‘Military Personnel Only’.. Damascus Checkpoints and Queues
Enab Baladi Issue # 85 – Sun, Oct. 06, 2013
Checkpoints have been set up on all roads in Damascus, and these roads were divided into two queues: one for civilians and the other for military personnel.
This division was imposed by security forces in almost each of the roads in the capital Damascus, which became more like a military base filled with barracks and military vehicles. According to statistics prepared in February earlier this year, 250 checkpoints were set up inside Damascus city; however, recently this number has increased significantly, in addition to this a division among the civilian section and military section, which became known “Military Queue”, was also set.
“Military Queue” is restricted to military vehicles and cars driven by “Mukhabarat” or military personnel only. “Recommendation cards” are given to special figures connected to the regime’s intelligence agencies, or to its media organizations; holders of these cards are also allowed to pass through this queue.
Amina (26 years), who lives in Damascus, says “If you don’t have one of these cards, you may pass a checkpoint trough the military queue showing your ID and a packet of cigarettes or some money provided that you’re from a pro-regime district or a neutral district at least. You have another option as well, you may replace your dialect with the coastal one, using some common words such as “Hey buddy, what’s up!” thus you’ll pass through the military section avoiding being searched or harassed.
Some civilians take their chances trying to avoid long hours of waiting, thorough search or harassment. They pass through the military section telling guards that they have an urgent matter, a seriously sick person, a pregnant woman about to give birth, or whatever comes to their minds. Sometimes they pass safely; sometimes they turn back to be thoroughly searched in civilians queue where they might be insulted, arrested or terribly beat for “exceeding authorities” by trying to pass through military queue. The driver may be deprived of his car papers in some cases.
Another way to avoid the traffic at checkpoints and the searching process is to ride with a cab driver who is a connected to the intelligence agencies; these drivers use their security papers to go through checkpoints fast and easily. Seham says that her driver shows a paper to the military personnel at the checkpoint saying “I’m a colleague”.
Enab Baladi’s reporter informed that this phenomenon is not limited to checkpoints; Queues at bakeries, communication and money transfer companies, government departments… etc. all have imposed similar measures to insure a better and a smoother costumer service to Mukhabarat and military personnel.
This phenomenon has widely spread in Damascus city and became a habitual practice; in order to avoid trouble and harassment, civilians give up their rights, places, seats, turns… etc. to military personnel, without being ordered to sometimes. Such a practice blatantly contradicts the values of the Syrian Revolution: freedom, dignity and equality which they –civilians-have been demanding for over almost three years.