I am writing this article for Aleppo. Anyone who lives in a historical city knows that every nation owns a city that they hold close to their hearts. Indeed, the life stories that unfold within those cities belong not only to their residents, but also to humanity as a whole. Throughout history, different religions and peoples interacted with each other in those cities, which also fell along ancient trading routes.
Each and every newcomer leaves something behind. Thus, those cities accumulate humanity, culture and history, through which the peaceful coexistence of different religions and nations becomes their hallmark.
In times of war, residents venerate their cities more than their lives. Indeed, they were always seen as venerable in wars, both for the victor and the defeated.
Markets, bazaars and houses embellished like brides; pavilions, orchards, and gardens – these characterize those cities in which synagogues, churches and mosques coexist with mutual respect. They inspire pilgrims, painters, poets, writers and everyone else who visits them.
Every nation holds dear a particular city in their hearts. Jerusalem is dear to Muslims, Christians and Jews together. Rome for Italians, Paris for the French, Beijing for Chinese, Esfahan for Persians, Beirut for all Arabs and Muslims, Florence for all of Europe, Cairo for Africa, Baghdad and Damascus for all Arabs, Cordoba and Granada for Muslims and Spanish, Marrakesh for Moors, Sana'a for Yemenis, St. Petersburg for Russians, Sarajevo and Belgrade for Balkans and Istanbul for all Muslims, the West and East, and the north and south…
I write all these to underline the present desperation of Aleppo. Humanity's invaluable heritage is being destroyed in front of everyone's eyes. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the age of Enlightenment, the heritage of the East has appeared less precious than that of the West.
In his book "The Islamic City between the East and the West," Bruce Masters writes about the city of Aleppo, in addition to those of Istanbul and İzmir. Aleppo, whose history is as old as that of Istanbul, is known as the city where Prophet Abraham resided. We are talking about an ancient city in which Akkadians, Sumerians, and Assyrians lived; Jewish traders flourished; Romans, Byzantines and Islam ruled; Mongols pillaged and Timur sacked; Mamelukes and Ottomans ruled; trade routes intersected in each century; Venetians, English and Dutch established consulates in the 15th Century; and the Silk Road concluded. Aleppo's historical character survived modernity through historical buildings, orderly houses, inns, bathhouses, markets and bazaars.
The most refined heritage of humanity accumulates in cities. If these cities die, humanity and civilization will pass away as well. By destroying history, we are destroying the future of humanity.
Aleppo is on fire. We do not know how many civilians died and how many children were orphaned. Yet, one of the most ancient cities on earth is on the edge of total destruction before our very our eyes. We do not know how many historical sites were destroyed and we don't know what will be left of Aleppo after the end of the Syrian civil war.
Cry out for Aleppo as if Rome, Paris and Istanbul were on fire. Let the U.N., all chambers of architects, city planners, historians and everybody else who loves cities raise their voices for Aleppo. Consider this as if Rome was on fire…
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.