Anhar Kochneva: ''From 50 to 100 shells are daily falling on Damascus and the suburbs today''

The fate of East Ghouta is predetermined. Near Eastern journalist’s column

The movers and shakers of the world are solving the fate of Eastern Ghouta on the UN margins. Realnoe Vremya's Near Eastern columnist Anhar Kochneva tells how this part of Syria occupied by the rebels is living now. In the column written for our online newspaper, the journalist tells about the chaos that reigned in the former rich oasis and the region's predetermined fate.

Blossoming oasis where even no cat left

Eastern Ghouta is a part of the ancient fruitful oasis, in the suburbs of which Damascus, the most ancient capital of the world, according to UNESCO, appeared. The enclave's territory is about 115 square metres. Several towns and settlements of this region were occupied by the rebels who quickly established their own order seven years ago thanks to the Annan Plan, which was imposed on Syria and was to withdraw the Syrian army from settlements.

Ghouta, which used to feed all Damascus and not only Damascus, itself was at the edge of real hunger. Herds of cows and flocks of sheep were used by the rebels as meat. In the end, there was neither meat nor dairy. The orchards the valley had been famous for a long time ago dried due to the absence of watering or were cut and used as wood immediately. There were fewer and fewer insane people who were ready to risk their lives and take goods to the territory of the extremists day after day. All in all, the sheikhs of the rebels created ''fatwah'' in 2013 that permits citizens of Ghouta to eat cats and dogs. I think it's impossible to meet these animals in the whole enclave today. There are mice that spread infections in the place where there are no cats.

Numerous restaurants were robbed and destroyed. Summer houses of the Damascus residents turned into ruins. The blossoming blessed region was almost destroyed. The civilians who didn't want to have anything in common with the rebels or understood the conditions the new ''administration'' doomed to spread in safer regions during the first months (years, at last) after taking Ghouta under the rebels' control. Mainly these are divisions of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the Syrian division of al-Qaeda (Editor's Note: both organisations are banned in the Russian Federation).

Ghouta, which used to feed all Damascus and not only Damascus, itself was at the edge of real hunger. Photo: Bassam Khabieh, Reuters (

The rebels' ''refugees''

Mainly those who didn't like the new order for some reason remained. In addition, the majority of family members of the rebels also left Ghouta and went to calmer places. Yes, to the territories controlled by the ''criminal regime''. Citizens of Damascus and suburbs tell that this contingent of the ''refugees'' is seen with the naked eye. The bulk of them is ladies in radical clothes who waste money who can be met both in a queue for free food and in free public polyclinics. When some of them die in shooting from Ghouta staged by their own husbands and brothers, the originators of the tragedy shoot tearful and angry videos about… the next ''victims of the regime''. No, don't look for any logic in it: there is no, and there wasn't any. It's what doesn't confuse those who support the forces entrenched in Ghouta.

As Permanent Representative of Syria to the UN Bashar Jaafari said in his speech, over 1,200 shells had been launched from Ghouta to Damascus only since early 2018. The shells were often handmade and uncontrollable. They entered houses, offices, hospitals killing people in markets and in the street.

A big block of flats was considerably affected as a result of the shooting in Rukn ad-Din region in Damascus on 23 February: no untouched flat left there. After the shooting, a fire began, special services who rushed to the site of the disaster had to quench it. A neighbouring block of flats also suffered together with this house. Not only residents of these houses but also passers-by who were going home from the mosque, which is located here, were among 40 injured people in this shooting. People lost health (one person died in this shooting), property, some of them lost their cars they bought when they could afford such an expensive purchase.

A big block of flats was considerably affected as a result of the shooting in Rukn ad-Din region in Damascus on 23 February. Photo: Bassam Khabieh, Reuters (

''Ghouta will be back under control of pro-governmental forces''

The digits named by Bashar Jaafari probably don't consider the latest data. From 50 to 100 shells are daily falling on Damascus and the suburbs today. People try to go outside less, they don't let their kids go to school and institutes. All are looking forward to seeing the end of the special operation that was launched by the army who is to divide the big enclave, which was occupied by the rebels, into parts at the first stage and prevent the rebels from helping each other.

Even if the region of Ghouta is considered complicated for acts of war (multi-storeyed connected housing, underground tunnels, etc.), the forces of the rebels aren't able to reflect the attacks of the more equipped Syrian army for long anyway. Their fate was predetermined. And Ghouta will be back under control of pro-governmental forces in the end. However, the problem of evacuation of the civilians who don't participate in fights of both sides from regions of acts of war remains open.

Thanks to the firm position of the ambassador of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the UN, the point about the evacuation of these people was included in the text of the 2401 resolution that provides safety to civilians of Ghouta. Time will show whether the initiators of adoption of this resolution (Kuwait and Sweden) will manage to persuade the rebels to let the people whom they're keeping as human shield go.

By Anhar Kochneva