To most people, the word ‘Aleppo’ is associated with a series of concrete carcasses engulfed in flames, the images of young children massacred, or a sense of empathy for the suffering of others. To me, it still triggers memories of waking up to an 11am “early breakfast” on the balcony atop a series of shop fronts looking out to the traffic picking up below, the sound of car horns and chitter chatter, and the smell of a thousand bottles of essence from the attar at the old souk.
Since the picking up of the #AleppoisBurning hashtag on social media, images of the old city have been bombarding us with the sole purpose of convincing us that this destruction is irreversible and for that, we should take action. There is no indication of what this action should be or how it should be taken out and so by the end of the second day of this social media storm I found myself feeling helpless, empty, and then strangely hopeful.
As far from conception as it may seem, the Syrian people have been faced with an eternal cycle of occupation, destruction, and then a rebuilding as far back as the writing of history books (and the span my father’s memory).
A (Brief) History
Starting with Ottoman occupation in 1516 and ending with independence from its status as a French mandate in 1946, the country underwent several struggles to gain its independence. During this time, battles between the native people of the land and the occupant of the time resulted in destruction of several of its larger cities, including Aleppo. However, after each destruction, there would be a titanic effort to produce a country that was stronger than it was previously.
After the country gained its independence, it built itself as one of the most economically stable countries in not only the Middle East, but the world, sailing itself into the black and producing cities where technological advancement thrived and the ruins of their past uncovered and preserved. One that stands out and presents itself as being of relevance, was the castle of Aleppo.
A Castle in the City
A historical site that had been preserved and historically investigated, indicated that as far back and 3000 BC, the site had been subject to earthquake damage causing complete demolition, every time being rebuilt to produce a stronger, more resilient structure. Today, it is destroyed once more, this time by human means. However, the people of both Aleppo and Syria have, time and time again, demonstrated their ability to emerge from this kind of hardship stronger and more willing to rebuild themselves. For that sole reason I have hope in Aleppo, I have hope in Syria and I have hope in the Syrian people.
I Have Hope
To say that the current situation is not heartbreaking would be to deny the struggle that is being endured, but to say that these people will not emerge from the ashes is to deny them their ability and their history.
Still not sure what I am talking about? let this short video do some of the talking.
So in light of all of this, I ask that we help them, we house them, we educate them, and provide them with the means to one day return home and remind us why the Arab world has always concurred that “al sha’b al suri sha’b jabbar” (the Syrian people are a people of colossal resilience).