JUNE 2013 BACK ISSUE by Iva Zimova Protests against the regime of Syrian president, Bashar Assad, erupted in March 2011. Demonstrators in Damascus and the southern city of Deraa demanded the release of political prisoners. Although initially peaceful, security forces shot a number of people dead in Deraa, triggering days of violent unrest that steadily spread nationwide over the following months.  In response to being ordered to shoot unarmed civilians, large numbers of soldiers and police deserted and formed the core of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was soon joined by civilian volunteers. Since early 2012 the protest movement has escalated into an armed uprising that many consider to have become a civil war. Whichever side civilians support, they have long taken the brunt of a conflict they did not choose and that no-one seems capable of stopping. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country, creating large refugee populations in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Those who have stayed have no food, no water, no electricity. Sanitation systems have broken down and piles and piles of uncollected waste lie everywhere. Diseases are spreading among people whose immune systems have been weakened by hunger.  Tuberculosis is ravaging some neighbourhoods, and there have been hundreds of cases of leishmaniasis, a skin disease transmitted by sand flies. Factories and businesses have ground to a halt. Jobs are almost nonexistent. Fresh meat and groceries are available, but prices have inflated so much they are beyond the means of people who have not worked for such a long period.  People's savings are exhausted and whatever they could sell is sold. In Syria today, there are no easy solutions. On one hand, the regime can no longer hold its control on northern cities, while on the other hand, rebel fighters are still not fit to provide the population with their basic needs. War profiteers have made the situation even worse. The long-term psychological damage on an entire generation of Syrians has yet to be played out. If there is no immediate action the world will watch a horrifying humanitarian crisis in one of the oldest civilizations on earth. A woman walks by the remains of the Al Waleed School in Alfardous district in Aleppo. A boy carries a bag containing plastic bottles he has found on Aleppo streets. Men break up doors and other pieces of wood they have found in their houses to use as firewood. A door will barely last one week. Heating and cooking is now done with wood since the electricity supply has broken down. 15 year old Ahmed pushes a cart with scraps he has found on the local rubbish dump. Since fighting started in Aleppo between government forces and rebel fighters, most public services such as electricity and rubbish collection have broken down and people have been left to their own devices. Inhabitants of Aleppo try to warm themselves in a bitter winter. A boy looks at a schoolyard. Most of the schools are closed, though some have reopened recently. However not all parents send their children to school, as they worry that schools might be bombed. A man unloads rubbish he had collected in different parts of Alfardous district. The rubbish will be loaded into trucks and sent to the official waste handling company which is outside of "free" Aleppo.  Waste emergency disposal is run by People in Need a Czech NGO, the only humanitarian foundation based in Aleppo. People queue for bread in front of one of the People In Need bread distribution centre. People in Need is a Czech NGO. These 'bread points' are meant to reduce the long queues for bread in other places which have become a frequent target for bombs. Sarmada, Idlib Governorate A Syrian woman and her husband shelter in a school building in Sarmada in Idlib governorate. They have found shelter in the town after fleeing intensifying fighting in neighbouring Hama governorate between the Syrian army and rebel fighters. Children wait for a school to be opened.  Some schools were reopened recently in the  Alfardous district of Aleppo. For security reasons, classes are only on the ground floor.  Children have no books and there is no heating. Citizens of Aleppo wander the street. For hundreds of thousands of men, women and children being forced from their homes and livelihoods by the current violence, hunger and dehydration is as much of a threat as the bombs and the bullets. A man stands in the ruins of an apartment building in the Almashhad district in Aleppo. The building was bombed by the Syrian Army on 8 January 2013.
Sarmada, Idlib Governorate A girl holds a toy machine gun as children play at war in a room where they have found shelter in a school building in Sarmada in Idlib governorate. They have found shelter in Sarmada after fleeing intensifying fighting in neighbouring Hama governorate between the Syrian army and rebel fighters. Industrial City A man sits at a makeshift barber in the Industrial City, where internally displaced people have found shelter when they fled their homes when fighting intensified in their area. A man walks in the Bustan Al Qassar district. The street is mostly deserted due to the danger of sniper fire. Back to current issue