Monday, July 27, 2015

Eye-witness account from my friend in Aleppo, Syria -- this horror is what our tax money is buying as our "leaders" continue to fund and support ISIS

Writes my friend:

    The following are three articles that I have written from Aleppo. I hope you enjoy them.  Sorry for my typos and grammar mistakes.

Traveling to the other part of the city:

     It wasn't me, but a friendly taxi driver we know, who wanted to visit his house in the other side, where the terrorists and the so-called "rebels" control.  He heard that the Syrian jets attacked the quarter and bombed a close place to his.  He went in the Eid vacation (17-19th of July) with his wife, for two days.

      A trip that used to take 20-30 min from one part of the city to another, took something like 7 hours, because they had to go around 25 miles away from the city to make a U-turn and come back from other area, passing many villages, and to go into the areas under the terrorists control, till they reach the eastern part of Aleppo city, and finally to reach their house.

     They went in a bus, and he didn't take his taxi car as terrorists might take it from him by force. He told me that the trip costs them $70-$100 within 2 days (transportations, eating ...etc), he was complaining because it's a lot of money for him (it's equal to 100-150 paid trips he made with his taxi, he might need a week of hard working to compensate that money).  They took most of their cloths that was still there, thanks to their only 2 neighbors who are still living in the building who protected their apartment.  The rest apartments and houses in the quarter had been rubbed and stolen or damaged because they turned into nesting places for the terrorists.

     Some numbers and details might not be that accurate, because of my poor memory, however I thought you might be interested in knowing it. Many good people are still going from one part to the other. Many people didn't deserve to be kicked out from their homes, and wasn't their choice to stay over there or became refugees over here or somewhere else. Visiting each side is still possible for people, but it's dangerous, and I won't do it no matter what.

The Citadel

     As I understood, on the 13th/14th of July, the Syrian army -- who are occupying the very strategic acropolis hill of the ancient citadel of Aleppo at the middle of the ancient walled city, which is under the terrorists' control -- knew about a new tunnel that the terrorists were digging and filling it up with explosives, very close to the citadel's borders, so they made a counter attack and forced the terrorists to leave that tunnel in rush, however they set fire in these explosives before they left, and that explosion was enough to destroy part of the ramparts of the citadel.

     I'm wondering if the army didn't know about that tunnel, and if terrorists drilled a longer and deeper tunnel, and armed it with 10 times more explosives, may be the whole citadel was going to fall apart.

     I saw some new and clear digital images from the citadel to the old city via a friend of my friend, however the date of these pictures belong to a couple of days ago, prior to the above mentioned attack.  The few buildings around the citadel, had been damaged totally or partially. Khosrawiyya/Chusruviyya mosque, the first and oldest Ottoman mosque in Aleppo (built in 1544) had disappeared.  Same for Carlton Hotel which occupied a century old building as an investment in millions of dollars.  The building of the municipality or where the Mayor used to work (~75 years old?, 12 stories?) had been 80% destroyed.

     A Memluk or Ayyoubid period small mosque and religious school (~700-1,000 years old) had disappeared except of its gate and its little minaret above the gate.  The Traditional/Turkish Bath of Yalbogha al-Nasseri (~700-800 years old) is still there, but some of its big domes had collapsed. Another century-old building - that I remember sitting in for 3-4 hours 15 years ago, copying manually some information to use in my graduation project - had been damaged so badly, specially its beautiful double mirrored spiral stairs at the entrance, they became history with no trace.

     Those buildings had been destroyed by the same technique of the terrorists, within the last 4 years of war in the city: digging tunnels, or depending on ancient existed net of tunnels under the whole old city of Aleppo, filling them up with explosives, to bomb everything above them.  Meanwhile such huge explosion took place, terrorist troops will attack another goal, mostly the citadel where the Syrian army is.  They failed so far to control it, but they damaged the citadel a lot till now.

     Although what I mentioned above is horrible, and I know about other famous areas (markets, bazaars, mosques and churches) that had been sabotaged or destroyed; I was pleased that way more area and buildings of the old city are still there, as I know them, and may be even better after they had been renovated and preserved in the last decade before the crisis.  May be they are not that famous or master pieces, but they are still there untouched or scratched.

     The war targeted the symbols of Aleppo (and the same strategy in all Syria, of course).  The bazaar of Aleppo, which was there since the 4th century AD, since the Hellenistic era, is a symbol, and it had been burned totally (it took a week of continuous burning, and the burning's smell reached every corner in the city).

     The Great / Umayyad Mosque is a symbol, its almost 1000-year-old minaret had been terminated by dynamites, and its preaching stage had been dismantled (mostly to Turkey), several walls and sides of it had been completely destroyed, and they turned the mosque into its original and oldest land use: an Agora (Plaza) in the Hellenistic era, and so on for the rest lost places.

     The last symbol left of Aleppo, is the most famous one: the Citadel.  I can see part of it from our balcony, but I can see it more clearly from the roof of the building. It's still there, resisting the "zombies" and their funding states. It had been injured a lot, but it's still there dominating the scene of the city.  It's where they found the Storm God's Temple (~2nd millennium BC) few years ago.  It faced many invaders, including the Mongols and Crusades.  It had been damaged severely several times through history, but it had been rebuilt up over and over again, as an immortal symbol to the inhabitants of one of the oldest continuous cities in history.  I just wish not to witness its total destruction, as the same of what happened to its neighbor buildings mentioned above.


