Jul 13 2015

Postcards from Aleppo

A friend recently returned to his home in Aleppo to assist his parents as his father is unwell.   He sent the following notes during late June and the beginning of July.

I reached Aleppo yesterday (Tuesday) safely after a long trip. I just wanted to tell you so, no need for worries.
My father’s health is not so good. We didn’t know each other firstly, as he didn’t know that I’m coming, and I couldn’t believe how skinny he became. No one knows for sure what is happening to him and why he’s loosing weight. Seeing both parents after 9 years is a great priceless bless[ing]. My senior father is starting suffering from senile dementia as well.

On the way, we saw many liberated towns.  However they were completely empty of people. The inhabitants had fled those areas after they were occupied by terrorists and never came back after they wre liberated   In Aleppo destroyed buildings are a pity to sight and heart. But it’s busy with people around and close by. The closer I came to home, the more memories came back to me. People have found alternative solutions for almost everything.

If corruption was 2-fold prior to the crisis, it’s 200 fold today.  Unfortunately this is a very bad personal experience and not a thing I’m proud of.

Sounds in the background of bombing, shelling, …etc. Not much, but they are in all times, day and night. All are from Syrian army against the others, as I’ve been told. It seems the terrorists carried out a big attack a few hours prior to my arriving, maybe a tunnel filled with explosives or something like that.

***

The clashes are pretty heavy today.   The terrorists attacked from many areas at the same time. They attacked a school with its children. Ambulance vehicles didn’t stop for the last 4 hours.

We are relatively safe.

For the last week, every one was laughing about me each time I hear a bomb or shelling, I used to jump in place. Today, they were asking me not to leave home as it is serious.  Thanks for your prayers and kind wishes.

***

My trip was pretty safe one compared with what happened in the following days along the same path.

The Lebanese – Syrian border checkpoint that I passed last week, was attacked few days ago by terrorists! … And I was hesitating to spend few days in Lebanon! Thanks goodness I didn’t!

The checkpoint I passed in Homs last week had been exploded by another attack as well!

Then came yesterday’s massive attack on Aleppo. I was out, and saw and heard the sirens of the ambulance vehicles, trying to open their ways to the hospital, where I was passing by coincidence.  LA local TV channel cameraman was shooting the arrival of the ambulance at the hospital.

I was even close to the attacked mosque, however I didn’t know that it had been attacked by then. Everyone I met so far said that what happened yesterday was unprecedented. The images of dead children were heartbreaking. The resistance of the army was powerful as well. People were asking the army to wipe out  these areas that attacked them, to use all their force. However, I know that the minute they could do so, the mainstream media and the UN would demonize the government and the army, and show them as killing “innocent, peaceful” opposition by “barrel bombs“!

People are living each day by day. If a massacre took place at one place yesterday, people would remove and clean all the blood and human parts and use and sit in that area again as if there wasn’t any massacre took place the day before! That is one of the heroic messages of the people that we are going to stay and not going anywhere as refugees.

UN 4 wheel’s drive vehicles are crossing the streets. I saw them several times so far. I don’t know if they were spying or helping. People don’t trust the UN and Red Cross/Crescent groups as they used to a couple of years ago. One of the Red Crescent leaders was helping the terrorists in the past, another one was selling the free aids and goods. Clean, beautiful UN vehicles driving here and there among exhausted locals and their damaged vehicles, doesn’t give the appearance of good intentions.

Anyway, I just thought to drop few comments. I feel that I’m walking in a minefield.

***

Some other observations that might be interestting to you:  I saw 2 guys walking their dogs so far! Dogs in Aleppo as pets is something rare and a new habit I guess people had between 2006-2011, when the country was booming and economy was so good. I heard that many dogs though are now living in the streets after their owners get rid of them because of the crisis. We have a snow-white cat at home though! That was something for me when I knew about it few months ago. To have a pet in such crisis is not a little thing.

***

I visited  the place where I graduated 15 years ago. The college was attacked couple of years ago in a timesimilar to the present, when the students were submitting their final exams and projects. The mainstream media said that Syrian army jets shelled the gathering of students, but the government said that such claims were a big fat lie. The truth was they were  attacked by the terrorists’ groups using explosive vehicles or double suicide bombers. Others said that they witnessed some shells of their home-made “Hell Canon”, which is made of cooking-gas cylinders, or even the water-boiler long cylinders, full of explosives and sharp metals and nails to cause as much harm as possible.  Many died in that massacre.   [This is interesting because this ‘Hell cannon” sounds a lot like the description in the MSM of ‘barrel bombs‘]

I visited today, and had a lot of memories. I was glad to see it full with students, and after meeting with old teachers and professors, I knew that there were plenty of students doing their Master and Ph.D. Degrees over there.

Aleppo_Syria-clashesWhile I was talking and seeing old friends and teachers, multiple clashes started, inceasing more and more. Rockets, shelling, bombing, canons, and all types of machine guns sounds and noises were adding up to the picture. But no one was giving much attention to it. Later on, the phones of some people in the room started to ring, telling them that it is heating up in the New Aleppo (Halab le-Jdidé) quarter of the city. The attackers want to occupy some areas over there while the army is defending it. My phone rang as well, and my mother wanted me back too. The taxi driver who took me home said that he took an injured guy to a hospital 20 min ago. He had shrapnel in his chest close to the heart.

