In the summer of 2016, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepped up its attacks on rebel forces and Syrian civilians, this time besieging the ancient city of Aleppo. In Syria’s largest city, territory had been divided between government control in the west and opposition control in the east. The government surrounded the eastern part of the city, indiscriminately bombing the residents and systematically blocking delivery of food and medical supplies.
The main roadway in or out, Castello Road, became a harrowing passage dotted with burned out cars and permeated by the smell of death. Anyone attempting to enter or leave faced attack.
Cut off from outside assistance, the 300,000 desperate residents in Aleppo, including 120,000 children, lived largely without food, water, medical supplies or electricity. They faced daily, deadly attacks and, potentially, starvation.
This exhibit, currently available to Museum visitors in our Wexner Center, tells the story of life under siege and chronicles the efforts of some of those trying to assist.
Many organizations are working to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians and to protect the medical personnel trying to treat them. We are grateful for the assistance of the following in the production of this video:
- Physicians for Human Rights
- Syrian American Medical Society
- The Syria Campaign
- Syrian Emergency Task Force
- Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Special thanks to Mahmoud Rashwani and the Aleppo Media Center for providing photos and video footage.
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WARNING: This video contains graphic content
For the last five years, Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime has systematically tortured and killed civilians under the guise of targeting opposition fighters.
In July 2016, Assad’s regime surrounded the rebel-held part of Aleppo, bombed the residents, and blocked delivery of food and medical supplies.
Aleppo illustrates the story of just one Syrian city in peril.
These Syrian American doctors from Chicago spent weeks this summer in eastern Aleppo attempting to save lives.
Dr. Samer Attar (Northwestern Memorial Hospital):
Right now they’re being sieged, and starved and bombed. People there haven’t had any fresh food, fuel, medicines, supplies, or humanitarian personnel coming in or out. The whole city is totally sealed off and cut off from the outside world.
Dr. Mohammed Sahloul (Syrian American Medical Society Global Former President):
First of all, there’s no day and night. You have 24 hours of work. Every few hours, you have new victims of barrel bombings, or air strikes and you have to take care of them.
I saw a patient, his name is Ahmed, five years old. He had shrapnel of barrel bombings in his spinal cord. Unfortunately, he died one day after I left.
And this is one of hundreds of patients that the doctors and the nurses have to deal with every day.
I’ve seen children pointing to the sky. And then you see this dot, which is the helicopter, and you hear the sounds, the rumbling sound of the helicopter. And then this dot will throw another dot, and this is a barrel bomb.
A barrel bomb is a big barrel that is stuffed with TNT and shrapnel. And it’s thrown on a neighborhood.
It is a weapon of mass destruction, it can destroy the whole block. And the only thing that you can do if you are a civilian and you are seeing this that you can pray and run or hide.
Dr. Samer Attar:
They feel like they’ve been abandoned, they feel that for years, no one’s been listening. They feel like they’ve been screaming to the world for help and that very few have come to help them.
Dr. Mohammed Sahloul:
What can the international community do? The first thing is to pay attention to what’s happening in Syria, no-fly zone or safe zones, also maintaining access to areas under siege by having humanitarian corridors and protect the civilians that are the victims of the war.
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The Syrian government is committing brutal crimes against humanity and war crimes. Left unchecked, the spread and continuation of these crimes could amount to genocide.
In a country of 22 million, half are displaced. More than 400,000 are dead.
In the city of Aleppo alone, 120,000 children are at risk.
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