By Omar Duwaji
I noticed recently the word “Aleppo” is now being used to make light of being ignorant about any particular subject.
This started after Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s now-infamous “What is Aleppo?” moment a few weeks back.
But what’s going on in Aleppo is no laughing matter, and Johnson’s ignorance of the city actually speaks to our own collective ignorance of the situation.
So here are seven things you should know about Aleppo:
1) Aleppo is several thousands of years old and remains one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
2) Numerous groups ruled and fought over Aleppo — which has seen them all come and go — including the Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Mongols and Ottomans. One could argue Aleppo’s history is in fact the history of the world.
3) The Silk Road ran through Aleppo and it was known throughout history as a center of trade and culture. Merchants consistently passed through Aleppo headed east, trading their goods in the city. This saw the development of the souqs, or markets, for which Aleppo is famous.
4) Aleppo is also known to be a home to three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Christians have a deep history in the city and maintain a presence there today. The city houses many ancient churches, and on its outskirts, one can still find the ancient Byzantine ruins of the Church of Saint Simeon, which dates back to the 5th century. The Great Mosque of Aleppo and the Aleppo Citadel stand as symbols of the city and more than a millennium of Islamic rule. And the city was also home to a large, influential community of Jews who safeguarded the “Aleppo Codex,” a medieval manuscript of the Torah, for 600 years.
5) Aleppo was a center of resistance against French rule during the colonial era. The Hanano Revolt, led by Ibrahim Hanano, is a much-storied uprising that initially took place in Aleppo and was supported by residents after the French army occupied the city.
6) Aleppo became home to many Armenians after what the country has come to call the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The city took in refugees and the newcomers established their own businesses, newspapers, churches and schools.
7) Prior to the uprising, Aleppo was Syria’s largest and most populated city (population 2.3 million, 2005). It was also economically significant as Syria’s industrial center, with factories and businesses that kept many Syrians employed despite Western sanctions.
Today, Aleppo is the site of an ongoing slaughter by the Syrian and Russian militaries. Since the Eid ceasefire broke down, bombs continue to rain down on the rebel-controlled part of the city, which remains home to thousands of people. Hundreds have died as the world watches and debates how to stop the hostilities and bring this war to an end.
I know there are a lot of things going on right now in the news, but please try to be conscious of Aleppo and the ongoing humanitarian disaster there.
Aleppo and its people deserve so much better from us. #KnowAleppo