Terror in Aleppo

Trip Start Aug 12, 2012
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Trip End Aug 16, 2012


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Flag of Syria  ,
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The maddest place I have ever been,initial impressions were that it was a cross between Belfast,Beirut,Baghdad and Sarajevo,oh,...,and definitely not a nice place to die,but something that could be easily arranged.The bombing was relentless,being embedded with the FSA was bound to draw fire,the city was chaotic in the early stages of partial rebel occupation so nobody knew where the snipers were,and anything that moved was a potential target for MIGs and helicopter gunships.Nobody had yet made sniper screens or trenches,and half the townsfolk were gawping at you as if they did not approve of the FSA presence in their neighbourhood and could not be trusted if you wandered away from your armed escort.Meanwhile this same FSA "protection"  were endeavouring to draw fire deliberately by riding open pickups containing journalists into contested T junctions,lucky they didnt get their head blown off by rockets from the sky,that smashed into a nearby wall.
And by firing into the air,diverting MiGs from the bombing of nearby sites onto themself,scampering from warehouse to warehouse between explosions,to escape.
Their base had been bombed too upon their return from a days patrols.Nowhere and nobody was safe
I visited for one day initially from the smaller town of Marae,which to this day holds out under bombardments from Government and IS and even,a few months ago,chemical attack.The day I arrived there in 2012 was relatively tame as a fighter jet made at least 9 bombing runs on the town but only blew up a field on the edge,injuring no one.A similar raid on Azaz 2 days later killed more than 80 people,somewhat unexpectedly,as passing through in previous days it seemed to be a secure border town where further action was unlikely,or were we just naive?
I picked over the ruins the next day on the way back to Turkey,via Kilis,still unsure whether to return to Aleppo when my dysentery had got better,and if any editors responded to my picture sale requests.
After a few days I returned to Kilis border.I was granted my FSA stamp again,but then refused entry through the gate by drivers who wanted $100 for their transport to proceed even to Azaz,only 1 km down the road.The lack of world support to buy weapons,and the death of a young female Japanese reporter in Aleppo the previous day justified their demands,in their mind.
 
 "You let me go for free twice before",I said.
 . "We know,it was horrible",they responded
 
 The border guard,trained in an al Qaeda camp because they were the best,but still the nicest chap present,translated their response.He would let me through,they would not.Two nations divided by politics but united in humour.
I headed back to Gaziantep,spotted a cheap flight to Germany on the internet and never came back.The future for journalists in this region became infamously much worse by the following year.Many were kidnapped and some killed,not only because of the territorial gains of the extremists who were already present in 2012 and developed into the Islamic Statebut also because they westerners had become a commodity to desperate people who had raided their life savings from under their mattress to buy overpriced guns,often from Iraq,and were increasingly embittered by lack of support from western countries,including the UK as they tried to master a power vacuum for the FSA,what they saw as a good cause that deserved World support,not apathy.
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