„There are certainly many things of which the Syrian government would like to convince the West. It wants us to know that it is winning, that it is secular, that its opponents are extremists, and so on. But the government’s most important message is the one delivered by Walid al-Moallem at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Damascus: Nothing you say matters. We have not changed, nor will we ever change. There will be no transitional governing bodies and no compromises, and sooner or later you in the West will simply have to swallow the bitter pill of Assad staying in power. This has been the government’s line from day one. As the sixth year of the war draws to a close, it remains the same. (…)
And yet, below the city’s surface of unassuming normality there is a deep well of trauma. For many Syrians, there is no longer any way back into the ‚embrace of the nation,‘ to use a stock phrase of the official propaganda. For many, making any contact with the authorities is a gamble with death, in case they have a warrant out for their arrest or some relative of theirs has been snared by the secret police. According to Amnesty International, around 17,000 Syrians have been murdered in captivity since 2011. The figure may be much higher, with opposition groups claiming that 65,000 people have gone missing after being abducted by their government.
To many, making peace with a president with so much blood on his hands is unthinkable – they’ve already lost everything and now prepare to go down fighting. To others, such a peace may well seem possible, but they still cannot bring themselves to bet that Assad’s promises of free passage can be trusted. Lose a bet like that, and you run a large risk of never emerging from your jail cell alive.“ (Aaron Lund: „For our international readers: Meeting Bashar al-Assad“)