03/28/2013, 00.00
SYRIA - LEBANON

"Weariness and resignation" among the civilians in war-torn Aleppo

by Fady Noun
A Syrian Christian doctor talks about the situation in the northern Syrian city. Divided between loyalists and rebels, battered by gunfire, shelling and air strikes, the city has seen a rise in poverty and crime, especially kidnappings for ransom. A "fragile" Christian minority suffers along with Muslims.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - "Aleppo residents are filled with weariness and resignation today," said a Christian Syrian, a doctor, who has remained behind in the war-torn city. From time to time, he has written "letters" to his Lebanese friends, 'mission reports' on the state of this big city, home to one of the biggest and most important Christian communities in Syria.

Aleppines are resigned to seeing their city cut in two, he writes, with hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in the areas considered "safe". Their unstoppable flow continues. Every day one can see small trucks crammed with people, furniture and mattresses, moving through the streets, in search of shelter. Still, a semblance of "normal" life goes on in the city, split in two between loyalists and rebels.

People have become accustomed to the deafening noise of gunfire and shelling, as well as to the sound of military aircraft flying over the city. But every burst of shelling heralds more violence in a city where a special security code regulates driving. Some streets have become sniper alleys; in others, people play Russian roulette with their life, haunted by car bombs that can explode at anytime and anywhere, but more so at rush hour near militarily sensitive points.

Wealthy residents are always in danger of abduction. In our doctor's letter, kidnappings are a tale of daily occurrence as armed groups seek ways to finance their struggle or thugs take advantage of the chaos to fill up their pockets.

Allepines have still access to drinking water and electricity but they are rationed: two to four hours a day. Mobile phones and the Internet still work but are frequently cut without notice. The same goes for fixed telephone lines.

In areas deemed safe, traffic jams are a nightmare. However, war and fighting have limited the scope of movements. Sometimes, people walk home forced by local militias.

"I saw," the doctor said, "young people carry elderly parents or grandparents on their back up to Sheikh Maksoud," a mostly Kurdish district.

During the day, stalls and street vendors fill the sidewalks, with everything on sale for survival.  Poverty is clearly on the rise and more and more beggars walk the streets.

"Aleppo becomes a ghost town as soon as the sun begins to set. Streets are empty as people lock themselves in their homes until the next morning, without much to do other watch TV or listen to the radio," the Christian Syrian doctor says as he ends his letter.

It is unclear whether this "letter from Aleppo" is an appeal for help or a sign of hope. Undoubtedly, it is both since "life goes on" despite everything, and the people of Aleppo, Christians and Muslims, are not yet at a point of desperation. However, their new war routine is anything but normal.  

Although Syrian Christians support their compatriots, their suffering is more specific since their existence is more fragile and under threat than that of Muslims.

The two tragedies, the two distinct causes, must be defended. Anyone fighting for one is fighting for the other.

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