Overview of latest month-long visit to Syria (Aleppo and Damascus)

14980678_1342825855727405_1304013439245224914_n

*Nov 4, Castello road humanitarian crossing, shelled twice when I was there, and another 5 times, on a day meant to be for civilians to exit terrorist-occupied areas of Aleppo. No one exited.

This is a brief update to say I’ve recently left Syria (two days ago) after a month there (My sixth visit since my first eye-opening visit in April 2014). Articles to follow include interviews from two latest trips in November to Aleppo, as well as in Damascus, including:

ALEPPO VISITS:

From November 2-5, I joined a group of Western journalists for my third trip to Aleppo since July, during which time we:

-Met with Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi, head of the Chamber of Industry, who briefed us on Turkey’s assault on and theft of Aleppo industries and Aleppo in general, and arranged for visits to important areas of the city.

-With Rev. Ibrahim Nseir and MP Shehabi, went to neighborhoods devastated by terrorists’ shelling over the years; met with Christian and Muslim religious leaders who spoke love and unity, and very definitively against terrorism and for the sovereignty of Syria.

-Met with directors of al-Razi hospital and were there, and at the morgue, when some of the over 200 wounded and 18 martyred from the day’s terrorist bombings and snipings arrived on Nov 3. Account of that day of terror attacks and some of the victims on this post.

-Went to Bustan al-Qasr and Castello road humanitarian corridors on Nov 4 when Syrians (and Russians) did everything in their power to enable civilians to leave terrorist-occupied areas to the safety of government-secured greater Aleppo. Efforts were foiled by terrorists. Castello road crossing was hit by two terrorist-fired mortars while there, the second less than 100 m away from where I was giving an interview to Syrian TV. Fuller account on this post.

 

-Visited liberated Bani Zeid and Lairamoun (which I’d visited in August), seeing an FSA underground prison, the remnants of terrorists’ manufacturing of Hell Canon gas canister bombs, and more.

-Visited a centre housing Syrians displaced from eastern areas of Aleppo and sheltering for the past 4 years in government-secured greater Aleppo.

-Visited the Old City, devastated by terrorists’ occupation of the densely-packed neighbourhoods. [Short clips of sole vendor here]

 

Simple footage from along Ramouseh road, Nov 5, 2016.

When I traveled on Ramouseh in July, most drivers sped through as the risk of being sniped, or hit by mortars fired by Western-backed terrorists just beyond the cement factory in Sheikh Saeed was high.

The Ramouseh road, along which most civilians and transport trucks (as well as Syrian army vehicles) enter Aleppo still remains a potential target for terrorists’ attacks.

*

My last visit to Aleppo, independently for one week (Nov 10-16), included visits to and meetings with:

-Two families who said they fled eastern areas of Aleppo occupied by terrorists in the past month, one family which fled along with over 40 other people, seizing the opportunity to do so at night while there was fighting between the terrorist factions and the Syrian army. The information he gave regarding life under terrorist rule confirmed that the terrorists treat all who do not march to their warped ideology as subhuman, punishing them for made up crimes and depriving them of food and life essentials, which terrorists hoard (this has been heard again and again in testimonies of others who fled eastern areas of Aleppo occupied by terrorists, as well as people in other regions of Syria, like Madaya and Yarmouk…). [One excerpt from interview with first family on this post]

-An association trying to provide care for children with cancer. The group faces many obstacles, one of the prime ones being the criminal Western sanctions on Syria, including on medicines and medical supplies. Some of the children cannot get treatment, period, others cannot get the nutrition they need to go with the treatment.

-University hospital, where people were being treated for injuries from terrorist shellings and snipings. The patients I met were injured on various dates over the past couple of weeks, including a boy of about 7 years old, terrorist-sniped through his abdomen.

DSCN6623.jpg

-Aleppo University residences housing well over 10,000 internally displaced Syrians from areas of Aleppo and its countryside for around 4 or more years. One of the residences was hit by a terrorist missile the week prior, killing four from one family.

While at the Aleppo University residences, a woman stopped me to say hello. She spoke very articulately, about the situation in Aleppo.

-Dr. Ibrahim Hadid, Director of Aleppo’s University Hospital (and formerly of the terrorist-destroyed Kindi hospital).

While Dr. Ibrahim Hadid (formerly Director of the terrorist-destroyed Kindi hospital) spoke, a terrorist mortar hit just about 200 metres outside the hospital.

I stayed at the hospital for around 30 minutes, in the meantime seeing other recently-injured civilians, but no patients came into the hospital from this particular mortar. Later, meeting with Dr. Zaher Hajo, Head of Forensics in Aleppo, he confirmed that while that mortar didn’t lead to any deaths, other terrorist bombings on Sulimaniya and New Aleppo killed 4 civilians.

