Some 10,000 lives have been lost during the Syrian government’s vicious crackdown on protesters, according to the United Nations, and the violence is threatening to spread to neighboring countries. Yet in the capital of Damascus, the music plays on for the nation’s elite. To the Christians, Alawites, and secular Sunnis, President Bashar Assad has guaranteed stability in the country. Many of the upper class in Damascus fear that the rebels would turn the country into a religiously conservative country like Yemen, and believe that the anti-Assad movement is aided by outside support from other countries. One 17-year-old boy from an affluent Damascus home thinks that now isn’t the right time for change in Syria and feels that any change shouldn’t be imposed by other countries. “Why should we take democracy lessons from Saudi Arabia, who arms the opposition?” he tells Newsweek. “They don’t even let women drive!” Damascus was named the Arab world’s Cultural Capital by UNESCO four years ago, and residents still listen to performances by the city’s orchestra, and sip champagne at open-air restaurants. Although there is a constant threat of kidnapping and several armed checkpoints, some people in Damascus still go out at night to attend the opera and dinner parties. During the day, they enjoy pool parties and shopping at upscale boutiques, while clashes occur in neighboring suburbs and handmade bombs go off on occasion.
Photographer Kate Brooks went to Damascus on assignment for Newsweek. Here, a view of the city from the deserted Jebel Al Qassioun, usually a popular place for picnics and socializing.
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