Saturday, 6 January 2018

"Russia will not be able to stay in Syria for more than 6 more months"

 'FSA Free Alawite Movement claim responsibility for the Hmeimim drone attack taking out an S-400 Missile System, stating that Russia will not be able to stay in Syria for more than 6 more months, and promising “painful” days for them especially before Putin’s next election.

A similar attack on Hmeimim Air Base occurred on Dec 31 and damaged 7 Russian aircraft (which Russians claimed was due to rebel “mortars”), while another attack happened yesterday. This latest attack also damaged aircraft in addition to destroying a S-400.'

Image result for Free Alawite Movement

Where are the leaders of the factions?

 Hadi Abdullah:

 "Of course, we all know the ferocity of the military campaign of the al-Assad régime, Iran and Russia against the areas of the Idlib and Hama countryside. Everyone knows that not a day goes by without a massacre, blood in the streets, without that which displaces hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes.

 But there is a thing we don't understand. 
Why do the areas fall one after the other in the Idlib and Hama countryside? Why?

 In this video, we don't address anyone outside Syria, not the UN, the Security Council, or anyone else. We got tired of addressing messages to them for a whole seven years without any result.

 My message is to the leaders of the factions. Leaders of the factions, where are you? Where is the faction that said, we are two-thirds of the military force in Syria? Where are they? Where is the faction that attacked many other factions, for fulfilling the agreements of Astana? The decisions of Astana you fulfil exactly, only there is an increase in the daily bombing of civilian areas.

Good. Put this group aside. Where are the other factions? Where are the leaders of the factions? When was the last time a leader of a faction or military commander appeared in the media, to tell the people what is going on? Is it not the people's right to know what is happening?

 Where are the leaders of the factions? If someone is sick, we will visit and take care of them. Seriously, where are they? If someone is sick, we will visit them. If someone has a problem, we will help to solve it. But at least, come out and clarify to the people that one-two-three are happening. It's the people's right to know.

 I wish the leaders of the factions would walk in the streets, appear in the media walking the streets, see the refugees sleeping in the streets, sleeping in their cars, those who were expelled from the Idlib and Hama countryside. I wish they would walk in the streets, and listen to those people.

 We aren't stupid. If there is an agreement by particular countries to draw the borders, to surrender certain areas, let us know to whom and where. At least come and make it clear to the people, so they will have a bit of time to prepare, check their houses for the last time, leave before the time arrives, remove their property in time, that they have an idea what is happening, that all of us understand this event.

 Many journalists and even ordinary people don't talk about this. I don't know why. It is our right to know. For sure, we aren't afraid of anyone. We only fear the Lord of the worlds. It is our right to know what is happening. And we have the right to demand that someone comes and makes clear that one-two-three is happening. 

 This is not a message of defeat or despair. Never. Because we have everlasting certainty. We are in Syria, and we are not leaving it. The thing that lets us stay in Syria is the certainty in our hearts that they are all transitory - occupiers, Iranians, Russians, the Assad régime along with them, even the factions - and what stays is the people with the Permission of Allah."

Friday, 5 January 2018

Go to defeat Assad

 'Demonstrations in Idlib city demanding all the factions unite under one command and go to defeat Assad Regime in the frontlines. Syria Jan 5.'

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Dancing in Damascus: Creativity, Resilience, and the Syrian Revolution

 miriam cooke:

 'I along with all the creative workers I deal with in this book, do not believe at all in the way the revolution has been characterised. So that now people are talking about a civil war, how can it be a civil war when the government is exterminating its own people? When the Assad régime has been conducting almost a genocide on his own people. So perhaps we called call it a pure war in the way that Paul Virilio refers to it, as the crushing of the people by the government. But I think it is absolutely crucial to be in solidarity with those who started the revolution, and whether they have stayed inside the country or whether they have left, their insistence is always on the fact that it's a revolution.

 So, as many people will know, the Arab Spring broke out in the December of 2010 in Tunisia, and very quickly spread to Egypt and Yemen, Bahrain and Libya. And of course in the first cases, Ben Ali was forced to escape out of Tunisia, Mubarak was forced to resign, Saleh out of Yemen; and in Libya of course we had a similar situation happening to Gadaffi as happened to Saddam Hussein, ultimately found in a hole. The hole happened to be a sewer for Gadaffi.