-Dr. Zaher Hajo, Head of Forensics in Aleppo, to discuss the number of civilian murders (by terrorist bombings and snipings) over the past 5 years—nearly 11,000.

Pierre Le Corf, a dear friend, who spoke of the humanitarian work he and local youths are doing, giving first aid training to families in areas most heavily hit by terrorist shellings and snipings, as well as activities to help boost the moral and confidence of youths suffering this dirty war on Syria.

-The opening of an exhibition of goods hand-made by women in Aleppo. One of the main organizers and trainers in teaching skills emphasized her desire that people stay in Aleppo, in Syria, and that women work, not stay at home, when possible. Many of the women, while showing beautiful products and smiles, shared the pain they bear inside from the years of war on Syria and their own immense personal losses.

-Interviewing some of Aleppo’s brave journalists, and being hosted on “Hone Halab” (Here is Aleppo) by Shadi Helwe. [Link here]

-The Old City to the closest vantage point possible to the majestic Citadel. This time with just two other people (a journalist and a soldier, for safety), I got a very personal feel of the old city, with both speaking nostalgically about the different shops and lanes and time they’d spent there. Some areas were quite close to al-Nusra, down a street and behind sniper screens, at times 50 m away. Standing at the destroyed Carlton and looking towards the Citadel, my friend with me kept saying his heart was going to break at not being able to go to the Citadel and also at the destruction of his beloved Old City, thanks to the terrorists and Erdogan’s criminal ambitions in Aleppo.

-The main public park, ravaged by terrorist shelling but also filled with life, people determined not to be cowed by terrorism, as are Aleppo and Syria. [photos and text on this post]

-The 1070 Housing complex liberated from western-backed terrorists on November 8, and speaking with some of the people who had been living there but cannot now due to the devastation, thanks to the embedding of terrorists there and by the terrorists themselves.

-Dr. Nabil Antaki, who I’d met on prior visits, this time discussing the media bias against Aleppo and Syria in general, including how repeatedly Western journalists who have deigned to interview Dr. Antaki have not fairly portrayed his testimony, or not at all.

IN DAMASCUS:

-Attending Foreign Minister Walid Muallem’s press conference on November 20.Also at that press conference, I finally met the wonderful Syrian journalist, Mohamed Ali, who in his excellent English gave an overview of the main points Minister Muallem addressed in the press conference.

-Meeting with the founder and general manager of the Saaed Association, Essam Habbal, and learning more about the volunteer group’s origins, and all of the humanitarian/social work, their activities to help impoverished Syrians, children, elderly, disabled, IDPs, and more soon. Groups like Saaed reflect the spirit of Syrians, and wherever I’ve gone in Syria I’ve seen Syrians volunteering and helping others even when they themselves are not living easy lives. [For a little more on Saaed, on prior visits I’ve written about their volunteers and initiatives: Ramadan 2016: http://ahtribune.com/in-depth/1093-life-in-syria.html][Christmas 2015: dissidentvoice.org/2015/12/christmas-magic-in-terror-ravaged-syria/]

-Many days of mortars on Damascus. For example, on Nov 6, one of terrorist mortars which targeted the old city caused the death of a young engineering graduate from Aleppo staying in the Bab Touma area. Most afternoons, I heard the sound of mortars, usually hitting around Bab Touma and along the narrow streets of the Old City, sometimes hundreds of metres away, sometimes less. Syrians have lived with this terrorism for years, to deaf Western media and leaders’ ears. [related: US-Backed Terrorism in Syria: A First-Hand Account of the Use of Mortars Against Civilians ]

-Visiting a branch of The Syrian Trust For Development, in the Barzeh district of Damascus, which works to train women in work and business skills, among other things.

-Visiting a prosthetic limbs factory in Damascus, learning of some of the obstacles they face (again, especially due to criminal Western sanctions which ban even the materials used to manufacture artificial limbs) and meeting some of the brave amputees determined to go on and resume life, including some Syrian soldiers who intend to go back to defending Syria.

-Meeting with the Minister of Higher Education, to learn about how university studies have been affected by the war on Syria as well as the criminal Western sanctions, and how the Ministry has dealt with these issues.

-Prayers for peace event on Oct 31, at the Melkite (Greek) Catholic Patriarchate, also known as the Zeitoun Church, with youth and various Christian leaders participating.

-A fascinating discussion over the course of a few hours with Syrian journalist Rafiq Lotfe who broke the story of actor “Syrian Danny”, the British-accented Syrian fake who appeared on CNN with host Anderson Cooper, staging videos in which he claimed hundreds were killed by the Syrian army. For those who know one of the videos which Rafiq exposed Danny as lying in, Danny can be seen calmly talking to his fellow actors, asking for a mattress, discussing the antics to be staged just minutes later when an entirely different Danny (seemingly frightened and now with–staged– war sounds in the background) is shown.

More to follow on these subjects and more.

4 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s