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April 4, 2014

A look inside the city at the center of Syria’s civil war


The city of Homs was once considered the rebel stronghold in the now three-year-long Syrian civil war, which has left more than 140,000 people dead. However, now what’s left of the city is mostly controlled by Assad government forces.

In the Homs neighborhood of Bab Sparr, fighting goes on every night. Soldiers say the United Nations (U.N.) has evacuated the civilians and that only fighters remain in the area.

Rebels who have surrendered are often jailed in other cities, but authorities in Homs say such men in their city will be freed after checking their criminal records.

“In the beginning, we asked for simple justice, things everyone should have. But then it became something much bigger, and they brought heavy weapons,” said Hamzi Zakur, a former rebel. “And when foreigners intervened, they started to play off one religious sect against the other.”
However, while some areas of the city are bombed out shells of their former selves, other neighborhoods have not been hard-hit. A mile or so away from Bab Sparr, on Al Hadharah, or Civilization Street, signs of the war are scarce. The rebels never made any inroads into this area, where most people are from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect.

But, in Baba Amr, a Sunni quarter which rebels controlled for two years, government forces showed no mercy. No one knows how many lost their lives here, civilians and fighters alike living month after month under constant bombardment.

“There’s sadness everywhere, a bad feeling, a sense of loss, because we used to see our neighbors in the morning, but now we don’t. It’s sad,” said Ibrahim Juma, who owns a bicycle repair shop. “We don’t know where they are. Our neighbors were like our brothers, and I miss them.”

The government believes it’s won in Homs and must fight, not negotiate, to win elsewhere.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Syria?
  2. What is a civil war?
Discussion questions
  1. What are the rebels fighting for? Who are they fighting against?
  2. What has been the impact of the Syrian civil war in Homs on the military and civilian population?
Writing prompt

Civil wars are often the bloodiest kind of conflict and are the hardest for a country to recover from. If you were a president of a country that was in the midst of a civil war, what might you do to try to stop the fighting and make peace? How would you treat your enemy countrymen? What foundation would you build upon to try to move forward? Explain your answer in complete sentences and use examples to support your actions.

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