Two weeks ago, I discussed the tumultuous nature of rebel infighting in Syria. I argued that the opposition in Aleppo must unify, in order to stand a serious chance of succeeding against the tyranny of the Syrian regime and its allies.
Even as I wrote those words, I strongly believed the regime would soon defeat Aleppo’s rebels—though I refused to concede that dismaying intuition in my post. What I did not predict, however, is that the rebels would actually set aside their differences, as they did on Thursday, and band together for the sake of protecting what little remains of eastern Aleppo.
Although this is indeed a surprising and welcome development, I cannot help but feel as defeated and despondent today as I did before. Human Rights Watch reported that, between September and October alone, at least 440 civilians were killed in Aleppo in “one of the most intense bombing campaigns” the Syrian government and its Russian allies have laid on the city since 2012.
November was no less tragic, as every last hospital in the city was deliberately targeted and destroyed by the regime and its allies, before the end of the month, according to Al Jazeera.
No amount of unity among the rebels can reverse these horrors. As we edge toward the sixth year of the Syrian revolution, besieged Aleppans will likely continue to face much of the same doom and destruction they have suffered for so long, while the global community looks the other way.
Rebel unity may delay what seems to be an inevitable, final blow from President Bashar Al-Assad and his barbarous supporters, but it is unlikely to prevent it altogether. Beyond hopes for a miracle, Aleppo is set to follow the fate of towns like Daraya, Al-Waer, and Az-Zabadani, all of which collapsed under the pressure of siege.
On top of all this, so many self-identified progressives continue to either ignore the momentous catastrophe that is Aleppo, or worse yet, misrepresent it, in service of their dogmatic disdain for the rebels.
When, for example, seven-year-old Bana Al-Abed tweeted from Aleppo about her fears and the way in which barrel bombs decimated her family’s home, journalists and activists alike either questioned the veracity of her statements, or shamelessly attacked her for daring to express herself at all. One individual responded to Bana’s tweet saying that the “[Syrian army] is coming[,] no power on earth will help you[.] Your jihad days are over [and] now it’s payback time.” This tweet alone was liked by over eighty individuals, one of whom is the German Center’s Kevork Almassian.
When I write about Syria these days, I return to the same conclusion: what does it even matter? The soulless pontifications of those who wish to ignore Syria’s suffering (and then bully besieged Aleppan children) changes nothing, practically speaking. Nothing I say here changes anything either.
As I continue to hope for some—any—potentially positive outcome from the recent rebel unity, the truth is that life for besieged Syrians will get worse before it gets better, no matter what any of us has to say.