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••• The International Writers Magazine:Syria

Aleppo is bleeding
• Marwan Asmar
Aleppo today stands as the city of death, its a deserted wasteland. Gone are the days of tourism, which might even be too facile to mention, but today Aleppo stands divided into east, the destroyed, nay, completely obliterated part and the west which is controlled by the government, the Baath regime, stands as one piece.


Here, in the western section of this ancient city, things appear ordinary with people going about their business as normal as possible, or so we are led to believe by the government PR campaigns. Its true, it is here where the middle class live, the merchants and the professionals, doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on.

The east, the flattened areas and whole sections of apartments, as tested to by images and pictures, are ghostly hollows. They speak of a world of rubble that has been taken back to the middle ages and even worse still. Here, the industrial part of the city, its destruction that have ruled the day, of archaic buildings that has been riddled and gushed through bullets, missiles and bombs.

The worst part is that people still continue to live in parts of the buildings. They just take whatever downstairs flats and apartments left by people too scared to stick around, mostly escaping to Turkey, just to the north-western part of Syria. But even so, around 300,000 people still live in this part of Aleppo. They are encircled by the regime forces and their allies who will not let them leave.

The siege, tightly enforced since last July, is bitter and deadly. There is little food, no drinkable water, no fuel, medicines are dwindling and residents are living off meager rations, scrapping the bottom of the barrel as it were. Bread is scarce and expensive because the siege eventually came to mean the operation of a black economy where it can be operated.

Alarm bells are already ringing with UN Secretary-General saying food rations have run out, but for the time being nobody is listening. Aleppo, about the size of Paris, has long become the prize to be had. It has been turned into a city of conflict fought over by a pack of wolves and hyenas, underlined by local, regional and international powers who see Syria as a political game of interests and alliances.

On the one hand there is the ruling Baath regime supported by Russian, Iran and a handful of proxies like Hizbollah of Lebanon and different Shiite groups from Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia stands towering above at the moment, a guardian to the regime which it now supports through its active intervention into the conflict. It entered the Syrian civil war on 30 September, 2015, by way providing military air-cover for the Bashar Al Assad regime to prop him and make sure he doesn't fall. It's doing that well, and so far he is holding his guns.

The Baath regime is fighting the fractious factions, the ones who are seeking to topple him, but as yet with no avail. The Russian strikes from the sea are helping to tip the balance somewhat - mainly missiles raining down on innocent civilians - Aleppo has long become a battleground for complex set of fighters who have nothing to lose but everything to win. It is estimated, and the number could be much higher of course, there are 8000 anti-regime fighters.

There are of different ideological persuasions from the supposedly liberal and pro-western Free Syrian Army, to the Islamic groups and the extreme Islamic fundamentalists like Failaq Al Sham, Jaish Al Fatah, Ahrar Al Sham and Jabhat Fatah Al Sham which is an affiliate/split from Al Nusra Front, that is itself, the arm of Al Qaeda in Syria. There are 22 opposition groups in the eastern part of Aleppo that is only eight miles long and three miles wide, which shows the intensity of fighting and fire-power. Al Nusra/Jabhat Fatah Al Sham or whatever, has always been portrayed to have controlled the eastern part of the city, but UN estimates have suggested they have only 900 fighters.

Aleppo has become a debacle because of this mosaic of fighting machines. The above groups fighting can just easily be divided among sectarian ideological grounds. The factions are of the Sunni denomination of Islam. They are fighting the Shia dominations like the Baath itself whose support base is the Alwaite minority in Syria and backed by Hizbollah which has long been taking part in the war with its men number up to 8000, 2000 of which are in Aleppo and taking part in enforcing the deadly siege.

But there is more. There is already another war taking part in the skies of Syria and started a year before the Russian military intervention in that country and that was waged by a 60-odd international war coalition lead by the United States against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in September 2014; ISIS had taken complete chunks of territories between the two countries and saddling it self in Al Riqqah as the self-styled capital of the Islamic State inside Syrian territory. The international coalition includes Arab countries like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar amongst others. Al Riqqah is more or less on the same elevation as Aleppo.

The USA recognized the Islamic fundamentalists in that city, but to them this is not ISIS territory per se it is fighting. Plus for the fact, that it supports the Free Syrian Army that is also backed by other Arab countries in wanting to see the back of the Al Assad regime which has indeed become easier said than done. They are amongst some of the fighters log-jammed in Aleppo.

There has probably never been such a complicated situation as that which has emerged in Syria and magnified itself in Aleppo with government, groups, fundamentalists, extremists and regional and global powers intermeshing themselves vociferously. Despite attempts at mediation at top international level, to at least provide a reprieve in the siege and get food and medicine in the besieged east, nobody is paying attention and all groups and powers are blaming each other.

Probably there has not been a situation like this since time immemorial. Everyone is involved in Aleppo, nobody wants to give up the fight whose victims have mostly been innocent civilians killed which is estimated between 300,000 to 470,000. As far as Aleppo is concerned there is no let up in the fighting nor does it seem to be anytime soon, not even a breather. On the contrary what the groups are trying to do now is break the siege. That means more people are getting killed.
© Marwan Asmar Nov 1st 2016

'Cleaning' the Amman Nymphaeum for heritage
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This summer was a good cleaning period for the Amman Nymphaeum. From a blackened relic, its frontal facade, niches and apses are restored again.

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