As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between Syria Deeply and a young professional in Aleppo. He is married with children and works in an insurance company. He describes himself as a liberal member of the middle class who used to spend his evenings smoking waterpipes in local cafes, until violence swept his city four months ago.
The Free Syrian Army can take this city at any moment. They are able to take it now, but they won’t, because they are using the battle as a pretext to raise money from their backers.
We are sick of both sides, because we are the ones paying the price for their merciless war.
There are troops stationed in front of my dad’s medical clinic. I see them a lot. I befriended one of them, who is an Alawite from Tartous. He always brags about how strong the army is and that they are going to crush the rebels very soon.
I asked him what they were waiting for and why they let this much destruction happen to Aleppo. He said [his brigade] left their safe and comfortable homes in the coastal cities to come here and fight “terrorists.” He said they are risking their lives and dying, while the Sunnis of Aleppo are sending their sons out of country to avoid serving in the army.
He added, “the Sunnis are not paying us any ‘pocket money’ for guarding their factories and work places…they’re paying to support the rebels.” Then he asked rhetorically, “Why are we supposed to defend them and their businesses…let them burn!”
One of my clients was kidnapped a couple of weeks ago. We looked into how to help him and his family. Finally, we found the kidnappers and agreed to pay 500,000 Syrian pounds ($6,100) in exchange for his release. We went to the agreed rebel checkpoint, gave them the money, but then they told us to go deeper to the other checkpoint. There they demanded another 200,000 Syrian pounds. After the third checkpoint they demanded another 300,000 Syrian pounds!
Basically, each checkpoint was selling a kidnapped man to the next and making profit, so that all of them get a share of the prize. We could finally free our client, but the family had to pay one million pounds in total at the end of the day.
At home, my kids ate the last piece of bread today and we didn’t know if we were going to get bread the next day, even at a very high price. My kids’ lips were blue from the cold, because there is no electricity. Both sides, the regime and the rebels, are equal and united in one thing: crime against these innocent people.
Nowadays, the people of Aleppo seem united in pain. The crisis united us all, government apologists and opposition sympathizers. A few days ago the rebels invaded and took over the thermal plant, which provides electricity for Aleppo. Shortly after that the government came and bombarded the place with jets. Final conclusion: people in Aleppo are living without heat, without lights, and in extremely dire humanitarian conditions.
The whole world has abandoned Aleppo. We are left between the cruelty of the regime and the indifferent mobs of the opposition. But above all this, I cannot blame anyone but ourselves, because those who are raising the prices of fuel, electricity generators, coal, bread and all basics are also people from Aleppo. They are our new warlords, who are making fortunes on the expense of the poor people. I cannot ask the world to sympathize with Aleppo, when we are the ones who are starving each other and leaving each other in the cold. Our children are dying slowly while some people are using the chaos to make as much money as they can. And that is haram, haram money (cursed or forbidden money).