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Aleppo's Evil Humanitarians

Eyewitness to who helped the Aleppians, December 11-14, 2016

Story by Jan Oberg January 9th, 2017

Aleppo shall not be forgotten

About this photo story

Today Syria is the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II thanks to sanctions and the war - according to this UN report.

In spite of that, it was the Syrian government and Army - those who, according to ouor media, only "kill their own" - plus the Russians and the Red Crescent who helped people who came out of Eastern Aleppo at its liberation on December 12. Where I was, I saw none of the leading humanitarian organisations.

This is a photo-and-text story about people from Eastern Aleppo who were helped to get to the Jibrin reception centre where they got some little supplies, food, aid and medical care.

After Jibrin they could proceed either to a centre for IDPs - Internally Displaced Persons - to relatives or friends in the Western part of town or back to the East and start building their homes and lives from the ruins.

The figures I have been able to retrieve are of course rough estaimates: 90.000-115.000 of the people in Eastern Aleppo went to the Western part; 7.000 civilians and some 20.000 millitants (RIOTs) and their families went to other places such as Idlib, the countryside and Turkey or wherever they may have come from originally. Thus, Eastern Aleppo was hardly 250.000 or more as some press reports have stated.

These ruins - including the old city that was a designated UNESCO World Heritage city - were the result of over 4 years of occupation by rebels/insurgents/opposition/terrorist (RIOT) occupation supported predominantly by NATO countries and other Friends of Syria countries as they called themselves from 2012, including Saudi Arabia, the Golf states.

The media have been quick to forget Aleppo. As usual, when the violence dies down, media lose interest and travel to another bloody drama - thus depriving themselves of good human stories and the chance to learn where and how they were mistaken.

At the very end of this story we give you some of the main reasons the broader truth about Aleppo has been silenced by the West.

Thus, the last article about Aleppo in the New York Times is dated December 19. About the Twitter girl Bana, written by Megan Specia who has a Bachelor and until May 2016 worked at Mashable - a global media and entertainment company. Since then not a word about Aleppo, the Aleppians and their plight in the NYT.

This is one of a series of photo-and-text reports from The Transnational Foundation (see below) that aims to discuss what happened in Aleppo in mid-December and to put that into a larger perspective since it is, simply, a piece of world history that many in the West want to mostly forget about, fast.

And it aims, finally, at paying respect to the victims we met and remind the tens of thousands who see these reports how utterly cruel and meaningless wars are when better means were available. The published and future reports can be found here at Exposure as well as on TFF's blog and all its social media.


Who helped these Aleppians?

Those who helped these innocent, destitute Eastern Aleppians were the Syrian government and its Syrian Arab Army, the Syrian Red Crescent, Russia with field hospitals and doctors and Syrian youth volunteers, mostly from Aleppo's university.

All appear in this photo report below.

Other humanitarian work may have been carried out in parts of town where I was not. All I can say is that I saw none of the main Western humanitarian organisations doing anything for these suffering victims in Jibrin.

That is strange because of two factors: a) the liberation of Aleppo was predictable during the preceding two weeks and humanitarian work could have been planned; and b) the West has argued intensely for ceasefires to facilitate humanitarian convoys getting into Aleppo.

This eyewitness report and documentation contradicts the major Western mainstream media's narrative. In spite of the world historic dimension of this liberation, the tragedy of these innocent war victims and the heartbreakingly vast proportions of the systematic destruction of this dynamic city, none of their media were present in Aleppo there and then.

I was.

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A story about liberation in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945

"My two sisters lived in Eastern Aleppo until the terrorists - the Free Syrian Army (FAS) - occupied their house, threw out all Christians and emptied the houses. My mother and big brother lived in the West...but their house was damaged by the bombs (from the terrorists in the East too, JO) and they had to flee to the coast. I myself grew up in the East in Alramoseh, a place called Alamarieh near Alinsari."

"It was very very hard during the occupation. I feel like I died during those years and now I have come alive again. It was difficult to get enough food, actually, we were starving and my mother in law who felt ill could not get any medical aid. It was very hard."

I was the only person from Scandinavia and entered Eastern Aleppo for the first time on December 11, 2016, with a handful of other foreigners. First in the Hanano district, later in other parts, the Old City and the industrial zone.

Whatever the large Western media have told you about genocide, mass murder, slaughter etc of citizens in Eastern Aleppo, I can only report two things: None of these media were present, they reported from Beirut, Libanon, Istanbul or Berlin - and I did not see any of it. I did not see any dead bodies and met no one with fear in their eyes. Where I was.

