DAMASCUS, Syria — When peace came to Ish al-Warwar, a pro-government, working-class neighborhood in the steep hills along this city’s northeastern edge, Hanan Aboud let her son go out to play.
It had been almost two years since the conflict that has burned through much of Syria first arrived at Aboud’s doorstep, bringing bullets and mortars onto the streets where her family lived and cutting off the road down to Barzeh, the pro-opposition neighborhood where her son went to school. Last year, Aboud’s brother was killed when a shell landed in his home; her son started refusing to leave the house without a parent in tow.
“Life was horrible,” said Aboud, who was an English teacher before the war. “We were surrounded. Schools were shut down. Bread was scarce; there were no vegetables. Even medicine was hard to find.”
So when the government orchestrated a ceasefire with the warring factions in Barzeh this January, bringing an end, for the moment at least, to the violence in one small corner of Syria’s grinding war, Aboud celebrated along with her neighbors.
The Huffington Post visited the narrow, crooked streets of Ish al-Warwar earlier this week on a rare tour organized by representatives of the Syrian government who had participated in the recent truce talks with the residents of Barzeh.
It was a chance, the government officials said, to show how the negotiated peace was taking shape after more than a month — and to offer evidence that the Syrian government can resolve the three-year-old crisis without outside intervention. They said the process involves working directly with residents and reformed fighters in opposition areas to oust the “terrorists” who hold them hostage.
“The people from Barzeh, they came to us and said, we need your help. Because of Jabhat al-Nusra, everyone was afraid for his family,” said one of the negotiators, who asked to remain anonymous for his safety. (Jabhat al-Nusra is an al Qaeda-linked group that has allied itself with the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad and that the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.)