The last two weeks of April 2016 will have sealed the connection between Aleppo and war for many decades to come. Just as the words Beirut and car bomb are inextricably linked, so will be Aleppo and barrel bomb. Certain places become tied to the pitiless nature of war: Hiroshima, Dresden, Biafra, Sarajevo, Stalingrad, Hue. And now Aleppo.
Aleppo’s war will be remembered for the immediacy with which the world has seen its horrors. No longer does it take time for us to know about the bombing of the Al Quds Hospital as it is live tweeted. Just hours later it was possible to see chilling images of Dr. Mohammad Massim Maaz, the last pediatrician at work in eastern Aleppo, walking between wards just before the government killed him in an airstrike.
Ordinary Syrian people are going to extraordinary lengths, risking everything to protect their heritage, despite the horror that has engulfed their country. For them, it is not a question of people or stones. The story of the people is embedded in those stones, a crafted story stretching back millennia. Saving that story is saving Syria. Dr. Emma Cunliffe. Research Associate, Oxford University.
After months of ‘dynamic stalemate,’ the military situation to the north of Aleppo city shifted dramatically over the past few weeks. Government and allied forces took control of strategic towns on the Aleppo-Gaziantep road, disconnecting eastern Aleppo city from the northern countryside and Turkey. The city is still connected with Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in the western part of Idlib province.
We know that many Syrians who have been forced from their homes are passionate about their country and are already playing a role in its future. When refugees and people who were forced to leave eventually return home, they often suffer a second displacement when they are pushed aside by reconstruction processes that ignore their needs and plans. By gathering information from as wide a range of people as possible, we hope to challenge many of the assumptions about how reconstruction should be managed.
Over the next several months, we will post data snapshots highlighting different visions for Aleppo’s future. Our first snapshot is about restoring public services to rebel-held areas of the city.
Europe owes much to cities like Aleppo. We owe the city for being a storehouse of classical knowledge when much of it disappeared from Europe. We owe it the Old Testament of the King James Bible, thought to be substantially drawn from the Aleppo Codex, a Jewish text that spent eight centuries in the city. On a more mundane level, we all owe something to Aleppo for a product we use every day: soap.
Hakam holding younger brother Shahim - around 2000
Jasmine tree from the terrace - Nour Chaar 2010
Liwan upstairs at sunset - AlHakam Shaar 2010
Parents' bedroom facade with window glass broken from barrel bombing next door - AlHakam Shaar Oct 2014
Upstairs bedroom interior - AlHakam Shaar 2010
Upstairs bedroom recedes to allow more light and air downstairs - AlHakam Shaar 2010
When I bought and renovated a house in the Old City of Aleppo, I was asked by the Syrian Engineers Syndicate to assess the experience. I told the cultural committee represented by Mr. Khaldoun Fansa that I would follow an Arab expression that you don’t make a judgment on something for a year and seven months. After that time I gave this lecture to the Syndicate. It has been translated, edited and updated and now also includes the view of two of my children.
I was born in 1950 in what we call an “Arabic house,” a stone building built around a courtyard, sheltered from its neighbors and housing just one family. It was in the Al Bustan area of Aleppo, by the southern gate of the Saray palace and just inside the eastern wall of the old city. We left in 1954 to live in al-Ansari in a house that was similar to an Arabic house in that we lived there alone without neighbors above or below us.
When the drought in Syria started in 2008, the United Nations issued an appeal for funding for food aid for the many farmers whose crops had failed and animals had either been sold or died. In August the next year, with the drought getting worse and lasting longer than any other on record, another international appeal for help was announced. By the end of 2009, it had raised just 14 percent of what was needed.