More than 250 people has died since last April 22nd, in the Syrian city of Aleppo, when the dictatorial regime of Bashar Al-Assad performed a brutal military offensive, with the support of Russian planes and artillery, against the last strongholds of the rebels in what used to be, once upon the time, a strong economic-financial metropolis, the main one in Syria. Besides the dead people, humanitarian organizations, such as White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted about 1500 injured people, among them several women and children. The humanitarian catastrophe in Syria seems to never end.
By Gabriel Huland
To perform the attacks, the regime spreads the fallacy of the city being controlled by the Jabat Al Nusra front, group affiliated to Al-Qaeda, classified as terrorist by the Geneva Conference, what leaves it outside the ‘non-aggression’ agreement negotiated between the U.S. and Russia, effective since February 27th. The U.S, every day more subjected to Russia’s policy to Syria, do not deny this affirmation. Assad’s offensive consists in attacking undetermined targets through the terrible known barrels, besides air strikes and the fence around the city to avoid the entrance and exit of people, food and medication.
The Syrian opposition denies the city is under control of al-Nusra Front. In fact, ISIS, as much as the group linked to Al-Qaeda, were expelled from the freed zones in Aleppo, and there are periodic demonstrations and protests against these groups to avoid for them to strengthen again. The main goal of the regime is to eliminate, with the support of Russia and the indulgence of the U.S, any trace of the revolution and democratic control of the zones freed by independent groups, that count with the support of the local population.
The estimate is, in Aleppo, around 300.000 people live in freed zones, while 1.5 million live in areas currently controlled by the bloody regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Before the revolution, the metropolis had approximately 4 million inhabitants, being one of the most important and older cities in Middle East. It was a major commercial and industrial center. Silk, cotton, soap, leather, processed food, as well as silver and gold goods, were produced in the region. The city is located in the middle of the Silk Route, between the Euphrates Valley and the Mediterranean, a strategic location.
Most independent information we have access to comes from Aleppo Media Center (AMC), a group of independent activists and journalists who have been documenting the revolution and the war in the province since its beginnings, in 2001. According to the information spread by Al Jazeera, over the last days the regime cut the rebels’ supply line between Aleppo and Turkey, what could cause a humanitarian catastrophe, given the people who live in the zones currently controlled by the rebel groups are under risk of not being able to access food and other basic supplies. Assad uses the same practice as the Zionists in Palestine, by collective punishment of civilians as a war weapon.
Re-conquering Aleppo would mean a major victory for the regime, even more relevant than the occupation of Palmyra and other regions currently conquered by the forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad. The control over Aleppo can change the relation of forces among the different groups and open a new dynamic of the war. However, it is not an easy battle for the regime, as the rebel militias count with the support of the local population, and they are fighting on the streets against Assad’s soldiers.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important and sanguinary battle of this war, that lasts already 4 years. The pro-Assad aviation is even attacking hospitals and residential zones. In one of the lasts attacks, a Hospital administrated by the NGO Doctors Without Borders was bombed, in which the last pediatrician in the rebel zones of the city got killed, among 27 other persons.
The Geneva Conference and the violations to the agreed truce between Russia and the U.S.
Different Syrian opposition groups denounce there has been, only in March, more than 2000 violations of the cease-fire agreement, formally effective since February 27th, and more than 400 air strikes with explosive barrels that caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured. The Geneva negotiations, recently resumed, will fail once again, like in previous attempts, as the U.S. policy is to convince the opposition groups to accept a coalition government that does not change the current structure of Assad’s regime.
Even the future of the dictator is not object of debate, what leaves the field free for the possibility of Hafez al-Assad’s son to remain as a base pillar of a supposedly “transitional” government, something completely unacceptable for a great number of oppositionists and most of the Syrian population. How to accept to be ruled by the one who has been their own and their families and friends martyrdom? The one responsible for over 400.000 deaths. Would this not be the same as signing one’s own death sentence? This is what many Syrians who have not left their country think, and they resist as they can. The images arriving from Aleppo are terrifying and show how Syria’s future will be if Assad wins the war.
In the zones controlled by the regime, there is a state of dictatorial exception, where there is no speech freedom, the basic services are limited, there are checkpoints everywhere, and the muhabarat (regime’s secret police) imposes fear and silence. The Syrian Army currently counts with approximately 60 thousand soldiers; most of them, however, are not in the several fronts but in the cities, ensuring the order, repressing and controlling the population. The forces on field, fighting the battles against the opposition forces, are conformed mainly by Lebanese soldiers from the militias of the Shiite group Hezbollah, and soldiers and militiamen from Iran and Afghanistan, forced to go to Syria due to extreme poverty, with the perspective of getting a salary in exchange of fighting for the regime. Many of them do not even know what they are fighting for. They are mercenary, in every sense.
A few weeks ago, Assad drove completely illegitimate legislative elections, in which only those living in the zones controlled by the regime could vote: around 60% of the population of the country, in a 30% of the physical territory. Practically no international organization acknowledged the election, that was called aiming to strengthen the Syrian government in front of the public opinion, in the middle of Geneva negotiations. And, as we said before, these negotiations will probably fail, as the U.S. will not confront Russia regarding Assad staying in power or not.
On the other hand, the recent information leak [Panamá Papers – T.N] leads us to believe the alleged freedom of Palmyra of the ultra-reactionary ISIS were actually agreed between the regime and the fundamentalist group. This is not all; also, there are documents proving there is commercial exchange between them, mainly weapons and petroleum. Palmyra’s “freedom” is nothing but a smokescreen for the world press. Assad and ISIS are the two faces of a same coin.
Unfortunately, the breath of the last months by a weak truce broken by the regime in several occasions has ended. The scenes of human suffering and destruction come to the world news once again. As it could not be different, the regime attacks again, with impunity. There is no way out to this impasse the Arabic country is in, as long as Assad remains in power. And the only way to defeat him is supporting the groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army, who hold a democratic, independent position; the ones who have not sold, directly or indirectly, to the different forces acting in the conflict, followed by the interest on how to increase their own influence around the region. We must provide weapons to the rebels fighting against the regime and against the self-denominated Islamist groups, with no previous conditioning. FSA groups still exist, and the current offensive in Aleppo is nothing but an attempt to defeat them, to destroy one of the few strongholds left from the Syrian revolution.
Aleppo’s massacre has caused a major solidarity movement and international commotion with the Syrian people, reflecting through a series of events and demonstrations with the slogan “Aleppo is burning” in red. Thousands of activists have changed their profile pictures in Facebook to a solid red color. Dozens of actions were called in cities like Berlin, Madrid, Paris, London and others around the world.
Support to the Syrian revolution and solidarity with the Syrian people has divided the world left. The pro-Assad groups are still denouncing the revolution as an attempt to destabilize the region by the U.S. This reasoning does not survive any confrontation with reality. The U.S. and Russia are together aiming to defeat the revolution and stabilize the country back. Geneva negotiations, the several encounters between John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, and Serguéi Lavror, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, as much as the several joint statements, are the proof of this.
The U.S. never questioned Russian and Iranian interventions. Assad has crossed all possible red borders, and nowadays he is not even questioned by the international community anymore. The UN Security Council will have an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Aleppo, and we know what kind of resolution will be voted. A generic peace statement not even God will hear.
From our side, we continue to defend the Syrian people struggle and its revolution for democracy and social justice as legitimate. We continue to affirm the only way of ending the conflict is to defeat the major responsible for the deaths and the destruction of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and all his accomplices.
Long Live the Syrian People!
Translation: Sofía Ballack.