Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Syrian Horrorscape

Obama's legacy in Syria.

At the New York Review of Books, "In the Horrorscape of Aleppo":

Over six years of war, millions of Syrians have suffered; beyond the almost 500,000 killed, many more have been paralyzed, disfigured, blinded, traumatized, and uprooted from their homes and communities. As of January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered nearly five million Syrian refugees, in addition to the six million displaced within the country. The demolished neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo make this brutally clear. They contained more than half of Aleppo’s population, until opposition fighters began seizing the area in 2012. Although measures of population movement are guesses at best, international aid agencies report that at least 50,000 eastern Aleppines fled to the western part of the city to avoid shelling by the regime or chaotic jihadist rule. Thousands more made their way to the government-controlled, war-free coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous, to Lebanon, or to Turkey, which offered visa-free entry, work permits, and, for many months in 2015, a blind eye to any who dared the perilous sea route to Europe.

In December 2016 the Syrian army, with Russian support, conquered the last insurgent strongholds in Aleppo’s east. UNHCR officials believe that about 36,000 people, rebels and their families, departed by bus under Russian protection for the opposition redoubt in Idlib province. What they left behind conjures memories of Dresden, Coventry, and Tokyo in the aftermath of World War II. The multiple forms of destruction testify to the ingenuity of the world’s arms factories. Bombs have transformed Aleppo into an Escher-like vision of six-foot-thick concrete slabs twisted into braids; five-story apartment buildings compressed into piles ten feet high; and collapsed fa├žades of entire streets exposing rooms with ceiling fans eerily intact and revolving in the wind.

This is the horrorscape to which many residents are returning, only to find themselves still homeless. They camp in makeshift tents beside the remains of their homes, sticking close by to deter thieves from seizing unclaimed land at a time when many deeds have been lost or destroyed. Some sleep inside buildings that are exposed to the elements and subject to collapse at any moment. Children die when balconies crumble or they find shiny objects that turn out to be unexploded bombs...
Almost unbelievable, in this day and age.

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