As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between News Deeply and a 30-year-old businessman. He is an Armenian from Aleppo who refuses to leave his home, no matter how bad the fighting gets. We asked him to share some of his experiences of what’s happening in the streets of Syria’s largest city.
It was Friday and I was walking alone on the street, not very far from my home near the al-Syrian neighborhood. I wanted to get something to eat and to see people walking outside, because I was becoming a lunatic after sitting at home for days. Besides, I cannot drive, because I have so little gas in my car, since all kinds of fuel are increasingly becoming a rare and valuable commodity.
Suddenly I was stopped at a military checkpoint, they asked for my ID card. While I was looking for my ID card in my wallet, the soldier in front of me noticed 20 Turkish Liras in my Wallet. He grabbed the wallet, the ID card and the money from my hand by force and started yelling at me.
“You son of a dog, how dare you mix dirty Turkish money with Syrian money and your Syrian identity card,” he screamed.
I told him that I forgot it in my wallet from my latest business trip to Turkey. He asked me what my job was and I told him that I work in general trading. He pushed my arm and brought me to his superior officer, who was wearing civilian clothes, oddly.
The officer apologized to me after hearing the story, then yelled at the soldier for bothering him with such issues. He turned to me and said:
“You better not carry Turkish money with you, because many Free Syrian Army soldiers are being caught with Turkish money in their possession. You could be easily mistaken for a rebel supporter, and no one would believe that you are innocent.”
I felt humiliated because as a Syrian with Armenian heritage, I take pride in my roots, and that soldier was not the right person to lecture to me about Turks. Yet again, I couldn’t say this to the men on the checkpoint. I didn’t think they would care or understand. I was already dying from fear and wanted to get away from them as quickly as possible.
On my way home, I received a phone call from my father who was in Lebanon for a short visit for medical treatment. He told me that he couldn’t cross the border to enter Syria from the Syrian side of the Masnaa border checkpoint; they were turning back all the passengers from Aleppo and telling them to go by plane. The border was reserved for those who were going to Damascus, Daraa or Sweida.
I still don’t understand the reason they gave me. It sounds insane. I feel like we are all living in a big cage. However, no matter what happens, I will not leave my city. This is my home and I belong here. These warriors will go away one day, but we will eventually stay.