SHUBHDA CHAUDHARY | 15 DECEMBER, 2016
For more than 5,000 years, Aleppo had been the cradle of human civilization. It is believed that Abraham used to graze the herds of sheep on the slopes of Aleppo and later give the milk to the needy villagers. In fact, a Hellenic civilization was even started here by Alexander the Great. The three Abrahamic faiths have been practiced in Aleppo and it is even mentioned in Psalms 60 as well as the Holy Book of Samuel. As time passed, several major empires had Aleppo as their key metropolis. It was also a significant part of the ancient Silk Route. One of the largest Citadels is found here which played a pivotal role during the Crusades.
Unfortunately, Aleppo like the rest of Syria, drowned in the massive manslaughter and violence since 2012. As the Arab Spring dawned in various regions of West Asia, Syria sadly witnessed its own demise. Air raids, bombarding, injuries and merciless deaths became a common phenomenon. War and conflict created its own course, odious and haunting. Perhaps today, it seems that finally the Battle of Aleppo is towards its end. Russia and Turkey have brokered a deal through which the remaining rebels and opposition figures can safely move out along with their family members as the Syrian military takes control of rebel-held Aleppo. Interestingly, United States has not played any role in brokering this deal. They have always been suspicious of Russian intentions and solemnly want a ceasefire. Well, ceasefires in the past have utterly failed in Syria, as the world continues to watch the wrath of death.
The historic city of Aleppo, one of the largest ones in Syria has been completely destroyed. The mayhem and destruction is being compared with the Warsaw Ghetto as well as the Stalingrad. The eastern side of the city has been completely destroyed while the western part was under control of the Syrian military. The final military push comes along with several government executions, missing men as well as rape of women. Even UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has revealed how shocked he was to known the figures. It is alarming, indeed.
It is being called the greatest human catastrophe of the 21st century. Be it Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, all the organizations are in a limbo, not knowing what is the way out. As of December 13, more than 600 children have gone missing after they tried to flee away from Aleppo. And sadly, these are just official figures. The real indications of the extent of death and destruction cannot even be counted.
Today, the Syrian population which amounts to nearly 22 million is heavily dependent on international aid. Analysts believe that after the fall of Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has nothing more to fear. The fragmented, divided and weak rebel forces have been outnumbered with the help of the Russian, Iranian as well the Shia forces from Lebanon. Aleppo’s loss has been a failure for the West, Gulf Monarchies and Turkey that were aiding the rebel factions. For the past two years, US Secretary of State John Kerry had been trying very hard to broker a peaceful transition of power and he failed miserably in this pursuit. Today, a peace deal does not even include United States.
At the same time, one cannot ignore the several multiple layers of the conflict in Syria. The rebel groups are nationalist, Islamist, local, ideological as well as those belonging from Al Qaeda. In the north-eastern part, the control of ISIS cannot be ruled out. Damascus has been utterly stunned by watching how ISIS recently took over Palmyra. The fight has promulgated here in between the ISIS and the Syrian rebels themselves. Thus, even after Aleppo, there is no end in sight for the battle in Syria. The conflict has now involved several countries, regional players, sectarian divisions and fragmented ideologies. Real reconciliation is not on the cards as the common Syrian suffers daily. Even international diplomacy has miserably failed as perhaps the biggest holocaust of the 21st century carries on.
(The writer is a currently completing her PhD at JNU, New Delhi)