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Five answers to the Questions that you all have about Aleppo




Translated from Italian via Google Translate from VICE

Try to portray the situation in Aleppo is a difficult task for two different sets of problems.

The first is that the battle for the key cities of Syria in the war has been going on for four years or four years, during which fronts the belligerents, the fate of the civilian population have undergone radical changes and conflicts of a different kind (and more and more dramatic).

The second is that as I write is at work a propaganda war that, in the near absence of independent sources, performs admirably in its main task: misinform. The eastern part of Aleppo, where anti-regime fighters are allocated and where they lived hundreds of thousands of people, was bombed indiscriminately for these four years. The cost of which in recent months has become a real siege is very high in terms of human lives, especially of defenseless civilians. The propaganda of the regime of Bashar al-Asad called this thing a “liberation” and defines victims as “terrorists.”

Following some time what is happening in Syria and in the surrounding area, I tried to answer the questions that everyone, seeing scroll through the news of the last hours on Facebook, may have made on the situation.


The siege, which resulted in the closure of all supply routes for the people of eastern Aleppo, is ending with the “victory” of the loyalist troops, assisted on the field by the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranians and the Russians in the heavens. There remain pockets of armed resistance, areas where the Russian bombings are continuing to hit and where it still remains trapped part of the civilian population, they speak of a hundred thousand people.

In recent days several sources describe mass executions of civilians and several episodes of looting, as well as sniper attacks on convoys prepared for evacuation. Other local sources report that several women have killed themselves to avoid rape.

In this context, in which several Western governments and international bodies such as the UN call for a ceasefire to allow civilians to true salvation, we are witnessing a gruesome propaganda ballet.

The hypothetical “ceasefire”, achieved through fragile agreements (in the latter case between Russia and Turkey), are revealed staged (the number of evacuated people is very low and we do not know where these people cramming) whose end it is mainly to “show the world” a willingness to save lives which, however, seems to be no. Those who, for one reason or another, remain in Aleppo east will be treated as a fighter-thus, in the terminology of the regime, a terrorist.

A humanitarian corridor, to be effective, should be put in the role of parties involved in the conflict, can not be handled by one of them: different sources in fact record the fear on the part of many civilians from falling into the hands of the loyalists who can at will decide on their fate. And the fear is understandable, given the bombing mode above.

The other fear, once “cleaned” Aleppo east from every human being, is that the original inhabitants of that part of the city may never return, that the demographic composition of the city is completely rewritten. Elsewhere, for example in one of the many “martyr cities” of Syria in recent years as Homs, the regime has burned the records of the land registry and already in 2013 the Guardian spoke, using a certain overused term, “ethnic cleansing.”


The dynamics of the battle of Aleppo is very complex and has experienced several phases during which its outcome appeared uncertain. Aleppo was the economic capital of Syria. The protest movement against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in the city, as elsewhere repressed in blood, began to make their voices heard in relative lagging behind other areas of the country (the first meager events are held at the end of April 2011, a month and a half after the start of the protests). However, it was expressed with great force, especially in the outlying areas and overcrowded city, in the wake of the strong protests that were recorded in rural areas of the province aleppina.

The “battle for Aleppo” began in July 2012 as part of a broad offensive Free Syrian Army called “Damascus volcano and earthquakes of Syria”. The rebel forces (see below for an explanation of the composition) established themselves in a wide part of the city without ever reach its heart. After the first few months of clashes, during which (we are in October 2012), also the historical center of the city suffered extensive damage, the positions of the loyalists and the rebels-with the Kurdish district that remains “neutral” -rimangono for a long time unchanged .

The clash, in the early days of combat, stabilizes on the east (rebels)-west (government) and becomes war of position. The regime is preparing a long-term strategy which is to indiscriminate bombing of areas controlled by the rebellion, with tragic consequences for the civilian population and infrastructure. From their positions the rebels return fire from the ground. Being strategically important in the broader context of the war, the battle of Aleppo have focused many of the economic and logistical efforts of all the geopolitical actors involved in the conflict.