 So when these young boys in a town called Daraa, which is on the border with Jordan in the south, picking up the mood of the moment, scribbled on a wall - they were schoolchildren, returning home from school - "It's your turn, doctor", addressing themselves to Bashar Assad, who's an ophthalmologist; and then scribbling another motto or slogan that had gone around the Arab world, "The people want the régime to fall". 

 Unlike what had happened elsewhere, where there was in the beginning toleration for these forms of expression, artistic expression, so when El Général sang his famous song, addressing the Rais Lebled, who was Ben Ali, the head of the country, and told him, your people are suffering and you've got to go, and Ben Ali didn't punish him immediately; in Daraa it was very different.

 The boys were immediately picked up, taken to the local police station, and they were tortured. News spread like wildfire across Syria, and this for me has been so interesting, the way news of demonstrations travels so quickly. People just flooded the streets, and the government cracked down. And they cracked down again and again, and the demonstrations continued. Particularly on Friday, because Friday was the only day where there was official permission for people to assemble, because of course Friday is the day of the 
Jumu'ah Friday prayer in the mosque. 

 And so the demonstrations were, in Syria, very different from the other countries, because in the other Arab Spring countries, the demonstrations in general happened in one city. usually the capital. So Sana'a in Yemen, and Cairo's Tahrir Square in Egypt, Tunis in Tunisia, Bahrain Bahrain; but here it was almost everywhere in the country that people stood up to the violence, the injustice, the radical cruel injustice, of the régime.

 So that, I think, gives a timeline for the revolution that continues until today. If you talk to any of the people that I have written about in dancing in Damascus, there is not one who would not call it a revolution. On fact, a book came out, I think it was three or four months ago, Wendy Pearlman's We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled; of the many dozens of people she interviewed, they all referred to it as a revolution as well. And in fact one of her interlocutors says, it is the international media that has destroyed the revolution by calling it a civil war.


 The Syrian situation is really quite different from any other Arab country. Perhaps comparable, in the 90s, to the situation of Iraqis under Saddam Hussein. When I was in Syria, for seven months in 95/96, I interviewed writers, film-makers, people who had been in Hafez Assad's prisons for many years; some terrible prisons, some people refer to these Syrian prisons as among the worst, if not the worst, in the world; and art at that time that was still being produced, and again I'm thinking of art-activism as not being specifically image-making, but also telling stories, and making films and videos, it was so, so, important that one stay in the country, a country that was ruled with an iron fist, where fear dominated every aspect of everybody's life, and not to leave. Because the assumption there, and this has been true in many Arab countries, that the artist-activists feel that once they leave the country, their voice has lost an important gravitas. Because what you say, what you write, what you paint, what you shoot with a camera, doesn't have the same effect and power when it is done from the safety of London and Paris or New York. So, to stay meant to risk freedom, sometimes to risk life, to be able to speak truth to power, and for the people to see that they have among them someone who is daring to resist, and resist on their behalf.

 So, there was a sense in which these artist-activists were spokespersons for the people. And I analyse this in my 2007 book, Dissident Syria, where I talk about the various ways the Hafez Assad régime tries to manipulate these artist-activists. And so I distinguish between permitted criticism, and what I call commissioned criticism. Permitted criticism is that which the régime allows to be distributed, and it can be criticism of the schools. It can even be light criticism, making fun of something that is happening in the government. And it allows for what the Syrians call tanafus, which is to breath. The translation in general into English is a pressure cooker system. That is, tension is building, building, building, among the people, and then at a certain point it comes so close to breaking into violence that something has to be done. And still the régime had calibrated those moments when things were getting to be so repressive that the system was endangering itself. 

 So people who were involved in permitted criticism were referred to by the people as muharij, or court jester.Yes, it makes us feel better, but anyhow this guy is never going to be punished, and this is what the régime wants this person to do, and so it is a form, a perverted form, of propaganda. Saying, well look, we have the freedom to criticise, so everything's OK.

 Commissioned criticism was very different. And it was not condoned, and the outcome of such criticism was unclear. Would this person be thrown into jail? Would the passport be revoked? Would there be ways in which that person who had spoken out so bravely and outrageously against the régime; if he was not made to pay in some ways, but rather continued to live perfectly well in some ways, as in the case of someone like Sardella Wanlous, who was actually sponsored by the government to go to London for regular cancer treatment; did that turn that person into a court jester?

 And so in some ways these artist-activists were between Scylla and Charybdis. Of loss of freedom or life, and on the other hand, not being taken seriously. And yet each time, they were risking everything that mattered to them.

