Standort: / Meldung: "Talk about the Syrian living, not the dead."

Joanna Bostock

Reading between the headlines.

26. 4. 2016 - 14:50

Talk about the Syrian living, not the dead.

An appeal to the outside world from Aleppo

Issa Touma is a photographer, film-maker and gallery founder from Aleppo in northern Syria. Pretty much every day there are stories on the news agencies about fighting and casualties the city, which has seen some of the most ferocious fighting in the Syrian civil war.

But Issa told Reality Check he wants to shine a light on a different aspect of the conflict:

I want to talk about something really important happening in Aleppo, which is an example for many other cities suffering in Syria: when the media and politicians talk only about the dead and they forget about the living. The living are the majority, still there, and fighting, not coming to Europe. The majority are still there and the dead, they are the smaller number. They talk about maybe half a million dead people in Syria, maybe the number is even bigger, we don’t know that. But for me, I think we can save more lives if we talk about the people who are still alive, because this can make the media and politicians help.


If you want us to think about these people, what would you like to tell us about their lives?

I’ll tell you something – societies never stop growing up during a war. It’s very wrong to think that societies can become dead societies when a war starts. This didn’t happen in the Second World War in Europe: people got married, had children and went to work. And this is exactly what is happening in Aleppo. We have a university which is still working, we have schools, we have shops. Some shops don’t have products to sell but they still open, so the shop workers still go there daily. This is very important. People are losing hope, not knowing what is going to happen the next morning, scared that fanatics will take over the city, but they are still living.

So – there’s a part of life which is “normal” and on another level, life is not normal at all ...

If the people don’t lose their apartment, they continue living there, even if the war is in the next street. I can tell you about an artist, who lived just 200 metres from the fighting. That artist is sitting there and painting, from 7 o’clock in the morning to 7 in the evening. . He painted 25,000 paintings in five years. He forgot about the outside and said “I’m hearing music”. Of course he’s not hearing music, he’s hearing bombing, but he built his imagination. This is the way it’s going on, you know? People refuse to believe that they can lose their life, or their job or their house.


Do people stay because they have no other choice?

They have no choice, and this is the way things happen in history. For me, war was a new experience, and my choice was to stay in Syria to understand what is going on. As an intellectual you will not have another chance to understand the dramatic changes in your country. This is a very big experience. I blame those artists who have left, because now they are dancing in Western countries, taking help from western governments to give political messages, but what message can they send if they can’t understand what is going on inside the country?

With your focus on people still living in Syria, is it your intention to inspire more concern outside of Syria and more pressure to resolve the conflict?

The international community should give voice to everybody. If you focus on just one side you cannot rebuild Syria. If you really want to rebuild Syria you should understand the opposition and also the pro-government people. And you should understand the 70 per cent who haven’t had a voice in this conflict: the people who have the power and who are fighting, they are not more than 30 per cent. We never hear about the 70 per cent. We should listen to everybody. If you listen to and choose one side, you’re building another dictator; you’re not building a Syria which can be the voice of everybody.

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