All has been stolen in Ghouta of Damascus: the contents of houses, shops, cars, warehouses and factories are no more. There is nothing left in Ghouta to tempt thugs who looted its valuables over the past months, like Hulagu Khan, who looted and vandalized Baghdad seven centuries ago.
Green trees (the inspiration for the Ghouta’s name) were all that remained after evacuating or killing its inhabitants. It seems the time has come to take it, to complete the scorched earth policy the regime promised after months of siege and starvation.
It’s a disaster area in every sense of the word, because of the continual and systematic cutting of trees. This oasis, sung of by Arab poets for millennia, will become a barren area unfit for life.
The sound of chainsaws can be heard constantly, while dozens of trucks emerge from it daily, loaded with newly-harvested timber, heading for other areas to find these trees – a fuel to face the bitter cold of winter in light of outages and a lack of other heating sources.
Forty years of drought and ancient irrigation did not prevent the peasants of Ghouta from maintaining their trees – they consider it a livelihood and sacred part of the family's honor.
Then the regime came, burning and uprooting the trees for the purpose of trade, and in a few months, fruitful trees that bore apricot, peach and cherry, turned into piles of premature dead wood – the fruit gone forever.
The devastation takes place in broad daylight, and is considered one of the successive stages of the destruction of Ghouta. Such destruction began in the time of the previous governments, who transformed Ghouta into residential mistakes and grim slum areas, and allowed the establishment of hundreds of factories and plants. These plants produce toxic plastics and petrochemicals at the expense of thousands of green acres.
The regime values the task of the destruction of Ghouta for many reasons, firstly to prevent opposition fighters using it as a springboard for attacks, and also to redeem itself to secure fuel for its citizens.
The green cover surrounding Damascus for thousands of years will disappear forever in a few weeks, if the unfair felling operations continue. The surroundings of Damascus will not grow back, and those thousands of peasants who do not master another profession will not return. They become laborers or street vendors, and may be forced to give up their land and the land of their fathers.
It's a reaction not only concerning the trees, but also extending to uproot Ghouta's peasants from their environment and their soil – to punish them for claiming their freedom someday.
The regime cannot foresee that its policy will transform those simple peasants into fierce fighters, determined to regain all their rights.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer