Aleppo residents left in hands of oppressors

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published 22.06.2017 00:28

When Aleppo was "liberated" by regime forces along with Iranian-backed militias, thanks to Russian aerial support, the Syrian state TV broadcast celebrations. People were amused with the return of the regime forces, claiming to have achieved liberty after getting rid of the radicals. Yet the other part of the city, which remained under siege for months and which suffered from a lack of access to basic services, was a horror. Destroying all hospitals, the irrigation system and cutting all the roads used to deliver humanitarian aid, the regime claimed it was for all Syrians. Nonetheless, the recent reports from Aleppo indicate there is no change, compared to the pre-war era.

In March 2011, Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voices against the dictatorship. However, the regime's response was not as peaceful as the protests and the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The opposition made rapid advances against the regime, which later came to a halt when it was divided internally and the regime was supported externally. While the opposition groups had to deal with Daesh and al-Qaida-linked groups, the Damascus administration enjoyed an unprecedented support from Russia and Iran. The more the opposition lost areas, the more people had to flee to safer areas since there was no security. Moreover, the insecurity was caused directly by the regime troops and other militias.

Activists have reported several incidents of rape in Aleppo in recent weeks. Although it is not possible to verify these allegations, the pre-war era was not fundamentally different, as Syria was renowned for its disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and its most brutal police stations and prisons. For instance, Tadmour prison was a synonym for explaining the horror of a place. The Shabbiha, a wide secret police network, was everywhere and authorized to undertake any kind of action, taking the country to a dark place on the issue of human rights. Therefore, the arbitrary killings, detention, confiscation and rape incidents are not that unbelievable. "Assad's forces, or Shabbihas, kidnapped a 17-year-old girl in the Sayf Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo and took turns raping her. Last Wednesday, Shabbihas kidnapped and raped a girl in public in the Maydan neighborhood, and dispersed the crowds of civilians by firing live bullets. This coincided with the firing on of a civilian named Amar Al-Aqra in Aleppo's New City. A day before these cruel events, a child was run over by Assad militiamen in the Furqan neighborhood, resulting in his immediate death. Another child died after being hit on purpose by a car driven by Assad's forces in the Heidariyah neighborhood," Aleppo24 reported last week. After giving many more rape incidents and underlining residents' despair, the agency said, "The Shabbihas are taking advantage of the power and authority given to them by Assad in the city to do anything they want to without being held accountable."

The idea of deploying U.N. troops in Aleppo was initially rejected and there is no solution as such, as Russia claims to be responsible for the security in the city. Yet, unformed reports say Russia is going to withdraw its soldiers after an attack on its base.

Russia's ambassador in Geneva said last week that 25,000 Christians have returned to Aleppo while the International Red Cross said the total number was 80,000. Yet, there was no detail on why only Christians were mentioned or where they came from. There was no further information or elaboration of where those people were settled in the totally devastated city.

Since the war has become multidimensional after PKK-linked groups also started their aims of establishing autonomous rule in the country's north and to control some rural parts of Aleppo, and due to the fact that there is no way for the media to enter the city, Aleppo remains in the dark and its residents have been left to the hands of their oppressors.

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