Title Image: Vanessa Beeley, The Wall Will Fall
The siege of Aleppo was seemingly brought to a close just before Christmas 2016. For the survivors there are lives to rebuild.
The appetite for this sort of news is frail. The next Trump, Assange, Pizzagate or even, dare I say it, ‘Bitcoin’ headline will drown the tragic truth of those left to survive in the rubble of lives once lived.
Aleppo is a shadow of its former self.
The buildings demonstrate the passage of war; the shattered lives hide the spectres of horror which ravaged this land.
First the buildings:
Old City of Aleppo, November 2008, left, and December 2016, right (Reuters)
Once the heart of industrial and commercial life in Syria, Aleppo drew visitors from all over the globe.
But four years of conflict have ravaged the historic Old City, smashing its ancient palaces,toppling its historic minarets and scorching its old stone walls.
As the evacuation of the rebel held areas draw to a close and government forces establish their presence, pictures have emerged of the bombed out ruins that remain.
Aleppo’s Ancient Citadel in August 2010, left, and in the aftermath, right (Reuters)
The walled 13th century Citadel of Aleppo is an iconic fixture of the city’s landscape.
Considered one of the oldest and largest castles in the world, extensive conservation work was carried out on it during the early part of the century.
Now its walls are pockmarked with bullet holes and extensive damage has been done both inside and out.
The Ummayad mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, reputedly houses the remains of John the Baptist’s father.
Its ancient stone minaret was toppled during the fighting and now lies in ruins on the floor.
Entrance to the al-Zarab souk
Raw silk from Iran and spices and dyes from India used to travel through the entrance to the al-Zarab souk in the old city, which was once a busy trade hub.
Now it is home to the little more than rubbish and rubble.
Hammam al-Nahasin, to the south of the mosque in Aleppo’s ancient souk, is a male-only bath house dating back to the 13th century. It was once a popular tourist attraction.
Then there are the unseen scars, but they are all too real:
The unedited story of an Aleppo Family Man
“I have been displaced three times, and what people just don’t get is that we are Syrians as everyone here, we’ve just been deprived of our lives. My wife and my daughters sleep at the mosque and I sleep under this tent against the mosque, I have to maintain my store. Before I had a company, employees, eight machines, we worked with stone. As I came to work in Aleppo, the “free army” as they used to be called before, deduced that I was pro-regime and they burned my house, stole my machines and they shot me in the leg. I lost everything and I can’t even afford a rent now. I set up this tent and I have this small stall to survive with my wife and four children… It is so hard… You work your whole life to build something and suddenly overnight, you have nothing. I wanted to cling to life, I moved my family in another area of the city and I managed to rent a machine to keep working but they came back, they gained ground and we had to flee again, and again. I had an open-heart surgery a few years ago, I’m in poor health but I still try to do my best, I cannot carry anything, collecting water is too hard because it’s impossible for me to carry the water container so it’s my wife and my son who take care of that; even if I don’t want my son to work I have no choice but to ask him to help me. I think about my daughters, I have three daughters and I believe I was less afraid when my house burnt than today to protect my daughters, I’m scared for them. My dream would be to find a new house, a place for us, and even if I thank God for this little job I have, I would like to find something else; I worked hard before with my company. My little boy will always be able to hold its own, but I’m scared for my daughters. I ensure that my four children study whatever happens to be, I’ll give my life if I have to.”