 So this was the situation in a society I had described as atomised. And there I'm using Hannah Arendt's term, that she used of course in describing in Totalitarianism, the situation in Hitler's Germany. Of course like all great books, it should apply beyond the particular case to the universal.What she talks about in Hitler's Germany, fits very well for Syria. And that is, everybody is afraid of everybody. And I'm afraid of my spouse, my parents, of my children, my teacher, my school friends. I'm afraid that they're going to write a report, that will then be sent to the mukhabarat, to the intelligence service. And so I will be punished for maybe making fun of Hafez Assad.

 And so this country, which I knew in 95/96, was a country where people were afraid, pretty much, to talk out loud about anything that even had the slightest whiff of politics, lest their words be twisted in a report. And so what was extraordinary, when the revolution broke out, was to see the streets flooded with these people, who had been so atomised that they didn't dare to speak to each other.


 When Hafez Assad died, and his son the ophthalmologist was returned from London to Damascus, he was not at all trained to be a politician. His brother Bassel, who died in a car crash in 1994, was the one who had been groomed to be leader. And because Bashar has seemed so unsuited to the task of leadership. I think Hafez Assad never really worked on grooming him for the job as he had done with his older son.

 So when Bashar came to power, at the same time two other sons were coming to power, one in Jordan and one in Morocco, there was an expectation that the younger generation would change things. That there would be a transformation in the system. As there had been when Muhammed VI took over from his father Hassan II in Morocco, and when Abdullah took over from his father King Hussein in Jordan.

 So for the first few months, there were a lot of new liberties. People were allowed to meet, even allowed to meet in semi-formal contexts, referred to as a mutada or a mutada yert, which are like the Paris salons of the 19th Century. People meeting semi-publicly, sometimes in homes, sometimes in clubs, to discuss pretty much whatever they liked. Bashar closed down the two worst prisons, one in Mezzeh, and one in Tadmur, which is Palmyra. And there was a sense that there was a radically new Syria in the making. 

 But of course what happened was that the freedoms became too much for the régime to deal with. There were a number of documents that intellectuals had put together, asking for real freedoms, not just these almost dinner-party freedoms, asking for radical change. And then, in 2006, there was a huge famine that brought the country, especially the rural parts, to the edge of rebellion.

 The people had smelt freedom, had felt that they had enough power behind them that they could demand radical changes, could demand a revolution almost. And it was then that the Bashar régime started to crack down in very familiar ways to those that had been through the Hafez régime. And the reason I say that it was familiar was then when Bashar took over, as I said not trained, shaped, groomed for the job of President of Syria, he had no men and women that he brought in with him. No seasoned politicians. And so basically he just stepped into his father's shoes, and nothing around him changed in terms of the personnel. The atmosphere changed, but the people didn't change. 

 And so the draconian measures that Hafez Assad and his entourage had established in the country from 1970 when Hafez Assad took over until 2000 when he died, were in place, and Bashar could fall back on that old system.

 While I say the wall of fear had cracked, and throughout the Arab Spring countries people talked about the wall of fear, it cracked due to the Damascus Spring, that everyone dates differently. It was at least a few months, and for some it went on until 2004. People had begun to feel what it could be like to be able to meet with each other, to not be afraid to discuss what was wrong with the system, not to anticipate that every word would be twisted and turned into some kind of indictment in a report. And so although Hafez al-Assad's men were there to replace the old draconian systems, people had tasted what it was like to be able to talk to each other.

 So they were no longer as afraid of each other, no longer as afraid of the régime and the mukhabarat or the secret service. So I think
 that's where one can begin to see the cracks, as Leonard Cohen said, "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light comes in." And I think there was a crack in everything in the Syrian régime, and the light that came in, of course, was the revolution.  


 Artists who were already practising, some of them were painting, and in this case I'm talking about artists who had been educated in Damascus Academy of art. There were writers, particularly dramatists, who had been trained in the Syrian Academy of Dramatic Arts. They immediately began to produce work. The famous artist, I think outside the country, is the artist-activist Ali Ferzat. He had been producing caricatures for years and years and years, quite careful in terms of what Sadik al-Azm called the line between dissidence and martyrdom. So that's an important line that most of them tried to get close to, but not to step onto the other side into martyrdom.

