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'Life in Syria' ep.1: The rising dangers of taking public transport

Reporter: Alaa Ebrahim 丨 CCTV.com

05-26-2015 00:22 BJT

From the main bus terminal for Damascus, more than 300 trips used to head out every day, connecting different parts of Syria. But the bustling avenue has been reduced to rubble, as it sits on the front line between the Syrian Army and a radical rebel factions in Qabun, on the outskirts of the capital.

With no functional bus terminals remaining, the trips leave and return to a highway, which is the last point of safety before embarking into the unfriendly lands of Damascus countryside.

Life goes on; for a moment one could forget that battles are less than a kilometer away, but a reminder would surely and swiftly come your way.

The transport industry that was once known as “Syria's gold” is no more, Abu Ayman a veteran driver with 25 years of experience, knows that this is a new world unlike anything to know before.

 Abu Ayman, a veteran driver with 25 years of experience, in interview with CCTV reporter Alaa Ebrahim

"Before the war i used to make 64 trips a month , now if I am lucky i get 12. No one travels the highways after dark. If the bus breaks down the passengers would be terrified they fear kidnapping and looting and once you leave government areas it is every-man for himself," he said.

But even Ayman still enjoys luxuries that his colleagues lack. He travels to the safe destination of Lattakia. And hence he can afford to talk to journalists, while others cannot, like Ahmad—a fake name used to protect the identity of a bus driver who travels to the Islamic state capital in Syria Araqqa, the main stronghold for ISIL in Syria.

The fear of the notorious beheadings has made Ahmad, like all the passengers heading to insurgents heartland, hesitant to show their faces.

"To get to Araqqa, I cross 10 checkpoints— four for the government, one for Anusra and five others for Da'esh (ISIL). They always bring us in for interrogation, accusing us of being government spies some of our friends were executed," Ayman said.

"We come to Damascus, and people think if you live under ISIL then you are one of them. I drive university students and families of soldiers who serve in the army, they can't come to Araqqa so I bring their parents to them."

Recent government gains in central Syria meant that there are more secure roads to travel, but even risky destinations have to be reached. Therefore, even an intimidating trip like the one Ahmad takes every two days has its customers.

His assistant calls on passengers and bargains with them. His mind is not with ISIL; at the moment, he is more worried about the competition.

Boxes of goods waiting to be transported across war zones lay witness of how the violence and endless fighting cripples the country's movement and economy.

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