Aleppo

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Syria and the New Level of Madness

Some Syrians I know complain that the world doesn’t pay attention to Syria. I don’t agree on this. Having worked with humanitarian aid, I can recount plenty of conflicts that goes on in the world that has less international attention in media and social media, even almost non-existent.

In DRC, large areas have never been under government control, and the way the different rebel groups are performing massacres has escalated into a race to the bottom, where they try to surpass each other.

In Pakistan, the deserted tribal area FATA has seen an increase in human rights violations not only from the Taliban but also from the counterattacks of the military.

In Egypt, criminal groups are kidnapping and torturing Eritrean refugees fleeing the brutal Eritrean regime for ransoms of money.

How many people would know the details of these conflicts? Hands up, please.

Syria is quite well covered in the international and social media. Westerners who had no clue what Syria was before the war, have seen pictures from the war zones on the evening news for the last five years.

What stands out with Syria to me, is the level of madness that plays out on prime time TV before our eyes, with no real solution or intervention ahead. Bashar Al Assad keeps repeating that  his army are targeting terrorists – while civilians, mothers with their babies, aid workers, medical doctors, are being killed in front of our eyes. Whatever the dictator says, social media counters it, to no avail.

Syria to me is not a forgotten conflict. It’s a new level of madness.

Two Voices from Aleppo University

Aleppo University after the bombings January 2013

I was able to talk with two persons from Aleppo University in Syria, that shared what they had been going through.

Here are their stories:

I was offered a job at Aleppo university after my studies. When the revolution started we as employees in a governmental institution were made to cooperate with shabiha (a feared subgroup within the Syrian intelligence/military, some claim they are criminals that the government recruits to terrorize civilians, a strategy to stop the revolution). We had to assist them in their fights against the protests. I tried to act as if I assisted them, then I was able to escape the country.

My home in Syria is all destroyed, my street is in ruins. No food is available and when going to search for food to buy people are being killed by snipers. Why are the government and the Free Syrian Army taking it out on us? We are only citizens.I  didn’t think the revolution would go this bad, and I blame both sides now. They have both helped in destroying my city.”

I was a student in Aleppo university. In January 2012 students were gathering in front of the cafeteria, holding a protest. They were protesting peacefully, shouting for freedom, protesting against the war and demanding the release of political prisoners. Security guards inside the university called shabiha without the students knowing. They came directly and started arresting students on spot and hit them with electrical batons. Another time they gassed the university with teargas.

Then on January 15 2013, it was first day of the examinations, the government bombed the university, many people saw the attack and that it was carried out by a warplane. Still when I see a plane or helicopter in the sky I get an awful feeling. One missile hit the entrance of the faculty of architecture; the other one hit the student dorm that had been evacuated to host refugees from other areas of Aleppo, people that had have to flee their homes. Dead people were littering the streets all around.

I can’t forget the barbarity of Shabiha and the security forces, the way I saw them attack the students or the sounds of clashes and missiles around us. I still have nightmares and then I wake up sometimes and I have to say to myself: ‘It’s ok, I’m out of Syria,I’m safe now’. But now a year after my departure, the situation is more much worse. There are inner borders and snipers in everywhere and there isn’t any safe place left in Aleppo.

Photo credit: New York Times

Aleppo Screams S.O.S.

Aleppo Screams SoS pic

So now the world is discussing whether the international community should intervene in Syria after the latest chemical attacks that the regime brought on its people. I can’t launch a clear opinion in this issue, because I’m not sure an international military intervention would bring less suffering to the Syrian people – but assistance of some kind seems to be needed since the revolt has escalated into civil war, with human rights abuses reported from both sides. But what the world show know is, many of the Syrian people have been asking for help for a long time, before the conflict steered towards total chaos.

The ancient city of Aleppo, once a beautiful green city in the northern part of the country, is now one of the most destroyed cities in the world. Eager to crack down on the uprising, the Syrian government has bombed the city to pieces, wiping out the infrastructure. Electricity and water is cut off, hospitals are functioning without the most basic needs, earlier this year 90% of all children of Aleppo were reported to be out of school – and the number can hardly have decreased. Below is  picture of Saif Aldowleh Avenue in Aleppo before the war started in 2011, shared with me by someone that wants to show the world what happened to his city.

And here is the same avenue, from a slightly different angle, today:

Do you think this might be expected when it’s a war somewhere? Then remember that the inner city of Damascus is still untouched, with schools and supermarkets open and a vivid nightlife still available for young people to party and attend karaoke nights, like nothing is happening in other parts of the country.

Desperate to make the world realize what is going on, a Facebookpage was started by some of the inhabitants of Aleppo in June 2012; Aleppo Screams SoS. Click on the link and have a look to see how the citizens of Aleppo were asking for help long before the most recent events, publishing photos on the ongoing destruction, photos of killed children, asking people to share. I hope the world will listen soon.

Photos: anonymous source, copyright Sweden and the Middle East Blog; Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/AleppoScreamsSos