Aleppo remains a city divided by the Syrian civil war. When people living in Aleppo’s countryside rose in revolt against the Assad regime, the city was transformed into a war zone. Infighting among the rebels and counterattacks from the Assad government has brought the fighting for Aleppo to a stalemate.
With a population close to three million, Aleppo is Syria’s largest metropolis. Before the war, it was undergoing an economic renaissance. Industrial zones throughout the city housed busy garment and textile factories making Aleppo a gateway for closer economic ties with Syria.
Abdul-Latif Kudsi once owned a state-of-the-art factory that produced denim. Located in the northwest district of Layramoun, his factory was first looted for tiles and electrical wires before fighting ruined the building. For Kudsi, his city has been destroyed by the civil war. Without the mention of rebel or government forces, he hoped God would punish those responsible. He now operates a small sewing shop in the government-controlled section.
Kudsi has sold his wife’s jewelry and cars he owns in order to take care of his family. He fears gangs and militia groups would kidnap him or members of his family. There are times he wakes up in the middle of the night heartbroken over what has happened to his city.
Mohammad Dahan said he lost everything when his stores in Soap Market burned down. He, his wife and their six children fled their home when rebels took over their neighborhood. They have since settled in the Aleppo’s northwestern section. Dahan is now a street vender selling socks.
Assad’s forces, along with the Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah, control the western portions of Aleppo. A conglomeration of rebel factions holds the other districts. Syrians in Aleppo face a divided city torn by civil war. Rebels and government forces use kidnappers, sniper fire, or detention centers to gain the upper hand.
According to The Violations Documentation Center, a Syria-based opposition group, 18,000 combatants and civilians have died in the Aleppo region. The death rate is second to the carnage inflicted in the Damascus suburbs where 21,600 people have died. Overall, the Syrian civil war has claimed 93,000 lives.
Since last fall, Hezbollah has made steady progress in recapturing the southern and eastern flanks of Aleppo. Doing so has allowed government forces to reopen a supply road to Damascus.
Government forces have assisted Hezbollah with aerial bombardments. Syrian helicopters drop barrels packed with metal shards and explosives. The bombs do not discriminate between rebels and civilians. One such bombing in the Myassar section of the city killed 36 people, 15 of whom were children between the ages of one and seven.
Khaled Hajjo says people in the rebel-held sections of Aleppo spent their time watching the sky. The goal of many is to live through a day without a government helicopter dropping a barrel on them.
Mahmoud Noureddin, a former rebel fighter and media activist, once worked at a textile factory in Layramoun. Now he and his wife have fled to a Turkish refugee camp with their newborn child. He believes many people have started hating the revolution. There seems to be little difference between the rebels and Assad’s dictatorial policies.
Noureddin’s opinion sums up the overriding sentiment of many. They suffer at the hands of rebel forces and the government. Both have detained and questioned people for hours. Neither side opposes the use of torture or holding someone for ransom. With neither the rebels nor Syrian government able to gain the advantage, Aleppo’s citizens remain trapped within a civil war.
By Brian T. Yates