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Ramadan in Syria, amidst war

AFP
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Syrian children wait in line to collect a free “Iftar” meal (Left), while a young girl (Right) collects liquorice soup from a vendor during the holy month of Ramadan. Violence continues in the country, as a protestor checks his new weapons in a street decorated by Ramadan banners.PHOTO: REUTER/AFP
Syrian children wait in line to collect a free “Iftar” meal (Left), while a young girl (Right) collects liquorice soup from a vendor during the holy month of Ramadan. Violence continues in the country, as a protestor checks his new weapons in a street decorated by Ramadan banners.PHOTO: REUTER/AFP

As Syria's Muslims observe the fasting month of Ramadan at a time of war for a third year running, many people are turning to black humour to help them cope.

Jokes are a way to weather the difficulties of food shortages, violence and death that mar the sense of community and celebration supposed to accompany the religious month.

One popular joke plays off the traditional cannon fire that marks the end of the fasting day and the beginning of the iftar evening meal.

"Watch out! Just because you hear the sound of cannon fire doesn't mean it's time to break your fast," the joke goes, a sad testament to the frequent sound of warfare across the country.

In Homs, where regime forces are pressing an assault against several rebel-held areas, residents have been able to maintain an edgy sense of humour, despite the tough times.

"Breaking news!" reads a text message forwarded among residents of the city in central Syria.

"The msaharati spent hours beating his drum, trying to get people to wake up. But when they didn't listen, he decided to blow himself up!"

Much of the humour is dark, playing on the chronic food shortages experienced by many people across the country.

Even those relatively insulated from the violence that has ravaged Syria, killing more than 100,000 people according to one watchdog, struggle to observe Ramadan in the usual way.

Burdened by inflation and security problems on the roads, housewives are now making more food at home and relying less on buying special Ramadan sweets from the shops.

"The crisis will not stop me from keeping our traditions alive," said Damascus resident Umm Mazen.

She is resorting to recipes she inherited from her mother to feed her family during the holy month.

Damascus is known across the Middle East for its varied confectionery tradition. The city's sweet makers use pistachios, pine nuts, honey, lemon and rosewater for their mouthwatering recipes.

Social networking sites are abuzz with initiatives and campaigns urging Syrians to help the worse-off.

After more than two years of war , many Syrians are eager to take a moment to reflect and pray for their country.

"It's no longer about being pro- or anti-regime," says 32-year-old Abdullah, an accountant.

"People just want to live now."AFP


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