The Picture of a Woman From Aleppo!

Elie Chalala

 Every time I watch the images from Aleppo or hear the news that the poor suburbs of the city have again been the targets for Assad's bombs, I recall the mumanah or "leftist" diatribe of their championship of the downtrodden and the impoverished, the students, workers and peasants whose interests the Assad regime claims to have at heart. Never mind the fact that we haven't heard the word "socialism" uttered by the Syrian regime for almost three years, and that we do not expect to hear it from the Assad junta in the foreseeable future. Astonishingly, it appears that the more of the Syrian poor the Assad regime kills in Aleppo and other towns the more these crimes uplift the spirits of the "comrades." Hard as it is to believe, they seem to grow almost euphoric at the sight of human and physical utter destruction represented as "victories." Perhaps they see the "socialist" and egalitarian utopia as being within reach after Assad has demolished every structure in Syria, both cultural and physical, leaving all, rich and poor, in a sort of Hobbesian state of nature – and shared misery. He could subsequently run for re-election in 2014 and win as he used to, with the exception that his projected win this time is by 60 or 70 percent according to Lebanese leftist newspapers and TV stations.

Allow me to break with the hypocrisy and the banality of those Lebanese mumanah groups who keep "visiting Palestine" simply in order to disguise their cowardly refusal to recognize the evil present in their own backyard – the Assad regime.

Let us return to the photograph of the WOMAN FROM ALEPPO, who fortunately survived the barrel bombing of the northern part of the city of Aleppo on December 15. (See picture below.) To call this picture shocking or heart-breaking would be an understatement. It is of course not the only picture of the destruction that rained from the sky onto Aleppo's poor suburbs during the past four days, but the question always remains: how many pictures one can show? The devastating raids inflicted a total of more than 170 casualties within four days.

However this photograph lingers in the consciousness of the viewer. It displays, against a background of dust clouds, an exhausted woman accompanied by two children, fleeing the danger and distress of the bombing. There is something desperately poignant about her expression. Distress and shock mark her state of mind, as some newspapers wrote, but one wonders whether that does full justice to her mental state. She is flanked by her two children. She is holding one under his arm with her right hand, while with her left she supports the back of the second child, helping him to walk, managing all this without being able to wipe the blood spilled on her face. But these are mere descriptions. Words cannot match the power of the visual to elicit a deeper reading of what this unfortunate woman was thinking and feeling at the moment of her escape. One may speculate that her encounter with danger is not the first, and even if it is, her shock or fear could be multiplied as she considers what may still await her and her two children. How are her feelings affected by the probable likelihood that she saw her neighbors dead and dying under the barrel bomb raids? We wonder: are there levels and layers of fear that can be identified and quantified? One can only speculate. The answer will be left for the specialists, the psychologists, who may have to assess the psychological impact of Assad's genocidal war on a generation of Syrians.

This review appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 18, no. 66.

© Copyright 2013 AL JADID MAGAZINE


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