Initially little connotations from the religious point of view, the armed rebel groups have experienced different processes of radicalization, also due to the origin of their funding (mainly Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar). Today, they count in their ranks even some jihadist groups and the initials Syrian qaidista (Jabhat al-Nusra Front, today Jabhat al-fatih al-Sham). The Islamic State group, founded in April of 2013 with the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), is absent (at the time was expelled from the area of Aleppo controlled by the rebels, as well as in the governorate of Idlib) .

The ranks of loyalists fight over the government army soldiers, irregular loyalist troops, the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, Iran with different formations and Russia (mainly with aviation). A turning point in the battle for Aleppo was recorded after the official entry in the Russian war, starting in September 2015. Although officially the purpose of the Russians was to defeat the Islamic State group, the Russian operations were concentrated almost all ( except the most “famous” is the city of Palmira, now back in the hands of the Islamic State) on those “rebels” areas of the country where resist armed formations do not belong to that organization, areas of geostrategic interest to the regime in Damascus and where logistical and military aid of enemy regional powers (Turkey, Gulf countries) concentrated.

Aleppo is the focus of this strategy and the real reason why today the loyalists managed to conquer it is nell’avvenuto rapprochement between Putin and Erdogan took place on the basis of common economic interests. Turkey has stopped providing aid to fighters in Aleppo, concentrating on the border which is located north of the city, an area that used to Ankara to limit the advance of Syrian Kurds of YPG which, thanks to ‘ American assistance provided to them in anti-Islamic state key, sought to join the predominantly Kurdish territories in northern Syria.


The battle for Aleppo is ending in the tragic form that we know. From a military and strategic point of view this is an important victory for the loyalists, but it does not mean the end of the war nor appeasement of Aleppo. Certainly the event inaugurates a new phase, with the rebellion to the increasingly confined regime terriorialmente in Idlib province and territory control by the regime-that you will face, probably for a long time, in hotbeds of revolt and of a incremented episodes terrorist-decidedly weak.

Syria is now crossed by antagonisms that seem impossible to reconcile, whose fates are increasingly linked to the decisions, actions, funding of external actors. Waiting to see what will be the attitude of America Trump we have witnessed the aforementioned rapprochement of Turkey and Russia, which share the areas of influence in the north.

And we know that a successful outcome of the other great battle going on, that of Mosul in Iraq, inevitably make the folding of the fighters of the Islamic State in Syria, where he is currently the only ones to fight with that organization’s actual results are the Kurds of YPG that drive the “Syrian Democratic Forces”, incurred (for how much longer?) from Washington. Meanwhile in the south of the country the bowls seem firm, with the forces of the “Front South” supported by the Americans and Jordanians, kept in “pause” for months.


From time Western journalists do not have access to the war if not, by the regime, with strong limitations (such as to “propaganda” their work). Generally all sources must seriously be put under consideration, being in place, as I said, a propaganda war.

The local independent sources on the ground have now minimized. Among the most reliable is the Aleppo Media Center.

Medical sources have almost disappeared. The “Syrian Civil Defence” (which the site collects donations) said recently about not being able to reach different areas affected by the bombings. Other “lighthouse” on the east of Aleppo, but no journalists in the field, is ANA press.

A journalist who has long provided reliable reporting on the situation in Aleppo is Rami Jarrah,  now living in Turkey.


Difficult to operate in some form to give practical help. Since the question eminently “political” in this “handbook” in English is encouraged first of all to put pressure on national politicians and the international organizations to raise the issue of responsibility and humanitarian aid.

In several European cities and in Turkey these days is manifested mainly in front of the Russian embassy, demanding an end to the bombing and the opening of humanitarian corridors true. Others invited to call the respective embassies.

Lorenzo Follow on Twitter






Genocide by every race on the planet, but no, let’s only call for the deaths of Jews *rolls eyes* and post all over FACEBOOK “ISRAEL MUST BE WIPED OFF THE MAP”

German starvation of Namibian tribes 1904-7- estimates range 30-80% of Herero and Namaqua tribes [1]

Irish Potato Famine 1845-53- many consider it a “genocide” caused by the British. 4-6,000,000, more than half of Ireland’s population starved and emigrated [2].

