DAMASCUS: The threat of US air strikes on their country may be receding for now, but Syrians queuing for passports in a central Damascus office were taking no chances.
Dozens stood in line for hours on Tuesday, many returning for a second day, seeking passports in case talks over Syria’s chemical weapons unravel or the country’s protracted civil war reaches once more into the heart of the capital.
Already two million people have fled to neighbouring countries, escaping bloodshed in which at least 100,000 people have died, according to the United Nations.
“We just decided it was time we got passports for the whole family,” said Raghad, a mother of three in her thirties. Her family has travelled to neighbouring Lebanon — where Syrians can stay without travel documents — every time “things got bad here”, but are unable to go further without passports.
“Now with all this news, what if we went to Lebanon and couldn’t return? We need passports in case we have no choice but to travel to a third country,” she said. “For now, based on the latest news, we’re staying until something changes.”
Raghad is not alone in hedging her bets and watching developments closely. With schools reopening after a long summer break next week, parents face difficult choices about whether to uproot their families. Amira, a mother of two in her late twenties, expects to take her daughter to her kindergarten in the affluent neighbourhood of Malki on Sunday. But like other wealthier Syrians who have the luxury of choice, she is keeping options open.
“We have a place in Beirut, but it needs some fixing up and major cleaning,” she said, eating cactus fruit bought from a street vendor, a popular family pastime in the summer months. “In the worst case scenario, we’ll go there and work on it for a few days and settle there. For now though, we’re staying.” Reuters