While on my morning walk this morning, I stopped to chat with an elderly man named Mamoon. I see him several mornings a week, and while we have exchanged pleasantries a few times in the past, today was the first time we actually had a conversation. Mamoon is originally from Syria, though he and his family have been in the U.S. for many years. I said to him that I am very sad about the situation in Syria, and his reply surprised me. “It is what God wants,” he said. When I tried to argue with that notion, he smiled a sad, tired smile and patted my knee, and we moved on to other topics. We chatted this morning for about an hour, and I learned but a minute portion of his story, but it fascinated me. He was an engineer in Syria during the 1970s – 1980s, and as a member of the Engineers’ Association, he stood up to the human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Syrian government in the early 1980s. I am eager to hear more of his story, and it is what led me to finish this post that I began last week about the tragedy in Aleppo.
“The indiscriminate bombing of the rebel-held part of Aleppo by Syrian and Russian air forces continued this week. According to the World Health Organization, 338 people were killed in the attacks this week, including 0ver 100 children.” – Justin Salhani, Think Progress, 01 October 2016
Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson may not know where Aleppo is, but apparently the Russian and Syrian air forces have no trouble finding it. The political situation in Syria is well beyond my scope, however the humanitarian situation is not. My neighbors came here from Syria because their lives were in danger, and in the three years I have known them I have heard so many stories of parents taking turns staying awake all night, watching for soldiers or rebels to come attack with machine guns, waiting for bombs to drop, night after night. Stories of people living without enough food, without clean water, electricity or refrigeration.
Two weeks ago, taking advantage of the ceasefire negotiated between the U.S. and Russia, a 31-truck convoy, with approval from the Syrian Foreign Ministry, and loaded with food and medical supplies, headed into a rural area near Aleppo. That afternoon, the trucks arrived in Urum al-Kubra. As the trucks were being unloaded into a warehouse around 7:00 p.m., the bombing began and would continue into the night, leaving the convoy destroyed and at least 20 people dead. There is strong evidence that the planes that dropped the bombs were Russian, possibly aided by Syrian planes. 31 trucks loaded with food supplied by the United Nations (UN), food for people who are starving and living under a blanket of fear every day, gone. The UN has announced that it will suspend humanitarian aid operations at this time. And the cease fire has also died.
Two days ago, a major trauma hospital in eastern Aleppo was bombed … for the third time within a week. Damage and casualty estimates for Saturday’s bombing are not yet available as of this writing.
“Nearly 300,000 people – including 100,000 children – are trapped in Aleppo’s eastern districts, which civil defence workers say have been hit by 1,900 bombs in the past week.” – Al Jazeera, 02 October 2016
The group of volunteers known as “The White Helmets” say they have witnessed 1700 air strikes on Aleppo in an eight-day period.
“There is nowhere that Syrian civilians can hide or take cover in the city of Aleppo. They are all just basically sitting in their homes waiting to be killed and there’s no solutions for these people.” – Anonymous Syrian volunteer
So much is said within the eyes of this 7-year-old girl, Bana al-Abed, living in Aleppo with her mother and 5-year-old brother. Bana and her mother have used social media to chronicle their life under siege. On their Twitter account, @alabedbana, which now has more than 4,000 followers since they began tweeting on 24 September with the singular message: “I need peace,” Bana and Fatemah offer snippets of life under the bombs, and images of the carnage in their city interspersed with videos of Bana drawing with her friends or learning English.
This post is not about U.S. politics, but it is about humans. It is about innocent men, women and children living a life we cannot even imagine. It is about the contrast between our daily lives as compared to the daily lives of those such as Bana and her family. Those who declare that we should not give refuge to the people of Syria … those who decry that life in the U.S. is “terrible” and “just horrible”, that we are deprived, underprivileged, and constantly fearful of terrorism … those who would claim that the U.S. is “in the worst shape it has ever been” … take a look at some of these photos. Go to Bana’s twitter account and read some of her entries. Then tell me again, after sleeping peacefully in your soft bed, eating a healthy breakfast, looking out at your lush green lawn, hearing birds chirping … tell me again how damn hard our lives are.
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