“What is…Aleppo?” asked Gary Johnson, current Libertarian presidential candidate, in an early September interview; unfortunately, one-third of likely 2016 voters are stumped by this basic geography question too, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
Though some political analysts claim Johnson’s “Aleppo moments” could cost him his run as a mainstream third party candidate, these brain freezes brought Aleppo into the news again. Aleppo is more than a Libertarian’s foreign policy gaffe, it’s a Syrian city in midst of crisis. Johnson’s slip-up raised awareness of a society drenched in civil war that apparently one in three Americans don’t know about.
So, what is “Aleppo”?
Although the Syrian conflict has persisted for almost six years, one of the first notable protests in Aleppo occurred in 2012 when students at Aleppo University rallied together against the government, which led to students being tear-gassed, injured, detained, or killed.
From there, rebel opposition to the government spread across Aleppo, along with the rest of Syria, and the city turned into something synonymous with a textbook case study of “sociopolitical turmoil.”
Even today, Syrian families and internally displaced persons are trapped in the dystopian society they once called home — roughly 250,000 people are still surviving in Aleppo; 100,000 of them are children. As of October 1, 2016, Russian warplanes and Syrian loyalists joined forces to destroy one of Aleppo’s major hospitals and consequently killed at least two patients.
UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth recently made a statement declaring that “the children of Aleppo are trapped in a living nightmare,” in response to the recent UNICEF press release that noted “at least 96 children have been killed and 223 have been injured in eastern Aleppo since [September 23 of this year].”
These are only some of the atrocities that Syrians deal with daily and that we hear less and less about in the news, as we become desensitized. Perhaps this is why former Governor Johnson first misinterpreted “Aleppo” as a new acronym for an alliance, not a country at war with itself. Perhaps this is why one in three Americans can’t tell you about Aleppo. Perhaps the silence in televised news is why the human rights abuses and war casualties soar.
As of October 1, 2016, yet another group, the Gulf Cooperation Council, is demanding the United Nations’ intervention again because the horrors continue, despite sanctions and resolutions in the UN.
Though the situation is dire and can’t be solved instantaneously, the UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien recently told the Security Council that Aleppo has “descended into the merciless abyss of humanitarian catastrophe.”
In their perpetual fight to bring peace to Syrian refugees and Syrians trapped within their own borders, the UN is still following through with rescue missions and humanitarian aid programs to provide assistance to those in besieged territories.
This is just a snapshot of Aleppo. This is a crisis that impacts the international community, and 33% of voting Americans don’t know even about it.
Spread the word so more people can answer the question, “What is Aleppo?”