Since the beginning of 2013, Assad’s forces have laid siege on the suburbs of the capital known as Ghouta, which was the target of a chemical weapons attack earlier this summer. Regime forces are stopping food and other goods from coming in and as winter approaches, activists are warning that the situation is about to get even worse.
The chemical weapons attack on the eastern and southern outskirts of Damascus (collectively known as Ghouta) have garnered a great deal of international attention over the past month. While pundits and experts discussed the imminent American-led strike on regime targets and later how to disarm the Assad regime of its chemical weapon stockpiles, however, few focused on the situation on the ground in the areas affected by the chemical attack itself (which are targets of daily artillery attacks and air strikes by the regime). These areas have been besieged by the regime forces since January 2013, leading to severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel that have resulted in the death of at least eight malnourished children and many patients who could have been saved had proper medical treatment been available to them.
Ghouta has been an opposition stronghold since the first days of the Syrian uprising. Many of the residents of Ghouta’s conservative Sunni working-class towns were displaced from southern and eastern Syria due to long years of drought and the government’s mismanagement of the drought crisis. During the initial, peaceful stage of the Syrian uprising, Ghouta witnessed large protests. Soon after the opposition began to arm itself in 2011, the towns of Ghouta were wrestled from regime control in 2012 and are now in the hands of the rebels. Civil society organizations sprung up to fill the void created by the government’s absence in the area.
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