The last I saw of Aleppo

I do not keep facebook on my phone and hardly look at it these days. I update it briefly so you know I am alive, a lesson learnt when I went to climb K2 and did not have internet for over a month and my mother thought I may of be dead. The things I see on Aleppo disheartens me and troubles me, my friends, I do see your cries for help, If the Turkish government would allow me to cross legally again, I would in a heartbeat be across the border waiting for my beloved friends to safely evacuate the city.

The last I saw of Aleppo, I was in emotional turmoil. I had been going day to day helping the Syrians wounded by the airstrikes and the barrel bombs. As much as there were bombs from the early morning to the night, not all of them go off or kill people. People are smart, they use ways to communicate to each other when a helicopter is in the air through their smart phones. Occasionally the ones that hit the hardest is places like the markets, gas stations or the areas where there is hospitals. Those deaths were in the fate of god. If one needed to eat, to get medicine, to survive they had to risk going out to possibly never return to their loved ones.

The ones who plan to drop the bombs on the hospitals are no more than bullies, no, like animals, hyenas looking to harm the weak. Like men who get together to beat a single muslim lady alone in a subway in Berlin. The world these days is forgetful of such things as honor and dignity.

The people in Aleppo, the civilians, they are poor. They don’t have the money to run. All they have is their homes. To run means starvation, cruelty. They would rather accept god will and if their day comes then so be it. The rich, the people who live in nice countries who close borders for the poor lost their way of decency and kindness. They became selfish and hollow, only looking out for themselves and their families. The people in Aleppo if they saw you in need, would give you food, give you shelter, there might not be much but they would give it their all to let you survive.

I came to a bomb site, It was by the Castillo road out to Baba Salam. It was some vans, used as buses out of Aleppo. I was with my friends with the Syrian Civil Defense of Mashad district. They had been called because they had the only fire truck to deal with oil spill fires. One van was blown to smithereens, the direct hit of an airstike, the other close was covered in shrapnels and a bloody mess. Inside the van, there was women in black abiyas. They were all dead.

One woman held onto her lifeless child was missing her head. I looked for head in the van, I could not find it. Maybe it been blown away. I was in tears as I searched. No one could ever go buried into the after life without their head. My friend Hasan was trying to explain that sometimes the fire incinerates everything. I felt lost, I felt dispair, a chill dagger had cut into me. Though I have this footage on my helmet cam, I dare not see it but in my dreams, it always vivid. It is always there.

I was seeing the crossroads and I was seeing the person I was becoming. The world stopped caring about journalists, about freelancers risking their lives to get the news. My passport, my press pass gave me validity that I was in a dangerous place not because of nationalistic or personal reasons but because I wanted to show the truth. But my reasonings became person as I was watching the people i got to love being slaughtered silently.

With every day passing I wanted to stay in Aleppo, to keep on going, to keep on helping people but I saw the possibilities my government would no longer validate me being there. Editors weren’t taken my stuff, journalists were being forced out of Syria. My passport would be cancelled and I would face prosecution if I attempted to return. I would never be able to see my daughter ever again. My daughter was the only reason I decided to return.

I did see a trauma councillor who sat and listened to my story. Did I regret my decision? I regret it every single day.

It is hard to talk to people about my story but in this world where the people elect a man who only thinks of making a buck, who degrades women and is selfish in sharing this world with others as president, I can only say one thing. Have hope.

This world is going through dark times and these times feel like the end of times but have hope and fight for what is right. To have decency, to have respect for other and to care for those less fortunate than yourself regardless of religious or otherwise. A day will come when it not what wealth you have but what wealth you can give that be what makes you.


Jake Simkin is a Journalist and photographer who has spent much time chronicling the lives of people in Aleppo. Please follow his Facebook or his websites for more information and photographs. (Graphic Image warning)


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