It’s so starving, Aleppo, it’s so exhausted
October 26, 2014 3:59 PM   Subscribe

It sounds like a jet approaching, and all of you, for a matter of instants, stare at one another, your words stifled in your mouths; but it’s only a gate that slides and shuts. A hatchet chopping firewood is a burst from a Kalashnikov; the step of a woman’s heel, a sniper shot. We look normal, in Aleppo. Fear is a cancer that wears us out only from within.

One year and a half after the beginning of the battle, only one thing hasn’t changed here: Assad jets are so inaccurate that they never bomb the front line—they might miss the rebels, and hit the loyalists. And if the favorite target had once been Shifa Hospital — now that its walls are reduced to dust, its medical staff to bouquets of flowers and framed photos — the most dangerous places are the bread lines. Today, they are made up of only women and children. Two hundred, competing for a bunch of boxes with some olive oil, some rice, chickpeas. Sugar. They are missing fingers, missing ears; their eyes are red and wrinkled, and amid the wind needles of this winter’s remains, they are haggard and emaciated. They are barely covered in threadbare shirts and little else, their bones sculpting their skin like a bas-relief. Mothers notice you, notice a stranger, and try to give you their baby: “Take him with you,” they beg. “Save him.”

Aleppo is starving, swept away by a typhoid epidemic. In the streets people sell everything. It seems as if they have scattered their entire living rooms on the ground: teapots, TVs, phones, tablecloths, light switches, everything — to be precise: bits of everything — for Aleppo is only ruins, now. Someone sells you the stroller, someone else its wheels.
posted by standardasparagus (25 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is harrowing. I wonder if they tell an updated version of the old Hitler joke? Assad consults his astrologers, and they tell him he will die on a Syrian holiday. ”Which one?" he asks fearfully. The head astrologer replies, "Any day you die will be a Syrian holiday."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:43 PM on October 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


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posted by limeonaire at 4:52 PM on October 26, 2014


Can't read, paywall.
posted by zabuni at 4:57 PM on October 26, 2014


Weird. It works for me. You scrolled down?
posted by limeonaire at 5:01 PM on October 26, 2014


Man, that was a tough read, but it's very well written.

The horror of evil that sits at the altar of ignorance and greed - i.e. extremist Islamist ignorance, and the world's insatiable greed in it's need for oil and regional power.

I can only read something like this every so often, because it portrays the bottom of our human condition. Would that our sanitized networks report on war zones like this, we might have less of war. Those poor people!
posted by Vibrissae at 5:07 PM on October 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by Nyakasikana at 5:09 PM on October 26, 2014


War is so stupid and destructive. What's wrong with us?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:11 PM on October 26, 2014


War is so stupid and destructive. What's wrong with us?

We are, unfortunately, humans...
posted by jim in austin at 5:20 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


A related piece, though of a different tone, from the NYRB: In the Syria We Don't Know.

As noted at the bottom of the Aleppo article, it was originally published in Fall 2013. I can't imagine what it's like today.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 5:25 PM on October 26, 2014


I thought of mostapha Akkad when I read this article.
posted by clavdivs at 6:19 PM on October 26, 2014


too horrible; cannot read
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:18 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


War is so stupid and destructive. What's wrong with us?

We are, unfortunately, humans...


Reminds me of something LeGuin said about war, how our "warlike instinct" is a tautology. Paraphrased, it ran along the lines of: Why do we wage war? Because we are warlike. How do we know we are warlike? Because we wage war.
posted by emjaybee at 7:20 PM on October 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is some of the most brilliant writing I've read this year.

In a better world there would not be war, and she would be an award winning novelist instead.
posted by xdvesper at 7:25 PM on October 26, 2014


Man's inhumanity to his fellow man. From the bombed out remnants of Aleppo to two children fighting over a toy, the underlying theme is an unrelieved lack of kindness to each other. And it just seems to get worse over time. It wears me down just a little more every day. Thanks for posting this article, it articulates the sense of loss and grief that I often can't express well enough using my own words.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:51 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can't read, paywall.

"One article each month is free to view but to enjoy entire issues you need to subscribe for $2/month."
posted by DarlingBri at 8:14 PM on October 26, 2014


.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:15 PM on October 26, 2014


As Wael says, “The only anti-aircraft system, here, is rain. The only shelter is luck.” He is 8.
posted by standardasparagus at 8:24 PM on October 26, 2014


Jesus wept.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:36 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I find this kind of prose-poem journalism really tiresome. Does the subject matter really need this showy, amped-up elegiac tone in the midst of the conflict? Can't we leave it for later? Don't the facts speak for themselves? Different strokes, I guess, or maybe I was just irritated up-front by the sanctimonious author bio. But as new long-form journalism about the Middle East goes, I was far more moved (and informed!) by this from the NYT over the weekend.
posted by eugenen at 11:18 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


As Wael says, “The only anti-aircraft system, here, is rain. The only shelter is luck.” He is 8.

I dunno, I find this kind of prose-poem journalism really tiresome.

That quote is too good, and too in line with the author's own voice. This is poetic fiction riffing on the witnessed tragedy.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:52 AM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


But as new long-form journalism about the Middle East goes, I was far more moved (and informed!) by this from the NYT over the weekend.

That article is exclusively about Western hostages in Syria.

I have mixed feelings about the tone, on the hand I understand what you mean about wondering if this is really necessary, on the other hand I don't know if prose is any better at conveying the sheer horror of what's going on.
posted by atrazine at 3:11 AM on October 27, 2014


That article is exclusively about Western hostages in Syria.

Sure. It's not a substitute! Subject matter aside, I just think it's better reporting.
posted by eugenen at 3:27 AM on October 27, 2014


The best reporting is a dry recitation of facts, completely devoid of emotion and heart. There should be no art, no attempt to make the reader feel emotions, only to feel informed, to provide factoids that can be absorbed between sips of coffee.

"Martha, did you know that 100 people died in Syria yesterday?"

"Isn't that something? Those people, always killing each other."

"Charmin's on sale this week."

"Of course, the day after I bought the store brand."

"Isn't that always the way."

"It just makes me angry."

"I know, dear."

A 19 minute read. It's too much to ask people to stop for 19 minutes and try to feel something, instead of learn something.
posted by empath at 10:20 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh my God, this was more than a year ago.
posted by General Tonic at 11:36 AM on October 27, 2014


It's too much to ask people to stop for 19 minutes and try to feel something, instead of learn something.

I guess the way to my heart isn't through purple prose. People like Robert Fisk (agree with his views or not) and Dexter Filkins and others have managed to write heartbreakingly about 21st century war zones without this sort of verbal garment-rending. To each his own.
posted by eugenen at 1:36 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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