Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

The News of Death Never Stops

It's hard to look away when the violence seems endless.
By Mona al-Mohammad
  • A woman carrying a child walks past Aleppo’s fire station. (Photo: Hussam Kuwaifatiyeh)
    A woman carrying a child walks past Aleppo’s fire station. (Photo: Hussam Kuwaifatiyeh)

As a newsreader at a local radio station inside Syria, I am constantly updated about the latest national and international developments.

News related to Syria is always grim. It is always of massacres, torture, and displacement. When I present such news, I try not to think about what I’m reading, otherwise my emotions will get the better of me.

On Wednesday April 27, 2016, I delivered news of a massacre in Aleppo.

Russian aircraft had targeted the Al-Quds hospital in the Al-Sukari neighbourhood, killing 25 people and injuring more than 42 men, women, children and elderly people.    

Again, the following day, I relayed more news of more death in Aleppo.

Al-Sukari had once again been targeted, along with the Al-Kalasa, Bustan al-Qasr, and Al-Sakhur neighbourhoods.

The last paediatrician in Aleppo’s opposition-held neighbourhoods had been killed during an airstrike on the hospital where he worked.

Twenty-five civilians had been martyred and scores had been wounded. These numbers were expected to rise, as many people had been trapped under the rubble.

As I monitored developments so as to update my bulletin, I could not help but react to some of the reactions I read.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had published a statement that “following a week of intense violence, Aleppo is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis”.

What was the use of issuing such warnings after all those people had died? Absolutely none.

Another report on a pan-Arab news website also caught my eye. It said the United States had expressed “extreme anger at the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, and had urged Russia to contain Bashar al-Assad’s government”.

I laughed bitterly when I read this report. So what if the US was angry? What would that change? Would it put an end to the increasing death toll in Aleppo? I doubted it.

Friday April, 29 was my day off work, so I sat at home listening to the news on the radio or watching it on TV.

The headlines were still about Aleppo; matters were getting worse.

Ten civilians had been martyred and 15 injured when government aircraft bombed the Al-Ferdous neighbourhood.

A woman had been martyred and three civilians had been injured when government aircraft targeted the Al-Mashad neighbourhood.

A man had died of wounds he sustained during a government airstrike on the Bab al-Neirab neighbourhood.

My father turned to me and asked, “How long are we going to live like this, while the world watches in silence and does nothing?”

I didn’t think my father expected an answer from me, so I too remained silent.

We carried on listening to the news. A report was being broadcast about a regime sniper positioned in Aleppo’s Al-Qasr al-Baladi neighbourhood who was targeting civil defence teams as they attempted to rescue those wounded in the Bustan al-Qasr airstrike.

“No news of casualties,” I thought to myself. “Finally an airstrike without casualties!”

I was elated.  

Yet, that night, I found it hard to get any sleep. The colour red had dominated Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, as news of what was happening in Aleppo spread.

Timelines were flooded with photos showing the aftermath of the massacres: blood, body parts, dead bodies, charred children, women buried under the debris, buildings reduced to rubble and deserted residential streets.

Hashtags had been launched to draw attention to the calamity: “Aleppo is burning”, “Save Aleppo”, “Peace be upon Aleppo” and so on.

People kept sending me messages urging me to interact with the hashtags and share news of what was happening with my followers.

It was hard to look away.

I wondered what would be in store for me the following day at work. Would the news still be about Aleppo? Or would another city fall victim to government bombardment?

The answer was Aleppo. The next day, a Saturday, its residents were subjected to more murder and more devastation.

The following Thursday, May 5, a temporary ceasefire was announced and we expected Aleppo’s devastating news to quieten down. But the bulletins I read out that day still carried reports of death.

“Despite the commencement of a ceasefire, a number of civilians were martyred today when Al-Assad tanks targeted a vehicle in Aleppo’s northern countryside, on the motorway close to the Al-Muhandisin bridge,” I read.

Aleppo was still being victimised.

Each day, I relay news of death to the general public, and the continuing death toll makes me wonder about my own fate.

I am terrified of being killed the way many others have, the remains of my body dismembered or charred in a mortar or a missile attack.

Although I hate to think about it, I always find myself wondering how my life will end.

Mona al-Mohammad is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Tabaqa. The 20-year-old was forced to abandon her Arabic literature university course and flee to Idlib’s countryside where she and her family are now displaced.

Read the Arabic version of this article here

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