UN Envoy to Syria Brahimi Expresses Doubts About New Post

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Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. Today in Syria a government minister welcomed the new United Nations envoy to the country and he vowed that Syrians would give the UN's Lakhdar Brahimi "maximum assistance, the way we did Kofi Annan, his predecessor" . Annan quit last month because his peace proposal was largely ignored by all sides.
Brahimi said the task ahead of him is nearly impossible. In fact, in an interview with the BBC he put the burden of the task in personal terms.

Lakhdar Brahimi: I'm scared of the weight of the responsibility. People are already saying "People are dying, what are you doing to help?"  and indeed, we are not doing much. That, in itself is a terrible weight. There is everything to be scared of.

Mullins: That is the new UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. The major activity in Syria has been concentrated for the most part in the cities of Homs and Aleppo, but the capital Damascus is seeing its fair share of fighting as well. Author and journalist, Janine di Giovanni is there in Damascus now. You were there, also, just about one month ago. I wonder if you can tell us what you see has changed in the past month.

Janine di Giovanni: There has been a huge difference in the attitude and people's response to the war, also to the shelling. There's much, much more shelling. The people are frightened. It's no longer descending into an evolving war. It is at war.

Mullins: And has that level of fear that is heightened now, the fact that the war seems to be so close to home, has that changed the attitudes of people with whom you've spoken about the Syrian regime and people's ability to tough things out.

Giovanni: People during war, it doesn't matter where they are, basically have one concern, which is for the well-being of their family and their own situation, their own life, you know, how they're going to live, how they're going to get food, water, send their kids to school. Politics are important, but I think right now the concern for most people is getting through today.

Mullins: How are people making the decision about whether or not they should up and leave, especially if they've lived there all their lives? Have you spoken with residents of Damascus who are making plans to exit?

Giovanni: This is the first question I ask people, always, in any war zone I've ever worked in, is "Why don't you leave?"  and I think the answer is always the same, you don't leave because you do not want to leave your home and Syrians and middle eastern families in general have deep roots, you know, they're very family-oriented, so you don't just pick up and leave and leave your elderly mother behind and your brothers and your aunts and your uncles. They're not as rootless as we are; Anglo-Saxon lives where we would back a backpack and your documents and go. So it's a choice of "Do I stay and maybe I'm gong to weather out this war?"  or "Do I go and take a chance of the complete unknown, uprooting my family?" , becoming a refugee, and the loss of identity and the loss of your national identity, it is for many people enormous.

Mullins: Thank you very much Janine di Giovanni who's a journalist and the author of the book, Ghosts By Daylight: Love, War and Redemption. We spoke to her from Damascus, Syria. Please take care of yourself. Thank you.

Giovanni: Thank you.