Armenian “Genocide” by Ottoman Empire 1916-23- Turkey officially denies it (as does Azerbaijan), Armenians claim expulsion and murder of 1-2,000,000. Almost half of the Armenian race in Asia sent into diaspora. Calculations difficult due to uncertainty of how many died due to famine, infirmity, or direct murder.

“Genocide” against Greek by Ottoman Empire 1916-23- Turkey denies it, Greece, Cyprus, and the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) claim as many as several hundred thousand killed and label it a “genocide” [3].

Starvation of Ukrainians during Soviet collectivization- Russians deny it, Ukrainians claim from 3-20,000,000.

Soviet starvation of Kazakhs, Cossacks, Chechens, & Tatars- during collectivization, as many as 40% of the entire Kazakh population died by 1940 [4], and 25-50% of the Chechen Ingush populations died due to malnourishment. Over half of all Tatars starved to death [5].

Jewish Holocaust (Shoah)- including both systematic death camp killings and intense ethnic cleansings by Germans, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, Austrians, Ukrainians, Poles, Croats, Bosniaks, Vichy France, Hungarians, and Romanians, the most corroborated total is at least 5,500,000. Over 1,000,000 killed through forced labour and gassing at Auschwitz-Birkenau alone, with at least 2 million shot by the Einsatzgruppen and local volunteers on the Eastern Front. By most counts the single most organised and extensive case of genocide in modern history.

German genocide in Poland- many consider the Nazi General Government’s rule in Poland during from 1939-1945, and the death of ~10-20% of Poland’s population, to be “genocide”.

Ethnic cleansing of Hungarians by Czechoslovakia- numbers vary. Between 25 and 150,000 civilians expelled from Slovakia to Hungary at the same time as 3,000,000 Germans were expelled. Unknown death tolls.

Ethnic cleansing of Slovaks by Hungary- numbers vary. Anywhere from 15-75,000 Slovaks expelled in a population exchange with Czechoslovakia, while anywhere from 25 to 150,000 Hungarians were expelled to Hungary. Most scholars agree that the removal of Hungarians was compulsory (an ethnic cleansing), while the removal of Slovaks was largely voluntary.

Galician Ukrainians and Poles from 1920-1945- estimates vary. Mostly considered inter-ethnic fighting, but others have emphasized the ethnicity-based violence as a “genocide.” Ranges from 10 to even 80,000 [6].

Bulgarian “genocide” of Greeks, Jews, & Serbs in Macedonia- so far unrecognized and disputed. Axis Bulgaria rounded up over 10,000 Jews and forced them into makeshift concentration camps, with uncertain deaths [7].

Croatian Nazi “genocide” against Serbs, Gypsies, & Jews- over 70,000 Jews, Gypsies, Communists, and Serbs killed in concentration camps by Croats in Jasenovac alone [8]. Total number killed by Croatia may be 1 million.

Soviet-German transfers of Baltic Germans- ~150,000 forcibly relocated by the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement between Hitler and Stalin in 1939. German civilians targeted after Soviet conquest of the Baltic for deportation, massacre, and expulsion (see our essay for sources). Relatively few deaths but a complete removal, so more appropriately called an ethnic cleansing.

Soviet deportation of all German civilians in USSR- nearly all of 1,084,828 expelled, over 300,000 may have died during the expulsions, or 30% total (see our essay for sources). Relatively few deaths but a complete removal, so more appropriately called an ethnic cleansing.

Soviet deportation of all Volga Germans- over 400,000 expelled, half may have died (see our essay for sources). Relatively few deaths but a complete removal, so more appropriately called an ethnic cleansing.

Polish and Soviet forced march of Germans- over 5,000,000 Germans expelled, with a debated number dying in transit from starvation, hypothermia, disease, and murder (see our essay for sources). The largest death toll among expelled German populations, although debates rage as to whether Poles or occupying Soviet troops are to blame.

Yugoslav imprisonment of Germans & Croats- at least 200,000 (the entire German population) gaoled, executed, or displaced, and subjected to forced labour in what many scholars call ‘concentration camps’ (see our essay for sources). Compared to other campaigns against Germans, an unusually high death rate. However, the Yugoslav Germans are unique because they were not murdered en masse, nor expelled at all, but imprisoned for several years (with a very high death rate) until most voluntarily emigrated or were expelled.

