I've written this story as an immediate response to the murder and arrest of anti-government demonstrators all over Syria--and elsewhere in the Arab world. It’s a work of fiction based on the characters in my series of Palestinian crime novels. But real people are still being killed.
An Omar Yussef story
By Matt Rees
The crowd started to clear the wide, covered arcade of the Souk Hammidiyye even before the first shot. Omar Yussef saw a dread deeper than mere terror on the faces of the people hurrying out of the Ottoman market and into the alleys around the Ummayyad Mosque. <em>They look disgusted with themselves,</em> he thought. <em>They had started to believe they had the courage to walk toward trouble, not to flee from it.</em>
Three reports from a rifle out beyond the old Hejaz Railway Station and a rustle of distant outrage, as if the crowd were an old man bothered by his grandchildren during a nap.
“It’s going down.” Khamis Zeydan caught Omar Yussef’s elbow and pulled him out of the sudden stream of the crowd. They sheltered on the step of a store that sold seeds and roots which promised to make a man potent.
“All these years it was we Palestinians who did the rioting,” Omar Yussef said. “Our first day in Damascus and it’s happening here.”
A shot, this time closer, from al-Thawra Street, and one of the yellowed glass panes in the vaulted roof of the arcade shattered. Every face was stern and still, but someone must have been shouting because it seemed the crowd was born aloft and accelerated on a tide of noise.
The storekeeper reached for his shutter with a long hook. “I have to close, <em>ustaz</em>.” Omar Yussef moved off the step and the metal rolled down. He glanced at the merchant. He was about Omar Yussef’s age, nearing sixty, and something about his high cheekbones was familiar despite his frothy white beard. As the storekeeper knelt to snap the padlock, the edge of the crowd jostled him, and as soon as the key was out he was on his feet and swept away.
A whirlpool of panic broke around Omar Yussef and Khamis Zeydan, pressing them between the chests and backs and shoulders of the men around them so that their feet barely connected with the ground. They slipped powerless from one set of bodies to another, exchanging the scents of different sweats and wondering at the pointless projection of angry voices like dogs joining a starlight chorus.
Read the rest of this story on my blog The Man of Twists and Turns.