Life and death in Aleppo: ‘You don’t get used to fear’

As Israel has once again been brutally collectively punishing the population of Gaza, the misery not far away in Syria has continued while attracting a small fraction of the world’s attention. This year, in Aleppo alone, 2,000 people have been killed with 560 of them children. The principle instrument of death has been barrel bombs dropped by the Assad air force.

A Syrian correspondent for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting writes: “Three barrel bombs, two missiles, five mortars… No, no the last explosion is caused by a barrel not a mortar.” This is the first discussion I have with my half-asleep self while turning off my morning alarm. I still use an alarm even though one is provided by the noise of missiles landing nearby.

It takes a couple of minutes to recognise where I am. Had I been told three years ago that I would be living in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, in the middle of war, an expert in distinguishing explosives by their noise, I would have laughed. Before the war, I was living in Damascus. Before the war, the regime had for many years been quietly imprisoning those who opposed it, but I didn’t know about the political prisoners until I went to university. Then I discovered that many of my relatives were killed in the 1980s when, in response to an uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the regime massacred thousands, including civilians, in the city of Hama.

Bringing myself back to today, I make my coffee while reading Facebook to see what damage last night’s bombings caused. I am lucky to have the money to pay for a satellite internet connection. This is the only way to get online here in the rebel-held areas of Syria because for almost two years all means of communication have been cut — landlines, the mobile network and the internet — as collective punishment for areas that rebelled against the regime. Fighters and activists use walkie-talkies but as a woman I am not allowed to use one. This area of the city has long been very conservative and women don’t participate in public life; now it is also a frontline in a warzone, even more of a male-only domain. [Continue reading…]

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