price has jumped to 700 Syrian liras (about $11) from about 500 liras (about $8) months ago,” Abu Abdallah said. “Hama only has hunger, thirst and detentions.”
In the capital, as in several other cities across the country, harrowing stories of internally displaced persons (IDPs) filling the streets and public parks abound.
Internally displaced people are closer to war and more affected by it than the refugees who were able to escape outside the country.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates that more 1.5 million are displaced inside Syria, up from a previous estimate of 500,000 reported at the end of May.
Charity and humanitarian groups in Damascus are trying to provide shelter and Ramadan group iftars for displaced persons, but they have been unable to accommodate the increasing number of people who are fleeing their homes daily, according to a humanitarian relief activist.
The man, who identified himself as Yasir, said his younger brother was fighting with the Free Syrian Army in the outskirts of Damascus. He said the plight of ordinary people, especially the displaced, has worsened in Ramadan, but that the holy month has boosted the morale of opposition fighters who are bent on bringing down the Assad’s regime.