“Bombs and lies.” This is Aleppo today. Known also as Halab. The economic capital of Syria is the most populated city in the Country, one the most ancient cities in the world, declared Unesco World Heritage Site in 1986. Areas like the Citadel, the Great Omayyade Mosque, the al-Halawiya madrasa, are but some of the riches that made it earned the title as the first city “Cultural capital of the Islamic world”, in 2006. Once an open-air museum, Aleppo today is a devastated city. Its thousand-year-long coexistence, featuring the dialogue between faiths and ethnic groups, has been smashed to smitherness, blown apart by the clashes between the army of Bashar Al Assad’s regime and the Syrian rebels. Aleppo is the faithful reflection of a Country destroyed by a war that broke out in 2011, fuelled by a dramatic death toll, 300thousand – but some say more than 400 thousand – where over half of the population are displaced persons, and over 5 million fled in neighbouring Countries: Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, not to mention those disappeared in government prisons, those kidnapped by Daesh militants and by the rebels – amounting to tens of thousands.
A city under armed siege. Until today. The truce negotiated in Geneva, with the direct intervention of Washington and Moscow, effective as of the sunset of past September 12, failed miserably owing to the attacks by the US air force (September 17, ed.’s note) against Assad’s regular troops fighting Daesh in Deir el-Zor on the ground, that hit humanitarian convoys (September 19) and a hospital (September 20) in the area near Aleppo. As expected, mutual accusations ensued: for Damascus “the rebels undermined the agreement” while for the Syrian opposition the regime “brokered the ceasefire on several occasions in order to declare its failure.” In the meantime in Aleppo, as in other cities under siege, millions of Syrians risk dying of exhaustion and falling under the firearms.
“We are under a constant fire of bombs – said the Greek-Catholic archbishop of Aleppo Monsignor Jean-Clément Jeanbart – the night is torn by the sound of aircrafts and bombs. It’s impossible to sleep and God knows how much the population is in need of rest. We are tired, worn out by this absurd situation. We have re-opened the schools but we moved our students to other compounds located in safer and closer areas, also to avoid them from moving too far and becoming mobile targets.
We had been promised peace, a cease-fire, a truce. To no avail. Only lies, lies, and more lies.”
The archbishop points a finger against the “gift” of the US bombing of September 17 against the Syrian military base that left several dozen soldiers of Assad’s army dead. “How could the Americans not know about that military base when their stations and satellites cover the entire area?” asked the bishop. It’s harder to know the names of “those truly responsible” of the attack against the humanitarian convoy, which, according to Mons. Jeanbart, “may not have been the victims of an airstrike but of ground forces, while transiting through an area controlled by the rebels.” The same goes for the “phosphorous bombs”, which, according to eye witnesses, were used the night of September 21 against neighbourhoods in the eastern part of Aleppo that is not controlled by the government.
“One thing is sure – the prelate added – people are being struck twice, by the bombs and by the propaganda of the warring factions. Lies, only lies”
he repeated over the phone, with a broken voice. “Syria can’t be the battlefield of international Countries who want to take over the territory for partisan interests. As shepherds we cannot remain silent before this massacre! Poor Syria! Five years of destruction and war, when will we see the end of this mass murder?”
While waiting to know their fate, the people “still living” in Aleppo are facing tragic living conditions. “There is not enough water, and what’s worse is the lack of electricity, we manage only thanks to electric power generators. We have been carrying on in this way for the past two years. But given the job shortage there is not enough money to purchase fuel”, the archbishop said.
“As a Church we try to help them but we no longer have enough funds. Food and generic medicines are not completely lacking yet, although the prices have risen. It makes us angry to know that Syria used to manufacture a vast array of medicines, but bombs have disintegrated a large number of pharmaceutical plants. Specialised medicines are imported from abroad. The living conditions of civilians in the city are extremely harsh”, he added. The prelate reiterated the term “civilians” many times. “Indeed, there are no soldiers to be seen in the city, not in the areas – representing the largest portion – under Government control. Almost all the soldiers are outside to ring-fence the city of Aleppo, and to avoid that rebels and terrorists enter the city patrolled only by police officers and gendarmes”, explained the Greek-Catholic archbishop. The area in the hands of the rebels is to the East, home to “factories and industrial plants, many of which have been destroyed as a result of the war.”
“We don’t know what to do and what to think before a devastation of such huge proportions. The Syrian people want dialogue and peace. And this is what great nations don’t want, as behind our backs they continue to destroy our land and our society. All they’re interested in is oil, gas, water, portions of land to increase their power and regional influence, Russians and Americans above all. We are paying the price of the selfishness of large Countries that go so far as to claim that they are Christian”.