As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between Syria Deeply and a law student at Aleppo University. He stopped going to class after the regime crackdown on student protests earlier this year.
The student, originally from Raqqa, allowed us to reveal his full name but Syria Deeply decided to keep it private. Last week his classmate was abducted by regime agents after speaking to the press, revealing his true identity.
SD: How is Aleppo University today?
It’s very bad. It’s open but there are a small number of students. Army forces are spread everywhere and the students have no room to breathe. If one of the students is a wanted person – on the government’s blacklist – they can take him easily. The dorms in the university are now used to house refugees.
SD: Why aren’t students coming back?
They fear the fighting in Aleppo. Most of the roads are blocked and there are very few homes and neighborhoods [safe enough] to stay in.
SD: Tell us the story of Aleppo University over the past year.
It started in March of 2011 in the dorms. We started going to protests, then the armed forces started to clamp down on the movement in a strong way…they were afraid the movement will be bigger.
(Large protest at Aleppo University in May 2012).
SD: From what we understand, there is a famous moment [in May 2012] where they came in to raid the university. What happened that night?
That morning there was a very big protest in the university. Because the [U.N.] observers where there, the protest was getting bigger and bigger. The security forces waited for the observers to leave then attacked as a revenge on the protesters. They came in the dorms and the yard with machine guns, doshka, and started shooting at the windows.
SD: They went inside? What happened there?
They went inside. Students started scattering everywhere and those that were caught were beaten. There was a large amount of people injured. There were female students who stood in front of the bus of the security forces to stop them from going inside; they continued and just ran them over.
(Student activist film the crackdown on a protest from inside a U.N. observer’s vehicle).
SD: Do you know how many people died?
Seven. But there were a lot of injured and kidnapped. After that they ordered an evacuation of the dorms and kicked out all the students. They closed the university for about a week. After that they opened the university, but only reopened the dorms to the girls. They guys never went back.
SD: Until now?
SD: When did the refugees start to come in?
SD: Where did they come from?
From Aleppo, the center of Aleppo. The neighborhoods that were hit. Salahudein, Sha’ar.
SD: How did your life change?
From the second semester I couldn’t go back to the university because I was wanted by the government.
SD: What do you want to do next? What do you plan to do?
Studying is impossible now…after the revolution I’ll go back to Aleppo University.
SD: What does your family think about what you are doing?
My family supports me.
SD: How is Raqqa now?
There is hope for it. There are around 800,000 refugees there from other cities. The FSA knows that this area is full of refugees…they prefer not to make conflict in the city because there are lots of refugees.
SD: Do you think Aleppo is close to being in full rebel control? What’s the state?
It’s a bit difficult because the FSA is advancing a lot, but the regime doesn’t want to lose Aleppo and is using aircrafts to stop them…the regime knows that this is the last card because Aleppo is a very important city in Syria.
So for that reason now they are using the MiGs, the aircrafts. We just need anti-aircraft weapons and we will be done.