Deadly violence has returned to the ancient city of Aleppo in Syria in recent weeks, claiming hundreds of lives and leaving many parts of the city in ruins. Many newcomers in Sweden have person ties to the city — as do the many established Swedes they've met since arriving in the country. We've spoken to a few of them to get their views on what it's like to witness the devastation from afar.
Name: Tamer Murhaf Al Samsam
From: Aleppo, Syria
Current home: Vingåker Sweden
Aleppo is like my mother. It’s my city, where I grew up and learnt about life.
For five years now, I’ve mostly been watching images of human shreds and carnage coming out of my country, Syria. Images of kids being pulled out of the rubble, entire families being killed and losing their lives in an instant. I’m used to all that now, but still, what we’ve witnessed from Aleppo the last week is unbelievable to me – I am extremely anxious and despondent about seeing my country and the Syrian people in such a situation.
I feel weakened and incapacitated because I don’t know what to do to help. I can’t do anything while the whole world is silent and apathetic to our case. My dreams have turned into nightmares, and my nightmares are filled with blood and destruction. All the images I see on the social media, I see them again in my dreams: cries, shreds, destruction and rubble.
Every day I plea and pray to god to end our anguish – but nobody feels our suffering.
Name: Joshka Wessels (left)
Occupation: filmmaker, researcher at University of Copenhagen
From: The Netherlands
Current home: Lund, Sweden
This is a massive bombing campaign as collective punishment that constitutes a grave war crime. The campaign targets mainly civilian places, markets, schools and last week two ICRC and MSF hospitals were bombed in these areas. It amounts to genocide and the world's apathy and silence is deafening.
I lost touch with some of my friends and am very worried about their safety but Facebook has no check so now we all deactivated Facebook as a boycott to this appalling selective empathy. Brussels, Paris have Facebook check but not Aleppo!
It is very upsetting for me and deeply sad for all Syrians, they are dignified and brave people who deserve freedom from this continuous assault and oppression.
Name: Raphael Warnke
Occupation: journalism student
From: Frankfurt, Germany
Current home: Stockholm, Sweden
Assad has once again shown the world that he is not interested in giving the Syrian people security. Putin and Assad both want to demonstrate power, even if they kill innocent people in a hospital.
As a flimsy excuse, they abuse the “fight against terrorism”. While countries in Europe fear the “refugee crisis”, what they really should be scared about is the ongoing genocide happening in Syria over the past five years. The EU should actively help all refugees and try to stop the madness in Syria.
Name: Fares al-Harastani
From: Damascus, Syria
Occupation: graduate of Aleppo University
Current home: Vingåker, Sweden
What we are witnessing in Aleppo is part of what’s happening all over Syria – it’s become ‘usual’. In every part of Syria there are barrel bombs and thousands of people are dying.
What’s happening to Aleppo now is the destruction to Syria, its history, culture and economy – a destruction that drives us 100 years backwards.
The reactions of the west don’t mean anything to me anymore – witnessing the world’s sympathy with France after the terrorist attacks; and its apathy when tragic events hit Aleppo. No more than few dozen demonstrated and denounced the offenses.
Name: Malin Persson
Occupation: educator at an NGO
From: Umeå, Sweden
Current home: Stockholm, Sweden
The recent attack on the hospital – it’s completely horrifying. And I feel frustrated when it comes to international cooperation to take action (or rather the lack of it). I realize it's a complex and difficult situation, but only condemning bombings feels insufficient – it's just not enough. There must be something else that can be done?
I don't know what to say really, I feel like my words don't do the situation justice.
The differences in media coverage and activities on social media after Paris and Brussels compared to Aleppo could depend on a lot of things. It could be as simple as distance, whatever is closer will create more emotions. More people in the west have been to one or both of these places, have friends or family who are there, and so on. But sometimes it comes across like an “us and them” type of issue.
When it happened in Paris and Brussels it was more of a “this has happened to all of us” kind of vibe but now when it’s happening in Aleppo it’s more of “this happened to them”.
Do you want to share your reflections on Syria from Sweden? Email us at [email protected] or reach out via the social media links below.