In December 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor's self immolation triggered protests that spread from his hometown in Sidi Bouzid to cities across the country. The next month, on January 14, the country's autocratic president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country. This would be the start of what became known as the "Arab Spring," which ultimately saw anti-government protests responded to with violence, reform, or both in countries across the Middle East. In Syria, the protests that began as early as January 2011 and increased in intensity the following March devolved into a complex armed conflict that involves multiple armed groups and wages to this day. Like the other dictators, Bashar al-Assad faced popular demonstrations against his regime at the height of the Arab Spring, but he steadfastly refused to step down from power, and the protests against him and his government quickly turned violent, which eventually enveloped Syria in a civil war that has already killed over 400,000, created over 4 million refugees, and shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
In August 2016, over five and a half years after the initial protests, an image of a young boy captivated the world. Young Omran Daqneesh, who had been born around the time the Syrian civil war started, had been pulled out of a destroyed building in the Syrian city of Aleppo by a rescue squad and put inside an ambulance. He stared at the cameras - most likely in shock -covered in blood and debris from the collapsed building. His silence seemed more powerful than all the statements of condemnation from politicians around the world. This boy and his family were actually living the nightmare that Syrians across the country have experienced for more than five years. The video and image went viral and was picked up by several news outlets and spread quickly and globally across social media platforms.
Once again, the average citizen was faced with images depicting the consequences of this deadly and seemingly intractable conflict. While citizens and politicians again debate and discuss what to do about the Syrian Civil War, the people on the ground continue to suffer. The city of Aleppo is one of many battlegrounds in the war, but it has been directly in the war since 2012 when protests erupted against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and the rebels of the Free Syrian Army became involved in the conflict.
In many ways, the city of Aleppo and the ongoing battle there can almost be thought of as a metaphor or microcosm for the civil war in general. Historically, Aleppo has been a very large and diverse city, comprised of several religious and ethnic groups living side by side throughout its long period of human inhabitancy. Syria itself is a large and diverse country, whose citizens include Sunnis, Shi'a, Christians, and Druze that come from Arab, Kurdish, Armenian, and other ethnic backgrounds. Interestingly, Aleppo has indeed become a battleground in which all the forces (both domestic and international) have come to exercise their agendas and their might against each other. The longer the parties fight, the further away they seem to get from peace agreements, and the more difficult it becomes to deescalate the conflict.
Today, Syria remains a flashpoint in the Middle East, and Aleppo is at the center of it. The Battle of Aleppo: The History of the Ongoing Siege at the Center of the Syrian Civil War looks at the Syrian civil war's most famous battle, and the way it has dominated the world's attention. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the siege of Aleppo like never before.