It may sound impossible, but there are good reasons to keep trying to build peace in the midst of a devastating war. While a seemingly endless battle rages in Syria, the piece of the puzzle that is left unseen from afar is at the grassroots level. There, Syrian networks and organizations are doing their best to maintain a semblance of society, to sustain the day-to-day fabric that holds people, families and communities together. An example of why such efforts are essential is the evacuation of Eastern Aleppo in December 2016. This story shows that despite the hate discourse that emerged in the wake of the battle, some actors were on the ground trying to mend social bridges and begin the healing.
In December 2016 the world witnessed with horror as the fighting over Aleppo intensified. During the evacuation process of Eastern Aleppo, one of the biggest humanitarian crises during the six years of Syrian conflict unfolded. It was initially estimated that some 261,000 persons were displaced (UNHCR), half of them children . “No matter how much I write or explain, I won’t be able to describe the reality and the scene of evacuees on the ground…. The size of human cruelty I saw and touched cannot be put into words.” says Tarek, a young Syrian volunteer with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent team leading the evacuation.
Figure 1 Evacuation of Western Aleppo, provided by Tarek, December 2016
One of the locations where the civilians from Eastern Aleppo sought refuge were the temporary shelters in Jibreen about 10 kilometers southeast from Aleppo, a large warehouse turned into a shelter with less than basic living conditions, cramped and freezing. As rain poured through leaking roofs and broken windows, families huddled together inside, traumatized, injured and starving after the siege of East Aleppo that had lasted almost 4 months. The first group arrived on the 14th of December 2016 from Masaken Hanano and many children were lost or on their own.