Inside Aleppo. Photo Don McCullin.
[…] Haytham, 9 and sister Lena, 6 climb the high embankment between two half ruined high-rise buildings, their small hands maneuvering around the barbed wire. A few movements and they are at the top of this former barrier of concrete debris. Rebels built it in 2013, and when the Syrian army drove the Islamists from deep in the blocks, they left the barricades – just in case. Haytham and Lina come this way twice a day – to school and back home.
The children are no longer startled by bursts of gunfire. For them it’s a daily adventure, but it’s scary considering that the enemy is just across the wasteland crammed with burned out cars. The black al-Nusra flag waves from the top of a building three hundred meters away. The ends of the streets facing the block of ‘musalahins’ (gunmen in Arabic) are protected from snipers by huge tents.
Aleppo is the biggest Syrian city, the industrial center of the country and a melting pot of ethnicities and religions. Almost 2,5 million people lived there before the war, but now there is hardly a million.
The city is divided into two parts, the east and south held by governmental forces, the west and north by jihadists. Life on either side of the ragged boundary can hardly be called normal. The water system hasn’t worked for a long time, the pumping station is broken and cannot be repaired because it is located in ISIS territory. The same is true of electricity: only diesel generators operate.
For the locals’ reaction to Erdogan’s promise “to come to their rescue”, watch the video.