Damascus in the 1960s, Captured in Photos

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A set of rare images shows the Syrian capital as few Westerners today have seen it


All photos courtesy of the Charles W. Cushman collection at Indiana University


Syrian security forces raided central Homs last Wednesday, postponing the Arab League Secretary General's planned visit to Damascus. The Arab League has been protesting Syrian military operations against its own citizens. But this isn't the first time Syria's seen domestic turmoil.

American businessman and amateur photographer Charles Cushman traveled to Syria in 1965, a period of repeated coups and coup attempts. Two years before his arrival, Ba'ath party leader Amin al-Hafiz seized power; the year after Cushman's trip, Hafiz was himself ousted by competitors within the regime. It was not until 1971 that the political leadership was stabilized by the coup of Hafez al-Assad, whose son, President Bashar al-Assad, is now overseeing the brutal crackdown on protesters.

Cushman's Kodachrome slides, reproduced with permission from the Indiana University Archives, capture what life looked like on the streets of Damascus in 1965, the year that Bashar al-Assad was born there. These images, which contrast sharply with the modern, grisly images streaming out from the nationwide crackdown on social media sites, provide a window into life as it was in the Syrian capital.
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Lois Farrow Parshley

Lois Parshley is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

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