The Syrian army has announced to be close to the total control of Aleppo. Day by day, the moment of the final showdown is approaching. The limited information that filters from Aleppo, once among the most important cities in Syria, tells of human and architectural wreckage occupying every living space.
There still are people in Aleppo. Thousands of people, according to estimates. Men, women and girls, whose fate is more uncertain than ever. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, reported “a large number of atrocities against civilians, including women and children”. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, the Egyptian Ahmad Abul-Gheit, has denounced the grievious humanitarian situation in Aleppo and has called for a ceasefire.
The terrible hypothesis that is spreading at the moment is that reprisals and revenge will be the protagonists of these very hours. Although the Russian authorities in support of Assad’s forces, crucial for the advance of the offensive, claim that it is possible for civilians to escape and that the evacuation of Eastern Aleppo was decided, are circulating on the Internet many photographs showing empty buses waiting in vain.
According to Abul-Gheit, “what is happening” in the Syrian city is “a revenge of the Government forces and of militias against unarmed civilians”. For Amnesty International, Syrian Government troops are being responsible of very serious war crimes. Meanwhile, Qatar, one of the main supporters of the Sunni rebel groups fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the situation in Aleppo.
It is not, however, the time for discussions, reports, deliberations. It is the time to act. Because beyond the lining-up on the international stage, in Aleppo it’s the civilians that are paying the price. It’s the ordinary people that are seriously risking their lives under bombardments or loyalist fire. It is families that, in neat rows, try to escape not to die.
The “White Helmets” of the civil protection are incessantly running from one side of the neighborhood to the other, but the situation is becoming more and more dangerous. Many dead bodies lie in the streets. According to the New York Times women and girls choose to commit suicide or get killed by their relatives in order to avoid being raped by militiamen. It’s being reported of summary justice and massacres of women and children even inside their own houses. Among the perpetrators are members of the Harakat al-Nujaba Hezbollah Movement, an Iraqi militia. “Extrajudicial executions constitute war crimes” – said Lynn Maalouf, deputy research Director at the regional office of Amnesty International in Beirut – “during the conflict, Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have repeatedly shown a shameful disregard for international humanitarian law and a deep indifference for the fate of civilians “.
The Secretary-General of the Arab League also urged the international community to “take concrete steps to end the violence in Aleppo.” Certainly, Western States have always had a fundamental role in the Middle East. This is due to strategic, economic and energy interests. Some US presidents, such as George W. Bush, have been accused of too much interventionism, others, such as Barack Obama, of not taking substantial action in the Syrian civil war. With the election of Donald Trump, scenarios may, however, change radically. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, already supported by Russia and by the Shiite forces, could somehow enjoy the support of the USA as well, considering that the next American government is closer to Putin. This would change the balance in Syria but also in the entire Middle East, embroiled in a “cold and hot” war between Governments and Shiite and Sunni militias. The Shiite front will strengthen, Syria would return under Assad’s control, the “Sunni crescent” (Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) would be balanced by the opposition of a stronger “Shia crescent” (Iran, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, with Russian and perhaps US support). Oil and energy strategies allowing.