The Wretched of Aleppo

Miriam died. And you killed her.

24 Hours ago

The city was in ruins. Piles of smoking rubble stood all around the little shanty that had once been a part of an opulent apartment complex in Aleppo. Miriam, a boisterous 6-year-old, lived there with her mother and her father. It was not long ago that they had bought a new car, a Range Rover. And it seemed just like yesterday that her father had taken her for a ride in the new family vehicle. The wind had whipped across her face and she had giggled at the people, making funny faces at passers-by.

Only now her eyes seemed to be burning all the time. There was no wind these days. Only dust and smoke and the stench of rotting and burning flesh that turned her stomach and made her want to vomit. Her mother Farah was pregnant but she probably won’t give birth. The lack of food and medication had made sure that the woman was weak and tired all the time. Any day she might miscarry. Strangely enough, she wanted to miscarry because the family was planning to escape and the arrival of a new baby wouldn’t help. Besides, Farah did not want to bring a child into the world in these uncertain times. She just wanted to escape this hell with her daughter and her husband.

12 Hours ago

A horrible, high-pitched screech was heard from the make-shift bed in the little hut. The already soiled sheet on the bed was soaked in fresh blood. Farah was miscarrying. Earlier in the day, she was hit by falling debris when a stray spray of bullets knocked down the other side of the wall behind their hiding space. Miriam’s father Zaid had already gotten his daughter to safety. Anxiously he reached for Farah when he saw her tripping on her feet after taking a hit to the back from a loose brick. Torn between his desire for safety and his love for his wife, he dared to make a dash and reach the injured woman. Luckily, no one saw him and he was able to help her into the remainder of the building. That was six hours ago. At this point, Farah was bleeding freely and there was no doctor and no medicine. She may hemorrhage to death and Miriam will be forced to watch.

Representational Image (Bilal Hussein, File/AP Photo)

Present Moment

Farah is unconscious. Her breaths are coming in labored gasps. She is pale and cold. Oblivious to her surroundings, she is in no more pain. Exactly at this moment, she has just taken her last breath; unaware that the last thing she is losing to the war is her own life.

Zaid and Miriam could not hold Farah’s hand in her last moments. Sometime during her delirium, Zaid’s desperation drove him to an act of bravery that could have been considered foolish in another situation.

7 Hours ago

He was watching his wife’s life slipping away from her exhausted body. And in a last attempt to save her life, he went out of their shack, daring to hope that he might find a doctor or a nurse or even a pharmacy. Leaving Miriam behind was not an option. If he didn’t return, Farah would not make it. And Miriam would be left an orphan in a country being torn apart by war. He wasn’t prepared to subject his daughter to that cruelty. He decided that if they were supposed to survive, they would do it as a family. No one would be left behind to suffer an unspeakable fate all alone.

He was right.


Representational Image (Feb. 16 2016/Oxfam: Sourced from the Associated Press)

There are thousands of such stories coming out from all over Syria. If you are on Twitter, you know that scores of Syrians have been tweeting out their last messages from Aleppo after the fall of the city into the hands of the Assad regime. 7-year-old Bana Al-Abed has been tweeting since September this year, with the help of her mother. Their messages have grown more and more wretched and desperate with each passing day. And there are millions of such children and their families crying out for help.

When you decide to ignore a call for help, you are actively leaving them to die. And the child doesn’t need a name to be of importance. I called her Miriam. If you so like, substitute the name with that of your own daughter and think of this story again.

There is little one can do as an individual. But there is a lot to be gained from collective action through organized donations and even spreading the word. Share this article widely. Donate generously to organizations like the UNHCR, International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders.

You are their hope. Become their hero.

You can donate to International Rescue Committee through this page that I set up on Crowd Rise, a third-party organization approved by the IRC. Donate to ‘To Aleppo, With Love’ here:

Learn More

*The title of this piece is a play on the title of Frantz Fanon’s famous work ‘The Wretched of the Earth”. The book deals with Colonialism in Africa and is a valuable reading on violence and psychology in relation to 20th-century imperialism. 


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