By Alexis Kuskevics
Every morning, you wake up. That is almost guaranteed.
You’re restless when you stretch from the comfort of your bed, a little tired yet knowing that the first taste of your freshly-brewed coffee will awaken your senses. The weather calls for colder temperatures, but it doesn’t affect you because you have your favourite sweater on and the warmth steaming from the mug your mother got you for your birthday. The day is only beginning, and you’re relaxed, prepared; might even have some time for Netflix before heading to work.
Every morning, you wake up.
Every day, in Aleppo, someone dies.
With over seven billion people in the world, a ‘someone’ may not make a difference to you; but that someone had a name, a life. They were a child or a parent, a brother or a sister, a spouse or a friend. They had goals and desires – were perhaps just finishing school or just starting a new career. They were here, that ‘someone’ was alive; and now, because of both the war-torn trenches in Syria and the international silence on the conflict, that someone has succumbed to the ashes of a city that was once vibrant and compelling.
In truth, I could write an entire article based on the statistics depicting the terror occurring in Aleppo; but instead, I believe that the saddest part, the one that overshadows every dead mother and child, is the fact that many of you don’t even know what I’m talking about.
Society has ignored the growing conflict in the Middle East the moment the second plane hit the south tower of the World Trade Centre. Since then, the world became divided into two ideologies – those who are Muslim and those who are not. We, the privileged white folks, have treated them horribly. We have shut them out, bullied them, have even threatened the ones who seek safe harbour in our countries. We hear about suicide bombs in the east and we think, “Oh well, that happens all the time”, until it happens to one of us and we demand international attention and support.
But Aleppo was one of us. It was a home. Before the civil war struck the city, Aleppo held a population of 2.5 million civilians and was declared as the commercial capital of Syria. It was electric, like Toronto and New York City, entertaining tourists with various attractions and delighting citizens with markets and festivals. Aleppo was a place people wanted to visit.
In July of 2012, when people around the world were celebrating the beginning of summer, rebel fighters took over the east of the city while the government commanded the west. It came as a result of the civil unrest against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and the violence he ordered onto his protesters who demanded the removal of his authority. The act divided Syria into a war-zone, and strengthened the military supplies of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Front and ISIS. Since then, Aleppo has succumbed to a city of rubble and mourning. Women have been raped, children have been beheaded or recruited to join the rebel groups. A ‘someone’ died, and then another ‘someone’, but no one cared; no one even knew.
In January of 2013, when Twitter erupted over the recent news of Kim Kardashian and Kane West’s upcoming child, 80 students were killed in a bombing at Aleppo University. On Dec. 16, 2015, when people were preparing for the holidays, helicopters dropped bombs on the city, killing 76 people, 28 of them children. Then, in November of last year, the world started to listen again. Paris had become the recent target of ISIS militants, killing 137 people in the platform of shootings, suicide attacks, and hostages. Russia and the United States continued their airstrike campaign, dropping bombs on locations identified as ISIS headquarters and introducing new theories on how to protect their countries.
But by then, the war that mattered was already over – humanity was losing. Before Russia launched it’s first airstrike in September 2015, about 80,000 innocent civilians in Syria were already dead.
It may not seem like a large sum to a privileged person living in the safety of North America, but let’s think about what it would mean if 80,000 people were killed in our own country. There would not only be panic in the streets, but across the entire world. We would gain international attention and sympathy; there would be volunteers from Japan and England traveling the globe to help us.
Respectively, I feel for all tragedies around the world, whether it’s the death of a famous hockey player or the natural disaster of a country in the south. I care, I’m sure we all do, but I refuse to believe I live in a society where it matters where you come from for people to pay attention. I refuse to believe people born in different places of the world have less of a chance at a happy life.
Because Aleppo could have been us. We are Aleppo. We are the people going to university and work, the ones desperate to protect our loved ones. To the people of Syria: we hear you, we see you. We know you are suffering. No, we do not have the power to cure the hate in this world, but we do have the power to pay attention. We have the power to know what’s going on and to educate ourselves; because once we’re all aware of what’s happening in Aleppo, we’re closer to the idea of helping them, and shouldn’t every ‘someone’ be worthy of being helped?