Old Aleppo Revisited, a new series of biweekly posts on Mondays and Fridays, will feature the abundant authentic new imagery that is coming out on the web. Photos and descriptions are by Aleppians, including non-specialists, architects, and cultural heritage experts, who stayed in Western Aleppo and for the first time since late 2012 were able to visit these locations.
As an introduction to Old Aleppo Revisited, architect Louay Dakhel shares with us his analysis of the architectural effects on Al-Madrasa Al-Halawiyah, with much of its construction dating back to the Byzantine era, modestly featured on Facebook through photos he took on January 3, 2017. He observes that about 95% of the structure is intact, with limited damage to a small part of one of the Byzantine columns in the prayer hall and just part of the half dome above these columns, as well as bullet marks on the external walls of the courtyard. Dakhel assesses that this minimal damage has no effect on its foundation and could easily be restored. Likewise, he notes that the Ayyubid mihrab is fully preserved behind a wall built for this purpose. He discerns the greatest effect to be on the woodwork, glass, and iron details, which have completely lost their architectural character.
Losing academic records or not being able to retrieve them from public universities in Syria is one of the common problems Syrian students are facing in the host countries. Many refugee students are trying to pursue their studies or equalize their degrees after overcoming the language barrier. However, bureaucracy and administrative regulations are preventing them from doing so.
(R.B) is a Syrian refugee with a B.A degree in Business Administration. He arrived to Germany in the middle of 2015. He has finished B2 level German which allows him to join a vocational training course in the country but he is preparing for the next language level (C1) to be able to study at university. Unfortunately, (R.B)’s dream to pursue an M.A degree in Germany is on hold because he does not have neither his B.A certificate nor his academic records. We met in a workshop in Berlin and (R.B) wanted to share his story with the Aleppo Project.
To over 50K followers on Twitter and in interviews with several global news agencies, among them BBC, Al-Jazeera, TRT, and the Independent, Lina Shamy’s in-the-moment reporting from eastern Aleppo spread the message of the siege to the world. Now reporting as an evacuee in the western countryside, she tells her story of going to Aleppo for university where she became active and critical of the regime. Shamy’s piece in the New York Times, I Went to Aleppo to Study. I Left in a Convoy of Refugees, pays homage to the memories of the former inhabitants’ last days in eastern Aleppo and details her journey back to Idlib where she grew up.
In an article in The New Arab Loubna Mrie explains how history of the conflict is being re-written by western mainstream media. Those who were before defined as revolutionary are now either portrayed as vile extremist or as though they never existed. With time those who gave their lives to fight against the regime will be forgotten making the uprising in Aleppo as it never happened. Any serious attempt to understanding the Syrian conflict has to take into consideration the point of view of its revolutionaries.
Alice Fordham walks around the city of Homs with local Architect Marwa al-Sabouni analysing reconstruction. The city was highly damaged during the war, some areas where turned into slums after the conflict. Areas previously held by rebel forces are deserted and left untouched since the citizens don’t have permission to reside there. Post conflict reconstruction not only has to take into account the structural damage but also the social divide entrenched since the start of the conflict.
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.