Highway Forty: Avenue of Death

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Enab Baladi Issue # 82 – Sun, Sep. 15, 2013

أوتستراد الأربعينAmal Al-Sham

You must train yourself to ignore the corpse littered highway in broad daylight; you must learn to look in the other direction to avoid seeing the corpse of a hand-cuffed man or, say, one who had a sniper shot in the head. You must learn to forget that at some point this corpse had had a life, a history, had memories, loved ones, children, had known laughter and was beset by worries.

Now that you chose to go down Highway Forty, you better forget about your humanity, entirely. This is the road dubbed “Avenue of Death” by residents of the Western rural environs of Damascus. At the moment, you’re alive, passing by the square of death. You could be one of those corpses on the ground at any moment. While other people whose time didn’t come to an end yet pass by.

Passersby are too scared to look. The brave are not here. They chose to be in the liberated areas, at a short distance from here. There, someone may risk his life to pull the body of a martyr left on the street although he is fully aware that he could be within a sniper’s bullet range. Or, he may venture to pull a body from the rubble totally oblivious to the fact that a second missile may soon follow killing those whose lives were spared during the first round.

If you were one of those who chose to stay, hand over your ID card to the beasts of the Forth Division – which is how they like to call themselves. Wait for your destiny. If you were one of the sons of Darayya, Mo’addamiyet al-Sham or other revolting areas, you stand a bigger chance of being arrested, or liquidated.  Smile to your enemy, this is your only option.

While waiting for your fate, you may listen to the sounds of missiles leveling to the ground structures that may have been spared total destruction in former shelling rounds in Western Ghouta. You may be interrupted by a sniper’s bullet. You are oblivious to its whizzing sound as it cuts through the air over someone’s head. You may be next. As such, you will not even hear the whizzing because you may have been hit already. Do not be careful, under these circumstances caution is good for nothing. Do not cringe either or recoil to take lesser space; relax.  Surrender to one of two fates: death, which is by far the sweeter, or another chance for life. Rejoice. You may be spared, death may give you time.  Your prison warden may also grant you a one-time opportunity for a compromised life outside the prison bars.

To those who are not familiar with Highway Forty, it is the main road connecting Damascus to its western rural environs stretching all the way to Qunaitira. If the stones of the road could speak they would tell stories about passengers from the Damascus western rural environs heading home only to meet death on the way.

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