 So Ali Ferzat had always been functioning on that line between dissidence and martyrdom. And when the Damascus Spring broke out,
 blossomed, he started a cartoon magazine, he had a magazine called al-Domari, the Lamplighter. It lasted for two years. It was closed down, but it was full of very daring, oppositional work, and one of the images that I use in my book was one that came out during that period, I think it was around 2006 - so five years before the actual revolution broke out - and it's an image of a cell in the Tadmur Prison. Tadmur being Palmyra, or for people who don't know, in Arabic Palmyra is Tadmur. And it shows a prisoner hanging from hooks, like meathooks, from the wall. A hand has been amputated, a foot has been amputated, he's obviously dying. And seated on the floor next to him, surrounded by his torture tools, and blood from the dripping body, is his torturer who was weeping as he watches a soap opera.

 I thought that this was such a remarkable image, because before 2000, even to use the name Tadmur or Palmyra Prison, was taboo. You couldn't talk about it. Those prisoners who I met when I was there and afterwards, who had either spent any time in Tadmur or Mezzeh or Sadnaya, they weren't allowed to talk about their time there. And here was this cartoon that had gone viral. So again, Ali Ferzat was one of the first to literally stick a finger to the régime. And it happened in August, so about five months after the beginning of the revolution. He was picked up, in Damascus, by some of the government thugs. They take him to a desert area near the airport, beat the living daylights out of him, and are particularly concerned to crush his fingers. Telling him: OK, you think that you can produce resistance and rebellion in the people through what your fingers produce. Your fingers will not produce anything, any more. So, he was found, taken to a prison, and somebody took a photograph of him, lying in bed, all bandaged up. So when his hands and fingers healed, which they did, beautifully, he then produced a cartoon of himself, in bed, with his fingers bandaged, and the middle finger upright, to Bashar. So this is: you think you can stop me, no you can't.

 So that was one of the first really affective images that went viral. He also was the first whose work was posted to an extraordinary site called The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution. It's a site that was launched in early 2013, by a woman called Sana Yazigi, who is a graphic artist. She had noticed the tsunami of creative works that had been produced right from the beginning of the revolution. She designed this website; the first caricature that was posted was another cartoon by Ali Ferzat, and it's called al-Takatuf al-Duwaliya or International Sympathy, and he shows on the left, a bent over man holding out a cup, like a begging bowl; and lined up are four figures, who are obviously international leaders, one looks Chinese, another is Russian; and each one is dropping two tears into his bowl. Obviously crocodile tears. 


 There is a radical need to resist violence, and not on its own terms. You can't destroy the master's house with the master's tools. There has to be another way, and then what drives the resistance is the commitment to hope. That they will, through their works, not only assure the world that the revolution is ongoing, but that the revolution will do what revolutions do, and that is to turn the system upside down. 

 They can't be shut up, because in the Internet Age, whatever they put on to the web, can be silenced in one place, but will pop up somewhere else. And so I think what we're seeing here would not have been possible, even twenty years ago.Without Youtube or Facebook or blogging, it would not be possible for these artist-activists to be as empowered as they are. They're empowered by the fact - maybe if not at the beginning, certainly not long after they had started producing their works - they realised that people noticed what they were doing, that it mattered to the people inside Syria and outside Syria, that the commitment to the revolution was staunch. There was nothing that the Assad régime did to the people, to the works, that could stop the revolution. 

 So this theme of hope is an interesting one, and this was made explicit in the 2016 Bordeaux Festival des Arts. Every October, Bordeaux has an arts festival, and the organisers of last year's festival had heard of Sana Yazigi, and had invited her to participate in the 2016 Festival, and they asked her if she would provide thirty images from the site. 

 She launched the site in early 2013. Unbelievably, by the time the festival came around, there were 23,000 works on the site. She doesn't have a single piece of documentary evidence. She doesn't take photographs, unless it is is a photograph that has somehow been manipulated by someone in a creative way. Because, she says, the media is full of documentary evidence, this is not what the site is about. It is about creative memory. It is about creative memory for the future, always thinking about how people are going to look back to this period, and how will they be able to assess the role of the people who said no to Bashar.

 So back to Bordeaux. She has to sift through tens of thousands of images and find thirty. And she said what became evident to her was that so many of these images were images of hope, they could be angry, the videos could be insulting - I have a whole chapter in Dancing in Damascus on insulting Bashar - but what really underscores everything that is on this site is the whole question of hope. And so she picked her thirty pieces, and the major piece for this show was a piece of graffiti, done by somebody referred to as the Banksy of Syria, and it's a graffiti he did on a broken piece of concrete, off a recently destroyed building, and it's of a little girl. She's balancing precariously, on a pile of skulls, to indicate a mass grave. And tiptoeing on top of them, she's writing the word, "Hope". 