The stories I heard were basically the same with variations on three themes:

• The people living in Eastern Aleppo which, in 2012, were suddenly occupied by a diversity of groups, bands and commandos, with or without uniforms but all with guns in their hands, saw this as an occupation. They did not associate it with anything positive but with suffering, death and destruction - years of fear and lack of freedom.

• They were extremely happy that, on December 12, 2016, it was finally over and Eastern Aleppo 100% liberated by the Syrian Arab Army, various associated military groups and by Russian aerial bombardments. The offensive as some call it - but it lead to the liberation of the East - had begun on November 15.

• They expressed gratitude to the Syrian government, the military, the student volunteers, the Red Crescent and to the Russians - the latter both for the bombing so the terrorists would give up and for the field hospitals the Russians had set up which I saw myself in the Jenin Reception Centre where so many East Aleppians arrived to get some little humanitarian help.

I arrived to Western Aleppo on December 10 and was in and out of Eastern Aleppo each of the days December 11, 12, 13 and in Jenin on the 14th. At no point did I see Western humanitarian aid workers on the ground.

Neither did I observe the highly-lauded, allegedly humanitarian rescue teams of the Syrian Civil Defence - or White Helmets. I met a few locals who had heard about them, but none who had seen them or been assisted by them during these years of occupation. (The Syrian Civil Defence was a name stolen because Syria has had an organisation of its own with that name since 1953).


Cautionary notes

Note 1: Aleppo is a big city and obviously I have not seen what happened in all its parts, lanes and houses. It is fully possible that some of its citizens who have been fighting with the rebels/opposition/terrorists (ROT) against their own governments and fellow citizens the last few years were hard hit and some killed. The final hours of this type of fighting seldom resembles a cosy tea party.

Note 2: I have no illusions that war is a solution or brings peace in its wake. But I have felt - strongly - that I have witnessed something of fundamental importance that large, opinion-shaping mainstream media in the West have systematically chosen to not report. For weeks, many of them reported that more and more of Eastern Aleppo were "falling" - i.e. getting back under government control. In spite of that they chose to not be present at the liberation - such as BBC - although they must have had a visa since they had been there earlier.

I am reporting truthfully what I have seen - and others who were there at the same time have published quite similar reports. My photos are genuine from that place during those days. They are not the result - as so many others - of manipulation, stealing from other wars or towns, photoshopping or marketing-created fake videos and photos.

That other things may have happened elsewhere could be true too. In the last pocket of rebel resistance, the fighting may have been merciless.

But reports containing news that the Syrian government, the Army and the Russians only mass killed innocent civilians (i.e. Syrian citizens without a gun in their hand) - that the president ("the dictator") systematically kills his own, as is repeatedly stated with little or no source control is, given what I have witnessed, not the whole truth or, worse, deliberately untruthful and demonising.

What you have heard about the liberation of Aleppo is either mostly falsifications or a small part of a much larger truth. I do not know but I know what I experienced with this documentation. I cannot report places I have not been to, people I have not met and stories I have not heard.

So ask the media who profess to know and convey the truth to you where they were and how they know what the truth is - the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


TFF's conflict and peace mission - share and support

The visit to Aleppo at this historic moment was part of a ten-day conflict and peace fact-finding mission by the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF, in Lund, Sweden of which I am the director. I can be contacted at janoberg@mac.com.

Our gratitude to those who support the foundation in its work for the UN norm of making peace with peaceful means and made this mission, the first since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, possible. To the extent that we can raise the funds, it will be the first of more missions.

Thanks for helping us continue this mission here.

You can subscribe to the stories that will appear here. And you can help us bring out the message by copying the url above and paste it into your social media pages or elsewhere. Thanks!


These photos and copyright

Finally, many of the images here are snapshot-like. They are shot either with my Nikon D7000 or my iPhone 6S. They are taken under very difficult circumstances, no time permitting the search for the perfect angle or focus; some are "drive-by" photos shot out of the car window. But they have all been processed and improved upon my return from Syria.

All rights reserved to these images. Under no circumstances must any of them be reprinted or reposted online without my written consent.

* Ten days is the maximum duration of a visa when you visit for the first time. It isn't a helpful policy when you are part of a worldwide, fierce war about perceptions and opinions.


Click on each image to enlarge it. Also, hover over an image to see whether there is a caption that explains the situation.

