A practice in empathy: the Aleppo crisis in perspective
author: amaya lucyk | contributor
My heart and prayers go to the people of Aleppo
In the last few weeks, my Facebook feed has been flooded with news of Aleppo, and the terror that so many citizens have been facing most recently at the hands of the Syrian government. Admittedly, I stay away from watching or reading articles about war torn countries because it is downright depressing and difficult to swallow, yet the current tragedy has struck a melancholic chord in me. Aleppo is a Syrian city neighboring the country of Turkey, where I had the pleasure of traveling this summer. Along with the importance of family, a wealth of rich history, and the beauty of culture, this trip taught me a lesson of gratitude. Safety and comfort are Canadian luxuries that I far too often take for granted.
At about 10 p.m. on July 15 as my dad, brother, aunt, and two cousins were walking down the dead streets of Istanbul with the company of a few stray cats, we received a call from our uncle saying that the main bridge had been lined with tanks, and that the military was attempting to overthrow the government in a coup d’état. This was basically the quintessential worst-case scenario that you imagine odds to protect you against. I was flooded with overwhelming fear, imagining my name plastered across article headlines: “The Young Tourist Who Never Made It Home.” We turned around and made our way back to the hotel, and within minutes heard fighter jets flying over our heads. When we arrived at our hotel we were in contact with someone from the Canadian embassy who offered us a safe place to stay. With luggage packed, we stood in the lobby, but leaving was not an option as the government had set a curfew, meaning any citizens in the streets could be subject to open fire. Needless to say, that night I slept light, waking up from the loud booms of jets, and the constant clarion echo of citywide speakers projecting Muslim prayers into the night. The next day, Wi-Fi connection was poor, and I stayed in the hotel reading the news of what was happening blocks away from where we were. By that time, over 300 people were recorded to have been killed in riots, over 2,000 injured, and within days to come, around 40,000 soldiers, judges, and educators detained, imprisoned or let go. Our flights out of Istanbul were cancelled. Luckily, being tourists and high priority, we were able to leave within 48 hours of the coup, and we were able to safely leave the city.
Though my experience has very little connection to the current Aleppo crisis, it has greatly affected the way in which I react when coming across news articles relating to its current state. The night of the coup I experienced something that as a Canadian citizen I had never before – uncertainty. I desired nothing more than to be home and safe, but I didn’t know when or if that would happen. This is a fear that I would not wish upon my greatest enemy, and hope to never again undergo.
In saying that, I would not have traded this experience for the world. I was blessed to have felt a small fraction of, for what some people, is daily life. Edified and humbled, I appreciate in a new light the freedom and safety of our beautiful country. When I otherwise may have continued scrolling or chosen to read a different article, the story of Aleppo has been a reminder to me that my personal safety and freedom are gifts given by happenstance. I have done nothing to deserve these securities more than the people living in Aleppo. Their testimonies stand as a reminder to me that each day must be lived with immense humility and gratitude. My heart and my prayers go to the people who go to sleep unsure of what tomorrow will bring. My heart and prayers go to the people of Aleppo.