(Madaya, Rif Dimashq, Syria) Madaya is no stranger to besiegement. Since July 2015, the city, which is located some 40 km northwest of Damascus, has been subject to a siege by the Asad government and its allied forces. Though aid has recently been allowed into Madaya, the deliveries are far and few in between; aid deliveries to Madaya require intense UN-mediated negotiations between the regime and opposition forces.
As a result, the residents of Madaya have been steadfast in proclaiming their support for their compatriots besieged elsewhere in Syria, most recently Darayya in a demonstration held on April 19.In addition to its unique peaceful activists, Darayya was distinguished by its robust Local Council, which acted as the independent administrative force in the city, leaving its legislative and judicial institutions autonomous from the various armed opposition battalions in the area. In late January, nonetheless, a battle successfully waged by the regime to separate neighboring rebel-held Muʿadamiyat ash-Sham from Darayya has forced the legislative work to a halt. However, the iron-clad structure of the Local Council has prevented the disintegration of the civil revolutionary movement in Darayya despite the siege imposed by the regime and its allies since 2012.
On April 16, 2016 a United Nations delegation entered the city. They were not there to provide any aid or relief to those trapped in under siege, though. They were only there to assess the humanitarian situation in the city; no statement was issued calling to save the hundreds of families dying due to starvation and a shortage of medical supplies. The delegation entered Darayya with nothing to support the 8,300 civilians, majority of whom are children.
Three days later, the residents of Madaya carried banners calling for the siege on Darayya to be lifted. They held placards that said: “The United Nations visits Darayya for relaxation. We’re sorry that we don’t serve cappuccinos.”
According to the spokesperson of Madaya Revolutionary Council, around thirty activists and civilians took to the streets to deliver “a warning to not repeat the tragedy of Madaya in Darayya, where three civilians died of hunger in the first five days of 2016,” and to invite the concerned parties to exert peaceful pressure on the regime and Hezbollah forces, who have been besieging Darayya for four years.
More than 6,600 explosive barrels have fallen on Darayya since 2012 according to the city’s Media Center statistics.Darayya’s strategic location means that a truce is highly unlikely; the regime wants to control the city at any cost. It is located seven kilometers from the presidential palace and two kilometers from the Council of Ministers in Kafr Sousah, and near the Mezzeh Military Airport. Furthermore, it is in between the restive neighborhoods of Midan, Qadam, Muʿadamiyat ash-Sham, and Jdeidat Artouz. Consequently, the regime continues to try to regain control by advancing the narrative that “terrorists” are present in the city, most recently announcing the killing of 37 of them under government shelling on February 10, 2016.