On the way out to the Jibrin Reception Centre
On the way out to the Jibrin Reception Centre, note the dog on the roof...
At the gate of the Jibrin centre, ambulance of the Syrian Red Crescent
Ambulances of the Syrian Red Crescent and some tents for the local Syrians who assisted the displaced persons from Eastern Aleppo
Waiting in queue to get some bread, vegetables and tea
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Hard conditions in the month of December
Soldier at village café upon leaving Jibrin

The aleppians who sought help

Inside the Jibrin Reception Centre

Mid-December. Cold and wet. Clothes. Shoes. Food. Warm tea. Future unclear. Hopes...

Click on each image to enlarge it. Also, hover over an image to see whether there is a caption that explains the situation.

Waiting to get some food - all ages
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Shoes in post-occupation Aleppo in December
Smiles, "V" and happiness...in spite of all
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The largest humanitarian crisis since 1945

Glimpses of the situation in Jibrin

These people used to live in a bustling city, one of largest industrial centres in the Middle East. Live a good life. Then after 1979 Western countries - the U.S. first and then the EU - began to introduce economic sanctions.

Today's Syria is the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II thanks to these sanctions and the war - according to this UN report. More than 13 million are in need of humanitarian help, of whom more than 4 million are in hard-to-reach or besieged areas.

I'm not aware of having seen any Western politician express doubts or shame over this situation. The UN report just mentioned highlights how humanitarian work is hampered, hindered, by these sanctions.

It's all justified by cynics and/or ignorant politicians, media and others with reference to "the Syrian regime" and "the dictator." Nobody has learned anything from the mass killings through sanctions imposed in Iraq.


Click on each image to enlarge it. Also, hover over an image to see whether there is a caption that explains the situation.

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Those who helped the people of Eastern Aleppo

Being there when needed

A little - much needed - food, water and tea and you can do the "V" sign.

This reception centre is organised by the local Aleppo authorities and the people are assisted by soldiers from the Syrian Army, the Syrian Red Crescent and young volunteers from Aleppo University and Russian doctors.

Various items had UNHCR written on them but on this day, December 14, 2016 there were no Western humanitarian organisations to be seen.

Click on each image to enlarge it. Also, hover over an image to see whether there is a caption that explains the situation.

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Mild eyes and gratitude for little
Volunteer from Aleppo's University and Syrian Army soldier handing out food
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Eyes and expression I  will not forget

The Russians

Under very simple circumstances and with much care for security - double-checking my passport and who I was and why I wanted to take pictures while surgery was taking place - the Russians took care of wounded people and those in need of quick treatment.

Click on each image to enlarge it. Also, hover over an image to see whether there is a caption that explains the situation.

Inside one of two field hospitals each handling two patients at the same time
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Why the larger story of Aleppo has to be silenced

The media have paid attention to the people who fled to the northern Syria, into Turkey or to Idlib and Raqqa - i.e. rebels/opposition/terrorists (ROT) and their families, including Twittering 7 year old Bana.

The civilian victims of the violence of all sides - those who had not participated in the violence and who were immensely happy that Eastern Aleppo was finally liberated - received no attention whatsoever.

Their story and the story I have documented, namely that they were helped by the designated evil forces of Syria and Russia (and others, see above) did not fit the dominating media and marketing narrative and must therefore be ignored.

That won't be possible. The liberation of Aleppo is world history.

TFF's stories as well as other eye witness reports from inside the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 have gone viral.

This crisis has been caused to a large extent by the West and its allies. It can be boiled down to an international law-violating regime change policy and weaponisation of the Syrian conflicts as well as political, economic, media and marketing support to more or less extremist groups basing themselves on violent struggle.

As long as they were anti-Assad, they were useful and - hopefully - 'moderate' too.

One significant indication of the Western complicity in this humanitarian crisis was the establishment, on the initiative of French president Sarkozy, of Friends of Syria. Another its Marrakesh meeting in December 2012 at which 100 countries decided that National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces - or Syrian National Coalition - under former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Moaz al-Khatib, was declared to be the "legitimate representative of Syria" - a coup d'etat by foreign decree.

No matter the character of the Syrian government, this was not a productive or constructive way to deal with Syria's problems - as had already been proven by the completely failed interventions and regime change cases of Iraq and Libya.

This utter moral and political failure of Western and allies' policy five years later makes the story of Aleppo just too embarrassing, something neither politicians nor governments want to be reminded of.

Perhaps there is something here that deserves an honest discussion? If for no other then these two: One, a larger truth is beginning to emerge and it doesn't look so black-and-white as some of the culprits would like it to. Two, the world needs to help all the Syrian innocent victims, the 13 million in need of humanitarian assistance - and not only the politically chosen few.

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Read the other photo-and-text stories about Syria here.





Footnote: All rights reserved. © Jan Oberg 2017. No reproduction, re-print or other re-use without prior contact with me.
Aleppo, Syria