     Aleppo city had shrank to a fifth its size, and became so crowded with refugees that fled their areas after they fell in the hands of terrorists.

      I walk everyday in the city. I see children and girls without limbs because of a mortar over here or shrapnel over there that hit them randomly and caused them a terrible accident and horrible memory to stay with them forever.  The girl who lost one leg is standing on the other and selling bread, while the little boy who lost one arm is selling chewing gums.  Those are the "injured" people who come in the news, attached to their numbers in one line, after each attack from the terrorists. "injured" doesn't mean scratched or having a bleeding finger; it means someone lost his eyes or her limbs.

      At night, some areas in Ramadan were still playing live music while audiences smoke their sheesha and have cold beverages.  I admired that the spirit of musicians is still over there, resisting all the harsh situation of the crisis.

     On the other side, and because of the war and lack of income, many females are selling themselves for money.  Prostitution became so normal in Aleppo, and with different ranks for each social level.

      The daily talking of every youth is immigrating and leaving the city. Everyone wants to leave to Europe, mostly to Sweden, which accepted a lot of Syrian refugees so far.  The usual trip starts from Syria to Turkey, then they go in boats to Greece, and that is a very dangerous trip because many lost their lives and sink in the sea.  Once they reach to Greece, they go into a long process, and end either in Germany or Sweden.

     There is a new "market" for smuggling people to Europe in such illegal ways. Everyone is living on gossips that once they reach Sweden, the government will give them free houses and 500 Euros per person.  I keep telling them that this amount of money might be a fortune in Syria, but it's not over there, and life is not that cheap.  However, they just wanna leave and work whatever over there, because they are worried about their children's future and safety.

     What happened in Syria in general, and Aleppo in particular, is something like a great "shock," which people still unable to believe.

     Between 2006 and 2011; Turkey, Qatar, Saudi and mostly all Europe and the U.S. opened all their relations with Syria and funded many international investments in the country.  History will say its final word if that act was a trap or a bribe or a bad luck, to shower the people in unprecedented wealth, and then take it all back within few years, and replacing that shower with mortars and shelling.

      All of a sudden, malls started to built up in big cities like mushrooms.  Brand new cars and vehicles were so ordinary to see in the streets, including Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari.  In my neighborhood and other areas, many new buildings had replaced old ones.  Many friends I know told me that they were distributing $20,000 or $25,000 as salaries for workers in factories and contractor firms per week!  Work was amazing, everyone was happy, a lot of money, a plenty of wealth, and marriages and having new kids became more than normal.

     I remember when my mother and brother told me to leave America and come back to Syria in 2010 because it was booming over here.

     My friend who is an architect living in Germany, came back by then to work on an architectural project for a Dutch firm in Damascus.  It's like reaching the whole country and people up to the peak of wealth, and then watching it collapsing as if there was an earthquake destroyed everything in its way.  Unbelievable tragedy.

      My brother saw his once-rich and wealthy friend selling little stuff (plastics, gums, etc) on the street in front of a mosque, and he didn't believe it.  He told my brother that he lost everything, and he has a family to feed and to put food on the table.  His factory had been stolen and dismantled to Turkey, his land had been burned, his properties had been either damaged or stolen, and he became bankrupted in no time.

     Each day, there is new story, real tragedies, that reach my ears and heart.  All of a sudden, everything ended.

      Factories that cost $8 million and more had been stolen to Turkey, and one owner had a stroke and died because of such loss.

      The worker who used to receive his salary from an architect or an investor, became a leader of a "rebellion" battalion, and now he can rape unlimited ladies, and have millions of US dollars, and came back with his militia to destroy the work of this architect or that investor, out of God knows what...  Rage?  Seeking lust and more wealth in shorter way?  Revenge?

     Another person who I met yesterday, told me that he had been kidnapped and they asked for a huge ransom, that made him bankrupted after being so wealthy.  He lost his factories as well, and trade, and now he is suffering from diabetes and blood pressure and heart troubles.

      You'll see it in each person's eyes: a type of sparkle with a light smile, while remembering how they were so rich and wealthy, traveling to Europe 3 times a year for pleasure and tourism, having the best life ever over here in Syria, and having great dreams for their children and potential promises for building the country and modernize their cities....  Then, all of a sudden, everything disappeared.

       One old friend told me that his youngest 2 girls, who are 4 and 6 years old, didn't know what a sea and mountain looks like till couple of months ago when he managed to take his family to a trip to the coast and mountains.  They didn't leave their house for 4-5 years, and they only saw mountains and sea through cartoons or illustrated tales.

       Neighbors' girl (who is from my generation) came back to live with her parents with her 3 teenage girls after the terrorists occupied her house in other "infected" area in the city.  They looted whatever they could, and didn't leave before sabotaging and covering the whole rooms and furniture with ....... shit!

       Sabotaging could be in burning or breaking furniture, but when someone sees all his rooms and beloved furniture and family pictures stained with human shit, that is so disgusting and humiliating.  I actually heard such stories when I was still in America, but I thought it was an individual act, not a common strategic way in that sector of the city, to humiliate people and push them to leave their areas.  So, their daughter sold her apartment and didn't want to see it again, and went back to her parents'.  Others became refugees.  Others sold their daughters to the prostitution market... stories and stories, that break my heart, and wonder how all that happened, and who planned for it.

      I'll leave it the stories here.  Have a great weekend.