Aleppo: The Struggle to Rebuild a City After Years of War

A view of Aleppo from above. CC by 2.0

A view of Aleppo from above. CC by 2.0

The Syrian Civil War has put Syria in the headlines since 2011. The War has devastated the entire country of Syria, and the United Nations Envoy for Syria estimates that 400,000 Syrians were killed in the Civil War. The war was fought between the Bashar al-Assad’s regime (backed by Russian and Iranian forces), ISIS, Kurdish Forces, and others (including Jaish al Fateh, Ahrar al-Sham, and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki). Because of the violence of the Syrian Civil War, the United Nations estimates that 5 million refugees have fled Syria thus far.  

One of the most significant battles in Syria during the Civil War has been the Battle of Aleppo, which lasted from 2012 to 2016. Aleppo is one of the largest cities in Syria. Its significance is partially historical, as Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world due to its location on the end of the Silk Road. Before the Battle, Aleppo was controlled by rebel forces, which made Aleppo a target for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was interested in controlling Aleppo due to its significance as an industrial powerhouse. Although the Syrian Civil war is ongoing, the Battle of Aleppo ended in december of 2016 when al-Assad’s forces gained control of the city.

In order to comprehend the damage inflicted on Aleppo during the war, the United Nations recently took satellite photos of Aleppo. The photos reveal that more than half of the buildings photographed have moderate to severe damage, and ten percent of historically significant sites show severe damage. Despite the damage, nearly 60,000 Syrian refugees have returned home now that Aleppo is controlled only by al-Assad. Although the Battle of Aleppo is over, there are still safety issues in the city; in early February of this year, an entire block of apartments collapsed killing 11 people, including four children. Much of the city lacks running water and electricity, and Syrian officials estimate that it will cost upwards of $10 billion to rebuild the city which held 2.3 million inhabitants before the war.

United States and European officials are reluctant to support efforts in rebuilding the city due to their distrust of president Bashar al-Assad. The president has been accused war crimes including using chemical weapons against civilians, and torturing his opponents. It is estimated that 5,000 Syrian civilians have died at the hands of his army. Despite international distrust of al-Assad, the United States has shied away from attempting to remove him from office because he is arguably the most promising chance for stability in Syria. Although the United States will not attempt a coup, former United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserted in a speech that: "We will discourage economic relationships between the Assad regime and any other country” (including the rebuilding of Aleppo). The Battle of Aleppo may have ceased, but it will take years before Aleppo is restored to its formed status in Syria.

GINNY KEENAN is an NYU student currently studying abroad in London. She intends to major in journalism, and reads in her free time. She is always looking for new travel opportunities.