 So, I thought that was one of the most inspiring, but also grimace images from this collection. And without hope, there would be no art. There would be no music. Because even out of music, there have been extraordinary developments. There is the case of Ibrahim Qashoush, who I think in 2014 [probably 2011] led a crowd in a song that can be found online. A very powerful song, that basically says, OK Bashar, just go. So he'll sing it, Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar, and the crowd then shouting it back. When you look at it on Youtube, the crowd is so huge that it cannot be contained in the image on Youtube. So enormous excitement. The next day - this happened in Hama, and through Hama runs a river called the Orontes - on the following day, in the Orontes River was found Qashoush's corpse with his throat cut. 

 So within a week, and this is something else that absolutely is astounding, an artist, Wissam Al-Jazairy, had produced an image, and it was an oil painting, so not something that you can throw together overnight. An oil painting of Qashoush, his throat deeply cut, blood pouring out of it, but also, flying out of it, is a bird. And the bird is the bird of freedom, and indicates, in English for the international audience that he wants, and the bird is covered in blood, but is nevertheless soaring towards freedom.  


 I had not been back to Syria since the revolution broke out, for obvious reasons, it was too dangerous, but I've spent quite a bit of time in Turkey, and a little bit of time in Beirut. I've spent quite a bit of time in Lebanon, but since the revolution only a few weeks. And in both Turkey and Beirut and in Paris, and also in Manchester, England, I've met with artist-activists, and spent time with them. There is an artists' colony in Aley. It's called Art Residence Aley. It was designed specifically for artists who are fresh out of Syria. The woman who runs it is Syrian. She's an art benefactor, an engineer also. She had to come to Beirut also, like Sana Yazigi in 2012, and because she had worked so closely with artists inside Syria, and she knew that many had had to escape, she decided that what she would do is find a place in the mountains above Beirut, so not far from the Syrian border, where she could provide the artists with shelter, materials, and the space to breathe without fear, and perhaps to produce art. 

 So in Aley she found an old Ottoman stable that had been pretty damaged during the civil war in Lebanon between 1975-90. And as an engineer, she converted it. She kept it very much the way it would have looked, as stables, but obviously put in a kitchen, bathrooms, and it's quite, quite, lovely. From 2012 until 2015 - I think it continues now but she moved to London - artists would be picked up from the border, somehow the message would have gotten out that the artists were making their way to or just beyond the border. She'd pick the artists up, and then take them immediately there. So by the time I got there, in the summer of 2015, there were many artists who had spent a minimum of two weeks, sometimes two months there. Sometimes alone, sometimes three or four together. And then once they had had their time up in the mountains, she then arranged for them to find places in Beirut. And it was there, through exhibitions she put together, or sometimes exhibitions up in Aley, that these artists would earn enough, to be able in some cases to go to Europe. So some of these artists, who would have remained totally internationally unknown, had they stayed in Syria - I'm not talking about during the revolution, but in general - have now become internationally famous, and a man like Tamim Alhosen, is now fetching tens of thousands of dollars for his works. 

 There were artist-activists in Istanbul. Not all of these artist-activists are totally behind the revolution. One that I met, Khalid Aqil, who I met while I was in Istanbul, is more concerned about contesting Islamic State, particularly the atrocities in the Yazidi region of Iraq's Mount Sinjar, than he is in saying no to the Assad régime. 

 I'm not at all interested in the artists that some people have said to me, what about the artists who are painting, creating works about the régime? Or how about those working with the Islamist groups, the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, or Daesh (the Islamic State)? And what I said, is that the artists that interest me are not ones that are producing propaganda. They don't have a leader. They don't have an ideology. They don't have a blueprint for a future Syria. But they have a commitment to each other, and in that commitment to each other, a belief there will emerge a new Syria out of their work.' 

Image result for ali ferzat finger

Image result for syrian banksy hopeImage result for illustration

Sunday, 31 December 2017

One Year Later, Residents Mourn the Fall of Aleppo

 ' “The moments we are living now in Aleppo could be the last moments of our lives,” Ameer al-Halabi wrote in a Messenger conversation last December. “Regime forces are a few meters from here: We could be killed or imprisoned once they enter, especially us … because we are journalists.”

