By Joshka Wessels
“Aleppo is alive and will not die!”
This is what video journalist Gnaid wrote on Facebook when he announced the birth of his little daughter, his second child, on Thursday, November 24, 2016.
Gnaid works for the media activist group Aleppo Today providing daily news and also works together with Aleppo Media Center (AMC) in eastern Aleppo city in Syria. He has intermittent internet connection via satellite and is only able to communicate with Global Voices that way. He lives with his wife, his young son, his newborn daughter and two of his relatives.
Both children were born and are growing up under siege. Earlier last week, Gnaid told Global Voices in a series of communications that the Syrian regime’s forces were only a couple of kilometers from his house and that panic has taken over the civilians and the media professionals who are still in eastern Aleppo.
At the time of writing, forces that support President Bashar al-Assad are reported to control most of East Aleppo, having made quick advancements in recent days under the cover of Russian bombardment and the large support of Iranian-backed militias. Since 2012, the city has been divided between rebel-held East Aleppo and regime-held West Aleppo. The first barrel bombs to have been dropped by the regime over Aleppo were in December 2013 and since then, many forms of weapons have been used, from chemical weapons to cluster bombs, leaving the eastern part of the city in complete ruins. A brutal siege was then imposed by the regime in July 2016 as it declared its intentions to retake eastern Aleppo within months.
When Gnaid and his family assessed the possibilities of leaving eastern Aleppo, they found many obstacles. Going to neighboring Turkey is difficult, and areas of Syria that are held by the regime are dangerous for media activists who fear arrest, torture or even death. Gnaid remarked that only if he surrendered and held a portrait of Assad he might survive, but his pride and dignity would not allow it. It is too humiliating for him, he told Global Voices. So Gnaid and his family decided to stay in eastern Aleppo and continue.
“Tonight, the bombings are very heavy” Gnaid said on Wednesday, December 7. “It is terrible and scary, Aleppo has become a horror city.” He accused the international community of having “a lack of humanity”:
Gnaid then sent another message:
Finally, on Thursday, December 8, Gnaid sent what he thought would be his last message.
Fortunately, he managed to send a short audio note to Global Voices on the morning of Tuesday, December 13, saying:
Meanwhile, his colleagues at the Aleppo Media Center uploaded a 360-degree video to show the wide-spread destruction of the area of Al Shaer neighborhood in eastern Aleppo.
For Gnaid and his family, the international community is doing nothing to stop the bloodshed. The only hope now, he says, is that he and his family can get out safely to the remaining opposition-held areas, hoping that the warplanes don’t follow the people there eventually.