Friday, 24 February 2017
From Aleppo to Drexel
'In Aleppo, Syria, Mahmoud Hallak’s life was relatively normal — until it wasn’t.
His parents, both physicians, worked to support Hallak and his two sisters. But as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad tightened its grip on Syria, everything began to change.
“He [my father] decided to help some injured civilians … at that point, that was viewed as treason. Helping anybody who was injured by the government was a crime. So he was kidnapped, arrested and killed because of that,” Hallak, a pre-junior chemical engineering major, said.
The incident took place in May 2011. Hallak’s family was one of the first to be affected by political unrest in that part of Syria.
In the southern part of the country, protests were becoming common. However, around the time Hallak’s father died, Aleppo was still fairly complacent. Hallak was one of several catalysts that brought the resistance to his city.
“I was one of the people who decided that, in order for the revolution to carry on, our city has got to be part of it,” he said.
When he first began protesting, all the assemblies were peaceful.
“A group of people and I started protesting, and the city, in a few months, started joining more and more. So we started from a few people, to tens, to hundreds, and then we ended up with thousands of people every protest.”
By that time, Hallak said, essentially the entire country was swept up in the revolution. The Free Syrian Army was established soon after with the goal of overthrowing the Assad regime. It was when the FSA entered Aleppo to free it from regime control that the war really began, according to Hallak.
“Neighborhoods near mine were liberated, fighting started near me, and at that point, I gained the news that our identities were exposed. So the government knows who was protesting, and how we were working on that. So I had to flee the country.” '