Czechoslovak forced march of Germans and Hungarians- over 3,000,000 expelled and displaced. As many as 100,000 may have starved to death or were executed (see our essay for sources). Relatively few deaths but a complete removal, so more appropriately called an ethnic cleansing.

Expulsion of Hungary’s Germans- over 100,000 directly expelled, 300,000 displaced, 88% loss (see our essay for sources). Relatively few deaths but a complete removal, so more appropriately called an ethnic cleansing.

Deportation of Romania’s Germans- 200,000 displaced by Hitler’s population transfer, 75,000 deported for forced labour by Soviet Union (at least 15% dead), over 300,000 lost through relegated mass emigration (see our essay for sources). Relatively few deaths but a complete removal, so more appropriately called an ethnic cleansing. However, this term is largely inappropriate because most emigration was “voluntary,” albeit under severe cultural discrimination.

Australian whites against Aboriginals- controversial. Some consider it only relocation/resettlement. Others describe the intentional murder and movement of 10-50,000 natives [9]. Primarily from disease, most of the indigenous population died out within 100 years. The native population of Tasmania largely ceased to exist by 1900.

India-Pakistan Bangladesh Conflict 1947-71- some consider the movement of millions of Muslims from India to West and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) to be a forced march and a “genocide”. During the Bengali independence war between Pakistan and India, Muslims, Hindus, Pakistanis, and Bengalis engaged in mutual wars for independence. R. J. Rummel cites millions [10]. As much of the emigration was voluntary (albeit under immense pressure and discrimination), it is difficult to label this as ethnic cleansing. This is further complicated by the fact that over 100,000,000 Muslims remain in India and tens of thousands of Hindus in Pakistan, therefore indicating that neither India nor Pakistan intended to remove (or eradicate) the entire Muslim or Hindu populations, respectively.

Rwanda/Burundi “genocide” between Hutus & Tutsis- estimates range drastically from 500,000-1,000,000. Compared with other possible genocides, the violent campaigns organised by the Hutus may be one of the most authentic cases of “genocide” of the twentieth century. The Hutu Power movement, particularly the Interhamwe militias, directly advocated the extinction of all Tutsis in the style of a “genocide”, including through in some cases the systematic rape and spread of HIV/AIDS to eradicate the Tutsi populations and mixed families.

Cambodian Killing Fields- controversial. While nearly 30% of the Cambodian population died during Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s under Pol Pot (Saloth Sar), much of the death rate can be blamed on mismanagement, corruption, and abuse of power. Despite the large death toll, the term “genocide” may be inappropriate since it is technically impossible to commit “genocide” against one’s own ethnic group. However, the regime disproportionately targeted ethnic Cham and Vietnamese communities in the country, which raises questions that “genocide” may have been carried out not against Cambodians, but ethnic minorities.

“”Genocide”” of Azeris by Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh- highly controversial. Turks and Azeris emphasize that Armenians deserve no restitution for the Armenian “genocide” from Turkey because of their murder of as many as ten thousand Turkic Muslims in Azerbaijan [11]. Armenians claim the opposite, insisting that it is a civil war.

Assyrian “Genocide” by Ottoman Turks- like the Armenians, anywhere from 200,000-600,000 Assyrian Christians in contemporary Iraq, Syria, and Turkey may have been killed along with the Armenians in the final days of the Ottoman Empire during World War II. Unlike the Armenian case, the Assyrian “genocide” has gathered relatively little recognition.

Hindu “genocide” of Buddhists in Sri Lanka after 1970- as many as 70-100,000 civilians slain by Tamil Hindu militias, especially the Tigers of Tamil Eelam [12].

Yugoslav Wars- extremely debated. Serbs deride the contumacy and revolt of the Croats and Bosniaks. Others insist that the Serbs committed mass rape and “genocide” of tens or even hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs, and 8-10,000 Muslims in Srbrenica alone [13]. War crimes were carried out by all parties, including Croatian nationalists, Bosnian Croats, Bosniak Muslims, and Bosnian Serbs.

