Life must go on: Syrian blitz spirit is alive and well

Published February 18th, 2013 - 09:59 GMT

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Syria valentine's protest conflict
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Image 1 of 8: Ahead of Valentine’s Day, protestors took to the streets in a tongue-in-cheek demonstration, holding aloft red and white roses as a sign of peace, love and the blood spilled in the 23-month civil war.

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Image 1 of 8: Syria’s real-life drama hasn’t stopped the nation from tuning in to their favorite scripted drama on TV. As the civil war rages on, Syrian series’ are still thriving and, with filming already underway, the country’s most popular show, Bab al-Hara (The Neighborhood’s Door), is ready to rake in the ratings this Ramadan.

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Image 1 of 8: Regime-sponsored pool parties enticed even the most radical of student protestors off the streets and on to the sun lounger on Fridays. Until at least mid-2012, the liquor flowed at glitzy hotel pools to the incessant rhythm of glamorous female DJs spinning dance beats to scantily clad clientele.

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Image 1 of 8: Despite the ongoing war, Syrians still need romance in their lives. For a few this means braving sniper fire and shelling on a daily basis. For the most courageous couples, even the prospect of death hasn’t deterred them from saying their vows in public.

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Image 1 of 8: Austin Tice, the daredevil American journalist who is still missing in Syria, said he had a great time hanging out with the Syrian rebels. The only problem was that they kept hogging all the girls for themselves.

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Image 1 of 8: On New Year’s Eve even a few of the most war-weary Syrians managed to drag themselves out to the clubs of Damascus for a gin and tonic and some light relief. Although the jovial atmosphere of a year earlier was somewhat subdued.

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Image 1 of 8: It may seem strange to an outsider, but amid all the frustrations, boredom and terror of the war, some Syrians still want to go out and twist their hips to a latin rhythm. Salsa nights in Damascus’s Old City are still attracting hot-blooded young Syrians keen to shake off a week of stress.

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Image 1 of 8: Syrian children didn’t let a war stand in the way of building snowmen and having snowball fights after an unusual cold snap swept through the region. Rebels built snowmen as well, expressing the gallows humor which has characterized artistic displays of dissent during the conflict.

News reports on the Syrian crisis are filled with explosions, executions and extreme suffering. But there is another side to the protracted conflict, which has paralyzed the country for more than 23 months. Few reports show how boring and isolating the war can be.

In the early days of the uprising, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime promoted “pool parties” among middle class Syrians, which were held every Friday, the day of protest. Few were in any doubt as to the motives behind the sudden desire to entice young Syrians off the streets and into the bar.

As the conflict intensified, even Syrians fully committed to the struggle have found themselves longing for some semblance of normality — an open cafe, a drink with a friend or a dance and a stolen kiss.

Some have managed to relax amid the chaos. Salsa nights continue to be held in Old Damascus. Clubs have opened their doors to partygoers when possible. Even the rebels have held pool parties, as kidnapped U.S. journalist Austin Tice discovered shortly before he was abducted.

Over New Year’s the blitz spirit showed no signs of wavering. But the desire for a drink and a good time seemed to have lagged, as the bars and clubs that stayed open housed few customers.


Have your say: What do you think of people partying while war rages nearby? Can anyone who hasn’t lived through war really make a judgement on what people in a conflict zone do to unwind?

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