Indeed the violent clashes in an area called “ar-Rashdin” close to the New Aleppo quarter in western section of the city, were going on mid day today.

***

Afternoon to sunset, clashes heated up again, I heard missiles and rockets of different kinds while I was sitting with a professor from my college in a café drinking cold beverages!  I was jumping in my seat each time I heard these sounds and noises, but it was more than usual for all the  other people in the café as well. Later on we knew from the local news that there was another attack in an area called Ashrafiyyé and the army defended it. The same occurred in other areas like el-Neel St. (Nile St) and Khalidiyyé sector, which are areas well known for being attacked by terrorists.

***

One of the maids who comes in mornings to help my family, called my mother tonight and said that their building had been attacked by mortars and shells, and she might not come tomorrow. My mom said that her voice was shivering as if she was almost crying or completely terrified.

I was talking to my ex professor about some old buildings in Aleppo, but I can’t reach him today and I don’t know if they are damaged or still exist as I knew them. I can’t reach them because of snipers. I’m afraid the war is leveling the Old Aleppo that I know.  Many have said that once war ends, multinational companies funded by the Gulf states would come and replace all these priceless buildings with new towers, as they did in Beirut after the end of the Lebanese civil war.

People over here are questioning the visit of the UN [Special Envoy Staffan] de Mistura, that each time he visits Syria to negotiate about Aleppo, it heated up the fighting on the ground a lot as militias tried their best to gain more land and areas on the ground.

Tomorrow is the start of Ramadan,  the fasting month. Instead of being a calm, religious month of worshipping, it’s going to be a bloody one.

***

Everyone I meet over here, says the following: “Are you crazy to come over here in such a time?What brought you over here?” …etc.. Others, when they know that I’m still single, start to play the “matching” game, and offer me information about girls, in case I wanted to marry one and take her out of this hell when I leave. I told my mom that this attitude is drawing a smile on my face mixed with tragedy. I was no one all my life, very humble, and all of a sudden every one is offering his or her daughter or female relative. I wish I could  rescue all of them and their families without marrying anyone.

I have to write to you about the alternative ways of obtaining the daily needs of supplements, power, internet, water, and heating fuel. Those things we don’t give a second thought to in the United States and other parts of the first world, are hard to obtain over here. New alternative ways have been created to solve problems and overcome these obstacles. No time now. The noises of bombing and late hour are telling me to say goodnight to you guys for now.

Take care guys. Enjoy your next day to the maximum. Enjoy the peaceful easy life you have. Syria was one of the most secure and safe states on the globe for decades. If such crisis is happening over here now, that means there is no exception at all to any other nation.

***

– There is an Australian website related to war memorials, and it covers both WWI & WWII. It has plenty of text information on greater Syria (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and parts of today’s Turkey), and multimedia as well. I spent days checking them when I was in the US. That could be helpful to you. I also was helping a friend with similar research about Aussies in Syria, and sent her many illustrated pages of archive magazines that documented that info.   I can’t go back to them via my cellphone and limited internet connection.

– the timeline didn’t cover the United Arab Republic (1958-1961) under Nasser’s leadership. The united republic of Egypt and Syria was an important period, and it helps covering the gaps in the timeline. It is interesting that the flag of the United Republic was exactly as today’s Syria flag, and the 2 green stars were originally referred to Egypt and Syria. While it ended with a coup funded by Saudis, and the government in 1961 had the green flag with 3 red stars, the same flag of today’s Free Syrian Army and the western-Turkish-Saudi-Qatari backed Syrian opposition. History repeats itself.

The Syrian flag is the same as the flag of the United Arab Republic.

The Syrian flag is the same as the flag of the United Arab Republic.

Flag of the Free Syrian Army and the SNC was also the Syrian flag under French occupation and mandate, and briefly following a Saudi backed coup.

Flag of the Free Syrian Army and the SNC was also the Syrian flag under French occupation and mandate, and briefly following a Saudi backed coup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– There is an interesting article I sent you, dated in 1917, titled “The New Crusade“. It reflects how the propaganda of that time was brainwashing the readers. It was published a year after the Sykes-Picot Agreement which was a secret one at the time. It says that Armageddon was going to take place in Aleppo! And it promises the renaissance of the Arab nation, once they kick out the Turks! Very similar to all today’s promises, that once Saddam, Gaddafi, and Assad are toppled; Iraq, Libya, and Syria are going to have their freedom and turn into rosy nations with a promising future. As many said, Syria will be Switzerland after the Assad rule!  I don’t blame the West and imperial powers. I blame the Arabs who don’t read history and keep falling in the same traps and believing the same promises. Up till today, there are Arabs who are defending the so-called “Arab Spring” and don’t want to wake up and smell the coffee.

***

This article is from 2009 when it was on the cover of an issue of Archaeology, and I was the happiest man buying it in my hometown:

The Temple of the Storm God was revealed under Ottoman structures in Aleppo Syria.

