We all know that war is a bitter experience that takes lives and ruins cultures, grinding them to dust. But sometimes we are desensitized to its true devastating effects, particularly in far-flung places like the Middle East. The news makes it feel as though the region has always existed in harm, and has never enjoyed stability. However, if you look at the these 14 images of Aleppo, Syria, as it was prior to the Syrian civil war breaking out, then click on them to see what it looks like today, you will suddenly feel the astonishing and heartbreaking change that has overcome what was recently a perfectly normal nation.
Aleppo has been continuously inhabited since perhaps the 6th millennium BC. The city owed its longevity to its location on the old Silk Road, though recently – since the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869 – Aleppo has fallen from its preeminent height as East-West trade has largely bypassed it.
The Syrian Civil War of 2011 precipitated the devastating Battle of Aleppo (2012), which has caused such terrible destruction to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once proud, ornate buildings have gone the way of time in the blink of an eye.
During the war, the Syrian army used countless barrel bombs and dropped them onto the city from helicopters. These actions have caused thousands of tragic deaths and great waves of evacuations. The conflict’s ripples are being felt all over the Middle East, and even Europe.
These images show that Aleppo was once a pleasant and flourishing city. One moved former visitor, when seeing this image, wrote of “one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited. Now, it’s an unbelievable tragedy.”
I find these images so powerfully touching; provoking grief, pity and even a sense of anger at how such beauty has been overturned in an instant. As one viewer has expressed it: “I never thought I would cry over a building, but this image just has me in tears.”
Aleppo’s buildings, streets, pavilions and piazzas took many long years to build, and it will take just as many to have them rebuilt once again. However, there is no way that the lives of the civilians can ever be rebuilt.
The globalized world now means that although we may be in relatively safe spaces, we can still witness shocking examples of the horrors of war. It is surely to be hoped for, that images such as these affect people enough that they are as inspired to avoid war just as much as the poor Syrian people who are actually experiencing it today are.
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