 Halabi, whose real name is Walid Mashhadi but still uses his pseudonym professionally, is still alive. He was only 25 when he left his city to survive the Syrian regime. He lives in Turkey now, while his family, his wife and son, remained in Aleppo. But they will soon reunite in France. Halabi will travel there in January 2018, and his wife and son will join him the same day from Aleppo via Beirut.

 "I was studying engineering when the revolution started. I began going to the demonstrations against the [Bashar] al-Assad regime. Then, we the protesters soon understood it was important to work in the media. For example, I dropped out of university and worked for a local radio station, Radio Hara, and for the Aleppo Media Center in 2012 and 2013."

 Halabi also worked for international media and humanitarian organizations such as the Qatar Red Crescent. “My wife is still in eastern Aleppo and many checkpoints surround the area. They know she is my wife and so she doesn’t go out too much.”

 While Halabi made it out, many friends from Aleppo — everyday citizens, journalists or activists working for the Aleppo City Council — are now in Assad’s prisons and it is difficult to know exactly where they are. “When people were evacuated to the western part of the city, they let them go and stay safe for a while. After a few weeks, the intelligence services went to arrest them. They knew all the people they wanted,” Halabi added.

 Another journalist, Salah al-Ashkar, sent a goodbye message from Aleppo last year, too, but he is now safe in France thanks to the French organization Reporters Without Borders. Ashkar confirmed to Al-Monitor the same account of Aleppo’s citizens, saying, “An activist of the Aleppo City Council, Mohammed Hayyo, was arrested after the regime retook the city a year ago, and nobody knows his fate.”

 Ashkar, 29, first worked for Agence France-Presse and then Al Jazeera during the battle for Aleppo as a freelance photojournalist.

 "Many of my childhood friends unfollowed or unfriended me from Twitter or Facebook, and I can imagine why: They are afraid that at any checkpoint a soldier could find my name on their social media accounts and arrest them. I know they are living in fear like before 2011 — and even worse, because Russian police are also there."

 Ashkar is now learning French and would like to study journalism in France. He graduated in 2011 from the University of Aleppo in banking and finance.

 Today, 75% of the city’s eastern neighborhoods are destroyed, including houses and public service facilities. But Halabi — the 2016 second-prize Spot News World Press winner with his series “Rescued from the Rubble” — says in the video “Eyes of Aleppo”, “The city is less destroyed than its people are.”

 The short video briefly explains the story of Halabi and two other photographers, Fouad Hallak and Zakaria Abdelkafi, who documented the war in Aleppo: Abdelkafi lost his right eye in an explosion, but he continued to work as a photographer and is now living in France.

 “Before the revolution I was a normal student; I was going to school like everyone else, I used to have my favorite song, I used to dream,” Halabi told Al-Monitor. “I photographed Aleppo for 3½ years, concentrating my attention on children, especially those rescued after bombs. My work has been influenced by the picture of the naked child running and crying during the war in Vietnam.” Halabi’s father volunteered with the White Helmets and died in one of the explosions.

 During the offensive when the Syrian army retook the city, many Aleppans were evacuated to the western part and others to the rebel-held Idlib countryside, where some still live, while others fled to Turkey, crossing the border illegally. Many citizens went back home, but their exact number is unknown.

 A year after the last fight and wave of displacement, the Assad government tried to restore the city’s image with sport or cultural initiatives. But among those Aleppans who came back, many could not bear the destruction and poor conditions and left again for Turkey, where many Syrians rebuilt their businesses or created new ones.

Aleppo’s last year of death and starvation is East Ghouta’s current reality, with people struggling to survive and evacuation plans for medical emergency cases still being formed. The regime and its allies have been talking in the past few months about reconstruction, which the opposition considers the latest of Assad’s war crimes since its clear purpose will also be to erase proof of the regime’s crimes.

Syria is still far from living in justice and peace. Many of the Aleppans who survived last December’s brutal offensive are still trying to find their way in their countries of refuge. Ashkar said:

"If the regime one day falls, I will go back to Syria. We tried to build some democratic institutions, but with the extremist rebels and the dire conditions of fighting and siege, we couldn’t. My homeland is Aleppo. I miss every single tiny detail. My country is my city, Aleppo. But I would like to live in a country where every four years a different president is elected." '