Last autumn, we watched as Bashar al-Assad pummeled the life out of east Aleppo. His barrel bombs collapsed stone apartment buildings into concrete slabs, crushing their inhabitants between the layers. Those who survived were left with hunger, disease, and despair. Death surrounded them. With devastating detail, the siege taught us the full meaning of “kneel or starve,” the Syrian president’s strategy for defeating “the terrorists”—basically, anyone who opposed him. In mid-December, the Assad regime’s menacing green busses forcefully evacuated tens of thousands of civilians to Idlib, where local humanitarians scrambled to erect enough plastic tents for the families as snow began to fall.
For a few months, the world watched as Aleppo captured the attention of hashtags and headlines. And then it turned away.
During the destruction of Aleppo, my childhood home, I could not cry. I barely read the news and gave up Twitter. Instead, I was glued to Facebook. For me, the only meaningful words left to read were those of friends and activists from Aleppo who posted heartbreaking status messages in Arabic, instead of the usual English. We had moved past broadcasting tragic events as they unfolded in Syria, abandoning our naive and failed logic that if people only knew what was happening, then it would stop. By choosing to grieve in Arabic, we carved a semi-private space to mourn our homeland.