Another share from my good friend, the Syrian photographer and activist, Sima Diab:
From Hiba Dlewati who eloquently says the words that only come out in tears, anger and cursing from me.
“I read the news, and I can’t get over all the headlines of Aleppo ‘falling’ this week. People fall before cities. Syrians broke the wall of silence in 2011 but it brought us crashing down with it long before this week.
“Aleppo ‘fell’ when three medical students bodies’ were found burned to death after being detained by government forces for volunteering at a field hospital. If “fell” when helicopters releasing barrels full of explosives on opposition-held neighborhoods became the norm. Aleppo ‘fell’ when blasts killed 83 students at the university and both sides accused each other. It ‘fell’ when rebels started killing people just for living on the other side of the city. Aleppo ‘fell’ when islamists targeted Kurdish neighborhoods and it ‘fell’ when YPG snipers targeted families fleeing from opposition areas on the Castello Road. It ‘fell’ when Russian and government airstrikes caused 80,000 people to flee their homes in the freezing winter towards a closed Turkish border. It ‘fell’ when so many of its youth, so many of its best, bravest and brightest were arrested and tortured and disappeared and killed and exiled. Aleppo ‘fell’ when a quarter million people were besieged for six months with no access to food or medical supplies because the government decided they lived on the wrong side of the city. It ‘fell’ when international aid organizations were too afraid to do their work there and yet also cut off funding to their grassroots partners who were still willing to take the risk. Aleppo ‘fell’ when it became normal for hospitals to operate beneath the ground because they’d be less likely to be found and destroyed by government and allied forces. It ‘fell’ when a day after the government attacked a hospital in the east, rebels attacked a hospital in the west.
“Syria ‘fell’ when its government allowed foreign militias who self-identify with a religious sect, to fight the war on its own people, igniting sectarian and regional conflicts for years to come. The rebels of course did the same, taking away the agency of Syrian fighters and civilians – regardless of which side – to reach any sort of ceasefire or settlement on their own without the approval of their regional, competing overlords.
“People don’t stay at war because they don’t know any better, or because they don’t learn. People stay at war because the people with power learn they can get away with it and the people without power realize they can’t get out of it. Don’t you dare judge residents of eastern Aleppo for refusing to ‘flee’ or ‘evacuate’ to government-held areas before this offensive out of fear of what was on the other side. Unless you’ve actually been detained by Syrian security forces, you don’t know what it feels like to disappear; to be stripped and beaten and held and violated and burned and diminished into gray, so much gray, until you fall. Your body is real. Spare me the spiritual optimism of the soul transcending and getting justice in some after life. Bodies are real and they break, people break, families break, and they fall before city walls do.
“And we are broken.
“This is not happening all of a sudden and if the news has caught you by surprise, well, then you just haven’t been following it. The ‘media’ that too many always love to blame has covered Aleppo and Syria tirelessly – although not perfectly – but the information is there and if you still confuse a social media website with a news source then that’s your own shortcoming, and I don’t have the time to catch you up on everything you’ve missed. And it’s painfully clear that we will soon see the same large-scale massacres in other Syrian cities as the government continues to “cleanse” the country. Let us mourn because that’s all we have left. For people asking me how to help, I have no idea what could realistically help Syria but you can help Syrians in need by donating to an organization you trust.”