The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, usually a time when streets are bustling at night with cheery shoppers breaking their daytime fasts, is off to a dreary start in Syria, with many shops closed and mosques empty, residents say.

But it’s also a time of anticipation for many Syrians, who hope a knockout blow will be delivered against the government of President Bashar Assad during the annual religious holiday.

“We haven’t seen days like this in a long time,” said a 60-year-old shopkeeper who goes by the honorific Abu Omar. “People don’t have money and they don’t want to buy anything. As storeowners, we bought many items, and now we don’t know how we are going to sell them.

“Market activity these days has more or less stopped,” he said. “Money is running low.”

Security forces have shut down Sunni Muslim mosques in Damascus suburbs such as Moadamyeh, Duma and Kiswa. Mosques in the capital that were known for being gathering points for protesters have been emptied and closed off by the largely Alawite Shiite Muslim armed forces.

Continue Reading on