In the heart of the Middle East lies a city that was once one of the most architecturally unique and culturally rich in the world. A centre for trade and commerce with a university of a similar size to Edinburgh, Aleppo was once described as a “beautiful metropolis”, yet is now poignantly referred to as a “hollowed-out shell”.
The conflict in Syria is one of the most complicated this century has yet seen. The ruling Assad regime is being opposed by numerous rebel groups, who are themselves fractured and engaged in combat with each other as well as government-led forces. As of today the Assad regime is still in power, whilst the British government are backing separate independent rebel and Kurdish groups. The conflict has led to the ‘pulverisation’ of the ancient metropolis of Aleppo, and destruction and loss of life for a population of 2,000,000.
A hospital in the rebel-held eastern section of the city was bombed on Saturday, October 1 for the second time in under two weeks, and the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières estimate that 114 children have been killed in Aleppo in the last three weeks alone. In addition to this, children as young as 14 are now reportedly being used as soldiers, as the area becomes increasingly short of rebel fighters and falls under a barrage of shelling. Meanwhile, in the western area of Aleppo mortar bombs are landing ‘indiscriminately’, and most specifically reports are coming in of a school being hit, killing several pupils.
Yet it seems that western populations are becoming increasingly immune to war atrocities. Arguably, crimes against children that would previously have shocked and appalled are now becoming commonplace. A daily barrage of reports are now skimmed over in the news and have little impact on the ‘trending’ section on social media, a fact that suggests a lack of interest in the western world towards any atrocities that happen further east than European borders. Within the last week, public concern lay more with Kim Kardashian’s stolen jewellery than it did with the bombing of a Syrian school.
There was, however, an uproar on Facebook following the Paris attacks of November 2015. Some were questioning why no filter with the Syrian flag was generated in response to the conflict there, when one was immediately created following the events in Paris. No death is worth more than another, reflected recently in a popular tweet by the journalist Edward Luce: “I feel deeply for Paris. I also feel deeply for Syria. Humanity is broad. Let’s also light up the Syrian flag for victims of terrorism”.
The difference in western public response to the Paris bomb attacks and Syrian conflict is even more stark given the difference in death toll between the two countries. In France, 130 lost their lives in 2015; in Syria, it was approximately 55,000.
It can be easy to feel helpless and detached when faced with a conflict that seems much bigger than ourselves, and so far away. Yet this does not need to be the case, as humanitarian effort in the west has saved thousands of lives in Syria and continues to do so. Here in Edinburgh, the local charity Edinburgh Cares donates 100 per cent of profits raised towards aid missions, and volunteers pay for their own travel costs. Their latest appeal concerns the sponsorship of Syrian orphans, for whom £25 can mean the difference between life and death. Thus, for students, even a sponsored bake sale or Meadows run help raise the money that is so deeply needed to help erase even the smallest ounce of human trauma.
Image: Joshua Tabti, Flickr