Sina Zekavat in Mangal Media writes about a new relationship forming with the Syrian people and their heritage. It expands upon the idea that heritage doesn’t have to be just a place for historical preservation but also a place for identity and socio-political representation. Heritage spaces like Bosra al-Sham allow for political expression and collective memory, in a place where the voices of these Syrian people are being erased. This is redefining the way we look at historical sites but also the process of protest and reconciliation.
In an article in Al-Jumhuriya, Rudaina Baalbaki, outlines four mechanisms for justice for the people of Syria. He explains that war crimes could be prosecuted through national and international means. Syrian national mechanisms for justice are ineffective. Foreign courts prosecuting war crimes would be the most feasible option for effective justice. However, international organizations such as Human Rights Watch are still fixated on conventional methods of reconciliation.
While the Syrian government and its Russian allies were claiming that eastern Aleppo had been liberated by its forces, its soldiers were engaged in widespread looting of private property. This adds to the long list of war crimes carried out by the Damascus government, including the deliberate targeting of civilians, deliberate starvation, and forced displacement. Government troops did not even spare those civilians supportive of the regime or people in the western half of the city that was always under state control. This has prompted a surge of anger, much of it expressed on social media in the past month.
A group of Syrian and international cultural heritage scholars issued a statement condemning the participation of European and American colleagues in a conference hosted recently in Damascus by the Syrian Ministries of Culture and Tourism. The signatories of the statement criticised what they believed constituted support and participation in the “propaganda victory for the regime in Damascus” at a time when much of Aleppo’s historical heart is reduced to rubble and Palmyra is lost to ISIS again.
Aleppo is likely to fall into government hands soon. Russian jets and Iranian fighters have crushed the hopes of many for a better life and greater freedom. Now the Syrian forces, skilled at little but the killing of unarmed civilians, are setting to work rounding up young men. Many will never be seen again. Meanwhile, ISIS has retaken Palmyra, showing how Assad and his allies have never been interested in fighting that enemy, only the threat of democracy and progress.
This morning two additional districts of eastern Aleppo fell. Other besieged districts were under continued bombing that is draining life out of those who have survived. Dentist Salem Abualnaser made what might be his last cry for the protection of civilians in those areas:
Aleppo has been under siege for about a hundred days. Food stocks are running out. Price are up 20-fold. Medical and civil defence equipment destroyed by regime and Russian bombing cannot be replaced. The injured are sent home without even painkillers and the dead are carried to graveyards on food carts.
Parachutes have been used by the Russian and Syrian air forces to drop bombs, such as the parachute-retarded ODAB-500PM, on civilian areas of the besieged city. Parachutes could be used to send urgently needed food and medical aid instead.
Khero Dawood, a local civil society activist who decided to stay in Aleppo when the siege was being completed, told an incident he witnessed that describes a lot of what those staying in eastern Aleppo are going through now. Translated below is a social media post by Khero that tells a story of depopulation, destruction, collapse of the health system, and a bitter sense of abandonment.
‘Yesterday at around 1.30 am, I was walking with two people in the streets of the Tareeq al-Bab district which have become empty of everything except destruction.We heard moaning, talking, and then screaming.
Five million Syrians — one quarter of whom are from Aleppo — have been forced to live abroad since 2011. To Aleppians like me, places from Amman to Oslo now have more of home than we are aware of. This never felt truer to me than when I was in Berlin last April to participate in an important conference about rebuilding Aleppo organized by the Association of the Friends of the Old City of Aleppo.
Getting from my Aleppian friend Hassan Oneizan’s place in Steglitz to the conference venue at the Association of German Architects in downtown Berlin involved one bus and two trains. As a newbie, I missed my first bus. Although the next one was coming in ten minutes, I couldn’t afford to be late. The fastest alternative was now to take a bus and a long taxi ride.