Thursday, 6 October 2016

There have been more than 100 children

killed in Aleppo in the past ten days and many more injured - many, many more.
Getting information in and out of Aleppo is difficult, getting accurate information is even more difficult. It is getting more and more difficult. Every morning when I open up my e-mail for the day I wonder if there will be news I dread and requests for help that I hate getting.
All children, on all sides, are victims of war. The children of Aleppo are being treated with unbelievable brutality. They are being used by both targets and as shields. 
Some of them are still trying to go to school, or perhaps I should say they are still trying to learn something. They huddle together in  underground bunkers never knowing whether they will get out at the end of the session - and not knowing what they will find if they do get out.
One of their teachers is writing on the wall will bits of chalky, broken masonry and then wiping it off again. "We have a blackboard!"  He's an old man, barely able to move as the result of his own injuries in another war. He couldn't face attempting to leave. The journey was simply beyond his physical capabilities. 
Not one child puts a foot out of line for him. They are too grateful for the distraction he provides.
There are no computers, almost no books, almost nothing to write on or with. The children are learning largely by rote. They will know their "numbers" and their "letters". He tells them stories of the past and encourages them to talk. He knows that all of them could die at any moment. The bombs being dropped now are designed to seek them out as well.
He has children who no longer speak, who cling silently to other children. He has boys who think they are old enough to fight and girls who only want to mother the children who have lost a parent or even both parents. 
All of them are constantly hungry. Food is a forbidden topic. Nobody has ever said this but it has been forbidden by silent agreement. They try not to talk about the war going on around them. 
I have heard all this from someone who recently risked his life going into Aleppo. He took some of the very limited aid allowed in. 
He took two blank notebooks, several pencils and a sharpener. He wasn't supposed to do this.  The authorities would not have been happy if they had caught him with these things but he passed them on to the old man, a friend of his grandfather.
He reportedly accepted with a quiet word of thanks, nothing more. The children are going to write their own stories. 

No comments: