Staden Douma är det enda som nu återstår av den rebellkontrollerade enklaven östra Ghouta. Staden kontrolleras av rebellgruppen Jaish al-Islam. En civil kommitté och/eller Jaish al-Islam förhandlar med Ryssland. De kräver är att de ska få stanna i Douma. I onsdags, den 28 mars, fick de emellertid ett ultimatum på 3 dagar för att lämna staden.
Protester i Douma som stödjer den civila kommittén som deltar i de pågående förhandlingarna med Ryssland. De protesterande håller up banderoller som avvisar att de ska lämna sina hem och land, och som stöder eldupphör och skydd för civila mot förflyttningspolitiken.
The rebel group currently holds Douma, the only town the Syrian regime has not seized since beginning its Ghouta offensive last month.
The Syrian regime has given the Jaish al-Islam group a final, three-day ultimatum to leave the last remaining rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta.
The 72-hour deadline began on Wednesday night, according to Syrian state TV.
Jaish al-Islam, which controls Douma, the largest town in Eastern Ghouta, has been in talks for days with Russian mediators.
”We discussed the situation of the residents of the shelters and the violations that took place, the establishment of the ceasefire throughout the negotiations, to progress in the talks and reaching consensus on common points as the basis for the discussions in the coming rounds,”
The spokesman of Jaish al-Islam staff, ”Hamza Birqdar,” said earlier that the process of negotiation is based on staying in the city and not leave.
More than 16,000 people left their homes in East Ghouta over the past five days alone, boarding buses bound for opposition-held northwestern Syria as part of a surrender and evacuation deal between rebels and the government of Bashar al-Assad.
The ongoing evacuation of East Ghouta’s central sector—a collection of towns primarily known for their agriculture and furniture production—will return nearly all of the eastern suburbs of Damascus to state control after five years of siege. Only Douma city, the de facto capital of East Ghouta, remains.
Residents of the East Ghouta suburbs were among the first to protest in 2011 against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As protests transformed into armed conflict, East Ghouta then became a stronghold of rebel groups who hoped to take Damascus.
But the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and allied militias repelled rebel attempts to take the capital and, by mid-2013, encircled the eastern suburbs. Over the following years, rebels and civilians endured strangling siege, indiscriminate bombardment and a sarin gas attack.
Finally, in a large-scale offensive over the past month, pro-government forces broke rebel defensive lines and swiftly captured the majority of Ghouta’s central sector as airstrikes and artillery fire across the suburbs claimed the lives of more than 1,700 civilians.
Failaq a-Rahman, the central sector’s dominant rebel faction, agreed to a surrender agreement to hand over the small pocket of territory they still controlled and evacuate to the north.
After years of siege and bombings, residents faced a choice: leave with the rebels or reconcile with the government. Five East Ghoutans who left their homes this week spoke to Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier as they made final preparations or sat on buses.
The residents—a doctor, two nurses, a civil defense member and a rebel fighter—describe making last visits to the graves of loved ones, taking final strolls through familiar streets and digging through the rubble of destroyed houses for family pictures.
They speak about memory and what they must leave behind in East Ghouta. All reflect on how difficult it is to say goodbye.
Alone in Douma, Hassan Abdelrahman is weighing his options. The 37-year-old grocery store owner’s wife and three children left the rebel-held East Ghouta city for government-held Damascus this week, and he is struggling to decide whether or not to follow them.
“I am afraid to stay in Douma and face a new massacre,” Abdelrahman tells Syria Direct’sAmmar Hamou, “but I am afraid to leave for government areas and face the security risks.”
Abdelrahman is not alone in his decision. For Douma residents like him, deciding whether or not to take advantage of a Russian-established humanitarian corridor north of the city means choosing between airstrikes in East Ghouta and an uncertain future in government territory.
More than 25,000 civilians, including Abdelrahman’s family, have left Douma through the nearby al-Wafideen crossing over the past month, the Russian Ministry of Reconciliation reported on Monday.
Pictures that circulated on pro-government social media in recent days appear to show hundreds of Syrians—mostly women and children—inside government-established shelters outside the rebel enclave.
But after spending seven years in opposition-held Douma, Abdelrahman worries he could be arrested by government forces or taken for military reserve duty if he goes to Damascus. Conflicting rumors about the fates of men who left Douma in recent days leave him “struggling” to decide what to do.