Christmas in Aleppo, a year after the tragedy. Interview with Mahmoud al-Basha

Posted: 01/27/2018 by editormary in Activists and Activism, Assad, Children's Corner, Human Rights, Interviews, Middle East Issues, People's Movements / Struggles, Refugees, Somoud: Arab Voices of Resistance, Syria

mahmoud al bashaInterview with Mahmoud al-Basha by Francesco Petronella, previously published in the print version of Sedici Pagine Magazine

Q: A year ago, around Christmastime, the city of Aleppo was besieged, bombed and then evacuated. What are your memories of those days?

A: I still perfectly remember everything that happened. The insane bombardment of the Assad regime and the Russians struck the city with weapons, even ones that are internationally prohibited. I still remember when the Russians started to use thermobaric missiles and bunker busters. At that time, I was doing whatever I could to allow the international media to understand what was going on in the city. I worked a great deal with them to show and document how the Russians and the Assad regime were killing innocent civilians. They took aim at all the hospitals and water tanks, without allowing any humanitarian aid to enter into the city under siege. In this desperate situation, the Russian air raids struck my neighbourhood, causing the death of 31 civilians. One of the was my brother Anas.

anas clown

Anas al-Basha, the “clown” of Aleppo

Anas refused to leave the city before the siege started. I still remember his answer when I begged him to leave as soon as he could: “I’m not going to leave the city, I don’t want the children of Aleppo to feel so sad, I want to do something for them so that they smile and I want to help the poor civilians who are still living here.”

Only three days before he was killed, Anas was recording a voice message for me through WhatsApp to explain to me what the situation was like and how he was helping the people. “Now, I’m going to the bakery – he said – we’re going to distribute bread to the people who haven’t got anything to eat.” Then, all of a sudden, there was the terrible noise of an explosion that was just steps away from him. “Can you hear what an awful life we are living?” he asked me. “The Russian raids are striking everything, every single day.”

When he died, my family and I were unable to even give him our final goodbyes. My friends buried him in Aleppo with other innocent people, killed like he was.

Q: How has life in Aleppo changed a year since then?

Life hasn’t changed since last year. The only difference is that there are no longer the bombing raids, which ceased once the Assad forces controlled the entire city. The majority of the urban fabric is destroyed, simply rubble. The regime was unable to guarantee a better life, or even a normal life, to the people. In Aleppo, before the war, there were around 5 million people. Today, there are only 2 million. The majority of the civilian population has become homeless or has sought refuge in other parts of Syria or abroad. The persons who live in the city today have  returned under the control of regime intelligence, without freedom or rights. Most of the young people have fled Syria in order to avoid forced recruitment in the regime army. Today, Aleppo is swarming with militias that come from various countries. Everywhere you look you see Russian, Iranian and Iraqi flags. The Assad regime no longer has any decisional power, Russia and Iran are the ones who hold the reins, especially in the military and political sphere.

Q: After what took place in Aleppo a year ago, how has the relationship between Christians and Muslims changed in the city and in the entire country?

A: The relationship between Christians and Muslims has changed. As I said before, around 3 million people had left the city from the start of the war, among them, many Christians. They weren’t really involved in the war because it was very easy for them to get visas for the EU or the USA. The strategy of the Assad regime, since the start of the Syrian revolution, was that of taking advantage of the minorities and using them as a pawn, where they would pretend for the Western countries that they were the only ones protecting them. There are many Christians against the Assad regime, but they left Syria. Many of them play an active role in the political Syrian opposition.

Q: What do you think life will be like in Aleppo and in Syria a year from now?

A: I think it will be exactly the same as it is right now. Aleppo will remain a ghost town and a place of destruction. There is no water, no electricity. There is no hope and no future in the eyes of the civilians. Very many families of Aleppo have become refugees in different countries. Hundreds of extended families are no longer together because of this war.

The city of Aleppo will return to be full of life only when the war ends. When the regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of persons will answer before the international courts of justice. When 500 thousand detainees are freed from the military prisons. When the international community will finally judge Bashar al-Assad for having used chemical weapons against innocent civilians. Aleppo will once again be a beautiful place only when those who have killed my brother Anas are facing Justice and are no longer able to kill persons, to kill children.

Mahmoud al-Basha is a Syrian journalist, fixer and activist. Hailing from Aleppo, Mahmoud currently lives in Turkey where he continues his work to raise awareness of the suffering and the terrible situation of his country.

Translation by Mary Rizzo
Original: https://levocidellaliberta.com/2018/01/27/natale-ad-aleppo-un-anno-dopo-la-tragedia/

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Comments
  1. Bobby says:

    In the West we only know our own griefs which are personal and in a society which is safe. I do not know what to say.
    One can share happiness but we can never share pain.

    Thank you for writing. I will say nothing trite.

    Yours

    Bobby

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