Darfur war- extremely difficult to identify and ascertain statistics because of the wide array of tribes and religions involved in massive killings in the region that make it difficult to portray a phenomenon of one race slaughtering another. Sudan dismisses it. Human rights groups claim as high as millions are dead or displaced.

Human Rights Activists Taught Online Tactics


Mobile phones have brought information and images from conflict zones



There are websites that allow for anonymous internet access, allowing people to organise without revealing identities. There are also means of circumventing censors’ attempts at blocking websites.

The Tor project software, an unexpected spin-off from military technology, is favoured by human rights campaigners.

Mr Michael says there are also “work arounds” to make online video and phone calls more secure from surveillance.

Another practical development is software that can easily pixellate faces in video footage, protecting bystanders who might be put at risk by identification.

In terms of posting videos of protests or repression, Witness is working with YouTube on a dedicated human rights channel.

It’s already hosting hundreds of user-generated videos from a wide number of countries, at the moment including Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Burma, Chile, Spain, Russia, China and the United States. There’s a daily update of video reports which include anything from student protests to forcible evictions.

Selecting and showcasing the most relevant videos is important to make an impact on YouTube’s global audience, Mr Michael says.

“Very few people are going to watch for hours. You might be able to get their attention for 45 seconds, that’s the world people live in,” he says.


The spread of mobile phones means there is an unprecedented ability for recording and distributing evidence of violence against citizens. We’re living in a global goldfish bowl.

But is this making the world a safer place? Can cheap video and social networking defrost dictatorships? To put it bluntly, could Hitler and Stalin have been exposed at an earlier stage by Twitter and YouTube?

The Arab Spring saw social networking becoming a forum for protest

Does a modern revolution really come from the lens of an iPhone rather than the barrel of a gun?

It’s not that simple, cautions Mr Michael, speaking at an event in Pisa, Italy, debating the impact of digital activism.

“In one word, Syria,” he says. There has been video evidence of wrongdoing and violence, but little sign that public scrutiny is acting as a deterrent.

“Just because you can document something, it doesn’t meant that you change anything in real terms.”

But he says the sheer scale of video and information – and the ability to keep in touch with those under attack – does make a difference.

“Because so many people are documenting, seeing is not only believing, we’re also able to act and communicate with people who are affected – and that can be very powerful.”


But the question remains whether Facebook really enabled Arab revolutions, or whether it enabled the rest of the world to find out more about a revolution that was going to happen anyway.

Federico Moro, director of the training institute project, with a statue of Robert Kennedy

Stephen Bradberry, a community activist in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, uses the word “slacktivism” – as a caution for the idea that clicking on a “like” button is a sufficient alternative to grassroots organisation.

He also makes the point that while the internet makes so much information accessible, the power to find it is handed over to the search engines and their algorithms.

Rana Husseini, a Jordanian activist and journalist who uncovered stories about honour killings, says the internet has given a voice to public opinion.

She also shares concerns that digital technology can be used as tools for surveillance and control as well as openness and investigation.

But she speaks passionately about the way that ordinary people risk their lives to record video clips on their mobile phones in conflicts such as Syria.

“This couldn’t have happened in the past – and probably this person will vanish.”

But the act of documenting is an important statement in its own right, she says. The idea of so many individuals making their own video history in this way is “something new and important”.


As an educational project, the human rights training institute project in Florence is an unlikely collision of influences. It’s a highly individual project.

Stephen Bradberry warns of the risk of relying on online campaigns instead of grassroots protests

Inside the sturdy medieval prison walls, in the birthplace of the European renaissance, there is this hi-tech centre for online civil rights, awaiting students from around the world.

Into this mix is added the legacy of Robert Kennedy’s 1960s idealism. The foundation was set up in memory of the assassinated senator and is now headed by his daughter, Kerry Kennedy.

She recently had her own brush with the secret police when she headed a human rights delegation to the Western Sahara.

A trademark of Robert Kennedy’s campaigning was to get information first hand, often from people excluded from the political mainstream.

And there is some kind of symmetry here – with social networking and blogging representing an instant electronic version of accumulating the authority of many individual voices.

They want to harness these new digital technologies to old causes.

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