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.
In what would be one of the final stories for Hungary’s largest daily newspaper Nepszabadsag, veteran journalist Gabor Miklos interviewed AlHakam Shaar and Armenak Tokmajyan, fellows at CEU’s Shattuck Center on Conflict Negotiation and Recovery at the School of Public Policy on the current and historical demographic make up of Aleppo and Assad’s strategy in targeting the city hosting 53,000 besieged families, who represent only one quarter of the original population – the rest having fled. The last month has seen intensified bombing of Aleppo by the Syrian regime and Russia, with 400 civilians dying in one week.
Due to copyright regulations, the article is available in the daily (10.8.2016. p. 25. Aszad nyeresre all (Melleklet – Hetvege)) print
Our descent was fast and sudden when it came to both war and football. The 2010-2011 season was called off in its entirety. Civil war leaves little untouched. You more or less have to take a side or you leave. Footballers did all those things, leaving diminished teams struggling with their third string players. Firas al-Khatib, one of the best players ever in Syria, declined to play for the national team again and left the country in 2012, first for Iraq, then China and now Kuwait. Players for al-Wathbah, the Homs club, were killed in a mortar attack outside their hotel in Damascus while getting ready for training.
When war blazed across the country in 2011, Syrian soccer was on the verge of its greatest triumph ever – a possible spot at the London Olympics.[i] At that level, it is youth teams that compete and Syria’s Under 23s looked promising. Among its best players was the goalkeeper, Abdelbasset Saroot, who played for the Homs team al-Karameh. In April 2011, he joined the demonstrations in Homs, prompting the government to accuse him of being a Salafi extremist and offering a two million Syrian pounds reward for his arrest. The National Sports Association issued a decree banning him from playing for life. In July 2011, a video appeared on Youtube of him standing before a Syrian national flag. “I am now wanted by the security agencies which are trying to arrest me. I declare with sound mind and of my own volition that we, the free people of Syria, will not back down until our own and only demand is met: the toppling of the regime. I hold the Syrian regime responsible for anything that happens to me.”
The destruction is so complete that it obliterates even a sense of time, writes New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman about a video of Aleppo. At a glance, the video shot from a drone could show Berlin in 1945 or Grozny, 2000. Mass death erases all distinctions. The place is the Mashhad district, or what remains of it after recent attacks by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies. Toppled rooftop satellite dishes, choked by plaster dust, resemble wilted flowers. Figures move through the pulverized rubble but are hard to make out.
Dirar Khattab worked as the executive producer of the Al Jazeera documentary “Death of Aleppo.” “Death of Aleppo” is a film that captures the scale of human suffering and destruction in the historic city; and also the resilience of its citizens who battle daily chaos and uncertainty at home.
Every now and then, the conflict in Syria produces an iconic image of horror and suffering, which many brandish as an undisputable truth that will finally shake the world into “doing something”. Others break down at the sight of such images, or instinctively avert their senses. Mass killings and disappearances, industrial-scale torture and sexual abuse, gruesome staged executions, starvation tactics, the continued use of chemical weapons, napalm, cluster and barrel bombs, not to forget the torments of desperate emigration – all have spawned morbid emblems of their own.
Peter Harling, one of the foremost analysts of Syrian politics and the founder of Synaps, is a member of the advisory panel of the Shattuck Center on Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery.
“It is time to define it [urbicide] more precisely as the deliberate destruction of urban life beyond anything that might be justified by military necessity as a way to erase identity and expel populations. It is also time to make it a crime,” argue Robert Templer and AlHakam Shaar in a recent article about the urbicide taking place in Aleppo. Shaar and Templer predict that Aleppo will survive the current onslaught – as it has survived “centuries of disasters from earthquakes to plagues of mice, from the collapse of empires to shifts in the routes of global trade” – and that when it does states and the international community have a responsibility to help Aleppo rebuild. “We have failed to protect the Syrian people; we should not fail them again when it comes to reconstruction.”
You can read the full text of the article in the August 2016 issue of TVERGASTEIN – Interdisciplinary Journal of the Environmenthere.
This news item is reposted courtesy of SPP Communications Office. Original post: here.
“Do certain images of injured kids stay in my mind more than others? If you asked me that two years ago, then I could probably give an answer. But today, after witnessing the huge number of massacres that I have, it’s very hard to think of one specific instance. It’s become a daily occurrence. Now images stay in my mind for a short while before they slip away, to take their place alongside all the others. My own personal graveyard.” AFP Photographer Abd Doumany
“A salad in Aleppo can cost you your life,” an Aleppian author wrote at a time when rebels had imposed a siege on the western half of the city. In July 2013, rebels had cut the Khanasser supply line. Nothing could pass. The only way in was through Bustan al-Qaser – the Death Passage – where snipers lurked. There was a 10-fold difference between prices in the east and the west. People risked their lives to put bread on their tables in a country that had once exported wheat to the region. Rebels prevented anyone from taking food to the regime side. “Let Bashar feed you,” a rebel fighter jeered at those dodging sniper fire to get food.