The Temple of the Storm God was revealed under Ottoman structures in Aleppo Syria. The images is linked to the article which has several more stunning photos of antiquities.

I noticed though that sometimes, even these articles that come in such time are not innocent.   Many articles about ancient areas in the Levant, i.e. Baalbek, Damascus, Rouad Island, Tyre, Jerusalem … had been published in war magazines during WWI & WWII. The usual scenario would say that these pricesless areas are in danger because of the bad guys (their enemies in general: Germans, Ottomans, Libyans, Syrians…etc), and the good guys want to rescue these areas from those bad guys – to give a legitimate excuse for their occupation.

I read a similar article in National Geographic after the toppling of Qaddhafi in Libya. The title of the cover was : “Uncovering Libya“, as if it was covered for decades because of the boogie man Qaddhafi and, only now, it has been uncovered and liberated by the good guys. A senior Quebecois lady friend visited Libya before the “Arab Hell“, and she visited all the Romans archeological sites, and she enjoyed the clean desert and beautiful oasis and sea shores. It was “uncovered” for a very long time, and it didn’t need the NATO to rediscover it and blow it up and level it.

Aljazeera has been doing the same since the beginning of Syrian crisis, by showing clips about each and every town and city in Syria, specially those having heated up clashes, to show the audience a glimpse of its history, and how the people won such fights against their occupiers in the past, to encourage them today to fight for their freedom from the new occupiers : The Alawites, or Bashar al-Assad !

They used religion, history, culture, art, PhotoShop tricks, songs, economic sanctions, politics, militias, and many many other dirty stuff in that war, because it’s a full terminating war. There is no way back. it’s either them or us. All the nonsense of political agreement and negotiations is just to buy more time to cause more damage and sabotage, and to draw more maps and borders, and to cleanse more inhabitants. Syrians have no other choice but to resist or disappear (leave or die).

***

We have water today, after 10-14 days without water service from the government. We spent the day filling up all empty containers and bottles, the bathtub and water tanks and cisterns at home and on the roof. We did fill up some of them a few days ago, with water from a water seller. Aleppo ‘s water is from the Euphrates. Turkey used to prevent the water from coming to us in the 90’s. ISIL is controlling the dam today and most of the Euphrates. They occupied the chlorine factory as well, which was used to sterilize the water.  Now they are using it in chemical attacks, and the UN is blaming the Syrian army and government, either by claiming they are using it against innocent people, or for failing in protecting it from falling in the wrong hands, the hands of ISIS! Thanks to them, Aleppo is thirsty.

***

You may add that 40 year old neighbors became like enemies, or let’s say it’s the Boxing Day Syndrome, when you have limited time to obtain limited resources, people in the west go nuts and do crazy stuff, run over each other, swear and hit each other while fighting over a digital camera or any other item. The same is true over here.  People are fighting over a little water. Water is coming little by little, with some dust and clay at the beginning.  It doesn’t reach higher stories easily as in the old days. We need something like a private pump for each house to do the job. But that needs power, and power/hydro/electricity comes around 4 hours a day.

People are depending on alternative solutions, like a small size generator/engine that works on fuel (and that had a problem in the last couple of years as there were no fuel in the city!). The other solution is to register with a bigger generator size for the neighborhood, with one’s request of Amperes. We are registered for 6 Amperes, enough for the fridges, tv, fans, and lights. A dentist friend needs 16 Amperes for his clinic. That service gives us another 10-11 hours of power a day, and costs around $20 a week. We still have to suffer of 9 hours without power.

Cool, isn’t? We don’t have such “action” life over there in the West.

So, back to the water conflicts between neighbors, each claiming that the others took more. I don’t blame my mother or neighbors who are ready to start a conflict because of that, but I feel so bad that such sanctions and battles and agreements on the global level could reach us as individuals and cause troubles between friends, families, and neighbors, who few years ago were laughing and inviting each others on plenty of food…and water!

***

I was wondering what Abdullah Dardari is doing at the end of the list?  [a list of speakers at a conference on Syria that is anti-Assad and pro-intervention]  He was in the Syrian government before the crisis, and he was responsible for turning the Syrian economy into a neoliberal style of life, that affected the poor and those in the countryside and rural areas so badly. After the crisis, he left Syria, and waited for the “regime” to fall, to come back and rebuild the country the way he wants. When his dream didn’t happened, he made a bigger scale dreams.

Dardari is almost like the late Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon, who came to power after the end of the Lebanese civil war, to rebuild Lebanon with his Saudi investments. He destroyed the wonderful downtown of Beirut and built his “Solidere” on the lands of many people without paying them any compensation.  Many had heart attacks and died, others just immigrated and left their country with great hopelessness.   Now his Syrian version, Mr. Dardari, will lecture about “Syria’s Economic Reconstruction“!  He still wants to get a chunk of rebuilding the country that he played a role in destroying. A business man without a heart or soul.

Btw, the noises of shelling and fighting is back within the last couple of days over here in Aleppo. It’s heating up after a relatively long time of calmness. Water supply reached us today as well, and we refilled all empty containers like last time.

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