Damascus The Beginning of the End ( PT6)

I knew what I was getting into moving to Syria, I knew the risks, I have no regrets, my bank cutting me off and leaving me without funds was to say the least fucking annoying, it’s hard to imagine being made bankrupt is the least of your problems, I could live with the war, I wanted to stay in Syria as long as I felt the risks were calculable, Syrians had to live with this and if I was being denied the opportunity to photograph what was happening at least I could bear witness, the media was as is no surprise all over the place and hardly giving a true picture of the situation.
My issue with the Moukhabarat was obviously something to worry about; for the most part I had been following Kipling’s advice and keeping my head, it’s just routine everybody would tell me, if it was serious they would have come for you, the Old City was crawling with security these days and I wasn’t hard to find, if they did surely my blood coloured British passport would save me from diplomatic embarrassment, my embassy and minions needless to say had long since fled, I had placed all my faith in a corrupt not very secret secret policeman, one thing stuck in my mind, the words of the soft immigration officer, after telling me I was wanted at the intelligence building he advised me not to go.
I sat on my terrace, shielded from snipers, ignoring the shelling and read Eat Prey Love; a book so annoying I wanted to throw it into the air and see if it got shot to pieces. When the power was working my television viewing was just as banal, ten years of being detached from popular US/UK culture I was now well versed in Kardashian catchphrases.
Wasseem would call and tell me where and when I should meet him, numerous visits to filthy offices, usually I would wait outside, at the passport office in Merjeh I sat at the guards desk and watched as several detainees were lead away handcuffed and chained to each other, the filed through the reception area and up the stairs, nobody paid any attention, now as I think about it I hardly paid attention only looking up from the messages on my phone as they passed.
Cruising the clogged streets of Damascus with Wassem as my chauffer had its advantages, closed roads were open to us, checkpoints were just a formality as we skirted around long queues of those waiting to humiliated; a friend had been arrested at a checkpoint a few weeks previously, when he asked why he was told “we’re arresting everybody today” Wassem would pepper me with questions about my financial situation, the value and size of my house with obvious thoughts in the back of his mind, he had an agenda and was helping me not only for the few hundred dollars we had agreed but had his eye on a bigger goal, despite his position he never questioned me on the current situation which was unusual for those connected to the regime.
A battle was raging a few streets away, I climbed to the roof to get an idea of where it was happening, some neighbors had the same idea but they thought it prudent to bring the children too, as if the collapse of the country was entertainment or a video game, suddenly bullets were flying above my head and striking the satellite dishes, I ducked instinctively for cover although I knew I was shielded by the higher building, my neighbors on the other hand were not and made a run for the stairs, the shooting only lasted a few minutes but it gave me plenty to contemplate after, how far do those bullets travel.

Things were not looking any better.

Damascus Old City
Damascus Old City

27 thoughts on “Damascus The Beginning of the End ( PT6)

  1. James Scott

    Hey John, I seriously think you should consider writing a book! It could be a bestseller! Have you ever thought about it?

  2. It’s kind of weird that regardless the corruption, the mukhabarat and all the shitty things that used to happen on daily bases some how Damascus was always able to enchant us so we love it and enjoy life in it. I understand your attachment to this amazing city. I would love to read more of your life there. I miss Sham like hell!

      1. Hi John, thanks for retweeting my article! And as i didn’t visit my blog since more than a month, i just saw your reply! I’d love to meet you, it’s part of my nostalgia meeting with Syrians and the people who love Syria, so we can moan together;) You have my number, text me when you know you have time. I’m on a new project to help refugees, would love to discuss that as I’m sure you have lots of information.

  3. Hello John,

    Thank you for visiting my WP blog.
    I have to say you’re a man of your word when it comes to the dedication in documenting the war in Damascus. Please be safe!

    By the way, have you paid a visit back to the States yet or is that distracting for you?

    1. Hi Aimee
      Thank you for dropping by and the comment.
      I love your work, portraits are excellent, once upon a time I thought I was destined to be a music photographer, life though has a habit of surprising us and I ended up in the Middle East. Its been a very long time since I was in the US but sooner or later I will return for a visit I hope. Have you ever made it out this way?
      Cheers John

      1. Hello John, no kidding about life’s surprises! You never know where the Universe will take you. I enjoy photographing people. No two people are alike physically/emotionally. That’s the interest for me and to understand more of human nature.

        Here’s a link I want to share with you.
        I saw this when it first showed and it was heart wrenching. My mom was a nurse in the military/reserves for about 25 yrs. And her unit was one of the last few to be called on high standby during Desert Storm. Fate had it that the Gulf War ended that same week! My experience of living with a military family member goes back to when I was a child. It had it’s ups/downs. I did grow up with the TV series MASH just to get an idea of what my mom could’ve faced.

        Never been to the Middle East. It’s very turbulent there and know there are now very few female photo journalists that are over there covering conflict.

        I’m certain if you were to return to the US it would be a culture shock.

        Do you travel around Syria/Middle East, or stay in one area?


  4. Thank you, John. I speak few english, but I understand that your posts illustrate a really tragic situation, that affects us all. I wrote about Syria and syrian situation and literature in these posts (naturally in italian, sorry):






    Have a good day

  5. Nick Fox

    Thank you for swinging by my blog. I’m glad you did so that I could find yours. This is a great site. Important work. Please keep it up.

    Best wishes,

    Nick Fox

  6. Great posts, and an angle one certainly doesn’t come across in the mainstream media. Great suggestion about writing a book. For sure it will be high on my to-read list – about a million places higher than Eat Pray Love 😉 I was persuaded to see the film, and that was enough.

  7. Hello John..Hope you are well.I want to thank you for dropping by my WP page.If you didn’t then i would not be able to find yours.I appreciate it. I have great respect in what you do ,your beliefs and your passion.It’s inspiring that you are documenting one of the modern times Tragedies of war.Here in Kuwait i have known many Syrians who are totally devastated because of what ‘s happening to their country.It’s compelling how you capture these sad truths with your amazing photo documentaries.I would love to get to know more of your Blog & your stories.

  8. Thank you for all the kind and encouraging comments-sorry for not having replied to each individually but am slowly getting around to it and also visiting your respective blogs.

  9. Rachel Bryant

    That image. Wow. I cannot even pretend to understand or imagine what living in war and conflict is like. The photo to me sums up the loneliness and longing to live in safety and without fear. Something I know I take for granted.

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