Last month marked the sad milestone of the 2nd anniversary of the Syrian uprising. This past March the country experience the bloodiest month yet with more than 6,000 documented deaths.
It's the sixth year since I traveled down the Levant from Turkey to Israel following the paths of the ancient trade routes. I had arrived in Aleppo without a reservation and was trying to check into the overbooked Beit Wakil, a former upscale family mansion that had been transformed into a small elegant hotel, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. Due to the wrong date on my computer I was a day too early and it seemed without a room for the night. The frazzled young receptionist began ringing a bell with an alarming clang. Somewhere deep inside the thick walls I heard baritone sounds growing louder.
"No problem, I will fix," said a burly man wearing a long Arabian Thobe (the casual robe that Middle Eastern men where in the intense heat). Scuttling down the steps, he turns to me, "Hello, I'm Habib, the manager and we will take care of your room."
"Find her a room," he yells over his shoulder to the receptionist as he takes my arm and leads me down a stone hall to an inner courtyard.
"Have you eaten? Don't eat because I am taking you for dinner. Aleppo has the best food in the Middle East. I promise you what ever you don't like we won't charge."
Later, we shared stories of our times in London, Paris and Vienna. As the night wore on we sang all the songs from Fiddler on the Roof as Habib filled glass after glass of Arak, the sweet, anise-flavored aperitif of Syria. The more he drank, the more he began to look like Zero Mostel who played Tevye on Broadway.
That was then...
Today, Aleppo and Damascus are the hottest flash points in the ongoing civil war. According to the UN's the war has claimed over 70,000 lives. From the first surprise offensive the Syrian rebels launched just nine months ago from the poorest neighborhoods of Aleppo, it has been reported that the remaining population relies solely on donations from foreign aid organizations to survive.
UN Security Council's lack of action to end the conflict
The U.N. human rights chief said on this past Tuesday, "The death toll in Syria is likely approaching 70,000 -- up almost 10,000 from the start of this year -- and civilians are paying the price for the UN Security Council's lack of action to end the conflict." Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, repeated her call for the 15-member council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court to send a message to both parties in the conflict that there will be consequences for their actions.
This has become the norm in a country besieged by violence. In the two years since an uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out, the UN children's agency UNICEF estimates that one in every five schools in Syria has been destroyed.
Today, my heart cries for their loses and for those soon to die. I know little of this kind of fear. I could only imagine the horror.
A Destruction of Biblical Proportions
A response of historic numbers to a focused mission.
Hands getting it done in a grand job for Peace.
A car bomb in Bab Touma sets off a Storm of Destruction.
In the Old City of Damascus where Muslims, Christians and Jews have
lived side by side in quarters marked with walls three men high.
The warning rises, carried forever on the Four Winds driving a storm of epic proportions.
As the deluge of violence in Syria spreads throughout the Middle East.
War planes thunder over Damascus ensuring its destruction.
Sadly the prediction delivers true -- a passionate echo from the Prophet Isaiah.
We see his words knitted on the back of a sweater in Aleppo.
"THERE WILL COME A TIME"
Text and photos
©Marla Mossman 2013