The world cannot let Aleppo be slaughtered before our eyes
Aleppo cannot be the stage for the latest unforgiveable crimes against humanity that we watch unfold like helpless spectators
The slaughter of Aleppo is underway. At least 212 civilians have been killed, including at least 57 children, since April 18. The bloodshed is certain to increase in the coming weeks as the regime and allied forces launch a major offensive to attempt to retake rebel-held territory in the city. The past several days have proved utterly brutal in Aleppo and a number of videos show footage of all too familiar scenes: Dust covered babies and tiny children being pulled from rubble, horrifically mangled bodies, and devastated civilian infrastructure. In one especially barbaric attack, the Assad regime intentionally targeted Al Quds hospital, massacring at least 55 people. Among the dead at the Doctors without Borders-supported facility was one of Aleppo’s very last paediatricians. Meanwhile, reports indicated rebels have intensely shelled government-held areas of the city, killing at least 71.
As the Assad regime and its allied forces continue carrying out war crimes with impunity, the international community must reflect on how history will look back at this period of bloodshed. Amid the devastating surge in violence, the United States and Russia brokered a nebulous “regime of calm,” agreement, which calls for a cessation of fighting in areas of Damascus and Latakia for 24 and 72 hours, respectively. Excluding Aleppo from the agreement - where a halt in fighting is most desperately needed – is a tragic mistake.
The past several days in Aleppo have further demonstrated a particularly poignant truth: Syria is perhaps one of the most well-tracked conflicts in history, with shaky camera footage emerging only minutes after an airstrike and consistent real time coverage of rebel and regime battles. Yet, despite the overwhelming amount of information made available almost instantly about war crime after war crime, the atrocities have continued. The US has waged a justified war against ISIS but the chief orchestrator of the entire conflict remains untouched; the war in Syria will never end so long as the perpetrator of the worst violence enjoys impunity for his crimes. Just months ago in February, the United Nations indicated that the Assad regime is guilty of carrying out the war crime of “extermination” against his own people. A government guilty of such a campaign cannot be dealt with in civil negotiations.
Aleppo cannot be the stage for the latest unforgiveable crimes against humanity that we watch unfold like helpless spectators. This devastating conflict has been punctuated by multiple opportunities for the US to more broadly intervene; they have not been seized. As the slaughter of Aleppo begins, the impetus for the US to act is nearly as strong as it was after Assad massacred his own people in the worst chemical weapon attack since Halabja. With the help of Turkey and Arab allies, the US should implement a No-Fly Zone (NFZ) and ensure the protection of Syrians by force. The regime and Russia cannot continue dictating the role of the US in Syria while at the same time carrying out horrific attacks against civilians.
Aleppo cannot be the stage for the latest unforgiveable crimes against humanity that we watch unfold like helpless spectatorsBrooklyn Middleton
When the very last airstrike is launched and the last barrel bomb dropped, no party can look back and claim they were ignorant of what exactly the situation on the ground in Syria was during its hellish war. No one can deny that the world knew thousands of Syrians died from torture at the hands of government forces. Summaries of the conflict will note that regime defector Ceaser smuggled 55,000 photographs into the west, showing the world images of detainees whose eyes had been gouged out and whose rib cages and hip bones appeared to be on the verge of breaking through their pale and yellowed skin. “History counts its skeletons in round numbers. A thousand and one remains a thousand, as though the one had never existed,” wrote Wislawa Szymborska in her devastating poem “Hunger Camp At Jaslo.” In Syria, the dead that haven’t been disappeared continue to be counted daily but only after the war will the real death toll come to be known.
Until the international community acts to protect Syrian civilians, Aleppo will continue burning. And more photos of dust covered tiny bodies will surface. And the world can look forward to one day counting more and more skeletons in round numbers.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.
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