Aleppo on the Verge of Famine

Translated by Vartan Matiossian
In its edition of July 9, the newspaper "Marmara" of Istanbul has published the following anonymous report from a reliable source of Aleppo. According to it, the situation is extremely serious and the inhabitants of Aleppo have reached the verge of famine and are struggling between death and life.
From the day when the internal conflict of Syria escalated and became a blind war between both sides, Aleppo turned into one of the most affected cities. 
This wealthy and fertile metropolis of the Orient, which has an important Armenian community steeped in tradition, has been paralyzed for exactly one year. It has been ceaselessly bombed from land air for a year; it has been constantly subjected to destruction and erosion for a year; its vital infrastructures and rich markets, ancient historical neighborhoods and mosques, schools and hospitals are being destroyed. Who could believe it? Aleppo is being destroyed by the hand of its owners or children with the most brutal methods.
Today, the situation has completely changed. For the past six days, Aleppo and the Aleppines are collectively living perhaps the most worrisome moments of their lives. The city is surrounded from all sides. The army has also closed the last passages to enter the city. No food may enter. (*)The population is enormously agitated and terrified. Food stalls are completely empty and the merchants have closed down their shutters. Most bakeries of the city have not worked for the past five days due to the lack of flour. There is no combustible and natural gas, and even if they are found, the price is exorbitant. Moreover, all basic food has vanished from the markets. There is no bread, milk, yogurt, tomato, cucumber, squash, or eggplant, nor any kind of fruit. The citizen who goes to do essential shopping in the morning circulates through empty stores and returns home with empty hands. How is he going to feed his children? How is he going to feed himself? Nobody knows.
Besides these extraordinary and unbelievable deprivations, electricity and drinking water are being cut long hours every day.
We may say, without hesitation, that the "ethereal Aleppo" (**) with its more than three million inhabitants, is on the verge of famine.
The next days will show how many days it can resist.

(*) The following quote is from a July 10, 2013 dispatch by AFP (see www.foxnews.com):
"Activists in Aleppo have held protests calling for the lifting of a rebel siege of regime-held districts of Syria's second city that has created food shortages, a watchdog said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first demonstration calling for the siege to be lifted came on Tuesday, adding that one protester was shot dead.
It said it was unclear who had shot the demonstrator, but protesters took to the streets again on Wednesday.
A video of Tuesday's protest posted by the Observatory on Wednesday showed a small group of youths chanting 'the people want to break the siege.'
Four men in black t-shirts, one of them armed with a handgun, are seen pushing the protesters back. The sound of gunfire can be heard, but it is unclear where the shooting comes from.
Rebel forces have imposed a siege on several regime-controlled neighborhoods, where government forces have been unable to deliver food.
The blockade has created food shortages and pushed up prices as Muslims begin the holy fasting month of Ramadan, when the observant traditionally break the daytime fast with feasting and hospitality at sundown.
Another video posted by the Observatory showed that the siege policy does not have the full support of the rebel fighters supposed to enforce it.
The footage shows a woman accompanied by her child trying to cross into regime-held Ashrafiyeh with a pram full of shopping bags.
'I came to buy food. We have nothing, our children are dying of hunger. My son is sick and needs medicine and to eat,' the woman pleads with a rebel fighter armed with a Kalashnikov.
Her plea sparks an exchange between two rebels, one trying to convince the other to let her pass with the food.
'What crime has this woman committed? She bought two kilos of potatoes, two kilos of tomatoes and some bread to allow her to keep her children alive,' one rebel says.
The other fighter suggests consulting a rebel commander, but the proposal is rejected by his comrade.
'I know what he'll say. He will repeat that this is Islam and the other side are apostates, but that's not true.'
Rebel forces have sought to block the entry of food and medicines to regime-held parts of Aleppo for some time, but in recent days they have succeeded in blockading the districts completely after cutting off regime access to the area by blowing up a bridge and blocking a key road.
In Damascus, a senior foreign ministry official told journalists the government was concerned about the plight of civilians in Aleppo, after talks with UN representatives.
'We had an important meeting to increase our joint efforts to send urgent humanitarian aid to Aleppo province and we agreed to begin this work from tomorrow,' the official said.
Rebel forces entered Aleppo a year ago and have seized large swathes of the northern city but have failed to capture all of it."
(**) Reference to the title of a book by Diasporan writer and journalist Antranig Dzaroukian (1913-1989). See the translation of a chapter by Jennifer Manoukian, reposted on "Armeniaca" (December 11, 2012).

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