Aleppo: What It Is, and Why It’s Important

By Fatimah Elghazawi.

In a day and age driven by technology, it’s only natural that most individuals gain their awareness of news and ongoing events around the world from social media. We live during a time in which there are, unfortunately, more and more attacks and shootings, and the first spot many people visit to learn more information is Facebook or Twitter. As a teen, I, too, am a social media user, and it seems as though each day I log onto an account of mine, something terrible has happened. From the safety of my own home, I scroll through my newsfeed, watching individuals from countries from all over erupt with anger over events every single day. Hashtags on Twitter quickly arose after the Charlie Hebdo and Ohio State Shootings; friends and family from overseas spoke out against the Cairo cathedral bombing in December; the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting led to a wave of pain across the LGBTQ community. A sense of togetherness is brought to life in times of crisis, and that can be comforting—and is comforting—to many. However, I often find myself wondering why so many people fail to mention an ongoing battle that has killed and wounded thousands upon thousands of people in the Middle East.

Why is no one speaking for the people of Aleppo, Syria? Where is the outrage?

I want to begin by clarifying that I am by no means attempting to undermine the other horrific events that have occurred in years past, and those that continue to impact many each minute. But as I browse through my various modes of social media, I have seen little to no talk about the crisis in Aleppo. There are no hashtags; there are no “thoughts and prayers” being sent; there are no statuses posted expressing sadness and frustration. That being said, I believe that Aleppo is a subject that many do not have a solid understanding of—and it is one that they should. A question I yearn to have an answer for is this: what makes the crisis in Syria any less important or tragic than any of the other events that have happened?

Syria’s Civil War is a conflict that has spanned years, and it would be a lengthy, as well as confusing, explanation if I managed to incorporate each detail of the crisis. Thus, I believe it would be best to offer a simplified version of what has been going on in Aleppo. The war is the deadliest conflict the 21st century has witnessed thus far. In 2011, what become known as the Arab Spring revolts led to the end of the presidencies of Tunisian Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian Hosni Mubarak. In March of that same year, what began as peaceful protests arose in Syria after 15 boys were arrested and tortured for taking part in writing graffiti in support of the revolution. Under the instruction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the government killed hundreds of protesters and imprisoned even more in response to the demonstrations.

That July, military defectors formed the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group, and this was the point in which Syria began to slide into a civil war. Various foreign countries such as Russia and the United states have become involved, each supporting different parts of the equation. ISIS has become a part of the crisis, rebel groups continued to fight against one another and the government for power, and the city has been left in ruins with thousands of people without a home. Millions of Syrians have gone abroad as refugees as a result, with at least half being children. On December 22, 2016, an evacuation was completed while the Syrian Army declared it had taken complete control over the city. As of this month, the Syrian government has declared plans for repairing the war-torn city. One thing is certain: rebuilding Syria will be a lengthy, and extremely difficult process.

It’s clear. Aleppo has not gotten the attention and outrage it deserves. A simple Google search will show you before-and-after photographs of Aleppo, a once beautiful city considered to be one of the most prized UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Children have lost their friends and family; many have risked their lives attempting to flee bombings. Middle Eastern observers of the conflict have often taken to Twitter to express their frustration at world leaders and their respective citizens over what they see as a dismissal, or downright ignorance, of the slaughter that has ensued.

I, too, am disappointed. I came back to school after winter break, hearing certain peers discuss their dismay over the gifts they got for Christmas, as they were not what they wanted. I am not a saint, and I have complained before, but I never forget the fact that I have so much to be thankful for. There are children who lost their homes, family, and friends overseas. I really hope that we unify to change that.

As a society, we need to be more thankful. We have the pleasure of having a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in, and a parent’s arms where we can find comfort during tough times. We do not have to worry about losing our best friends, about a bomb hitting our houses, about not having clean water to drink. I think that it’s important to realize that there is so much happening, and it’s crucial to understand what exactly is occurring. We must pay attention. We must raise our concerns. It is our duty to serve as role models for those around us so they, too, begin to take a stand against conflicts such as Aleppo. We need to be voices for those who don’t have one. Watch the news, become an aware, informed individual. You owe it to yourself and those around you to make that positive choice. Now’s your chance.