Photo Essay: ‘East Ghouta is dying slowly as the world watches’

As Osama al-Amari walks through the rubble-strewn roads of Douma, he sees street hawkers selling their sparse stocks of produce—a few bunches of spinach, dandelion greens—or doling out cups of boiled corn from a cart. He sees residents gathering pieces of plastic, wood and refuse off the ground to later burn in their homes for warmth. He takes out his phone, and begins documenting the scenes before him, which we bring you here.

Douma is the de facto capital of East Ghouta, a collection of working class and farming towns just east of Damascus, encircled by pro-government forces since 2013. An estimated 400,000 residents live in the blockaded, rebel-held enclave.

“As I walk the streets and alleyways, it’s possible to clearly see the suffering that the war caused these people for nearly seven years.”al-Amari tells Syria Direct from Douma.

“As winter nears, the misery that haunts half a million people worsens.”

Earlier this year, a regime military offensive closed down a network of underground smuggling tunnels that once sustained the rebel-held pocket with food, fuels and other essentials. Then, in early October, pro-regime forces purportedly shuttered the last crossing into the encircled enclave.

Now, two months later, East Ghouta and its 400,000 residents face critical shortages of food, medicine and fuel. Airstrikes and artillery fire are a nearly daily occurrence despite the fact that opposition-held suburbs are one of four demarcated ceasefire zones across the country.

The last aid delivery into East Ghouta was on November 28 when a UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy entered the blockaded enclave and delivered “food, health and nutrition items for 7,200 people in need,” according to a statement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The previous aid delivery, a World Food Programme convoy that entered in late October, brought in only enough supplies to feed 10 percent of East Ghouta’s population for one month.

Here, Osama al-Amari, a Douma resident and journalist for two local media outlets, photographs the streets of East Ghouta’s capital and speaks with local residents preparing for their fifth winter under the siege.

All photos courtesy of Osama al-Amari.