Here is a brief update on the activities of the US Peace Council delegation in Syria. We went to Ma'alula today [29 July 2016] and tomorrow most of us will fly home. I could spend many words and hours debunking every lie you have been told about Syria and Syrians in the last 5 years, a Sisyphean task in today’s environment. Instead I will share some of my perceptions of recent events based on my experiences in Damascus this week.
Yesterday [28 July] was quite an interesting day. We met with President Assad in the morning and talked at some length. We began by exchanging introductions and then we asked him some very serious questions. We were not allowed to record the session but many of us took at least some notes. He told us that his strongest focus is on representing the Syrian people and holding the state together on their behalf. He described numerous programs the Syrian state has enacted to protect the people during this very difficult time. The government has converted schools and other buildings into refugee centers. They continue to provide, to the best of their ability, free education and medical care to everyone in the government held areas; they supply power, clean water and food even to areas that are occupied by militants where it is possible.