Monday February 06, 2017

'Life is going to get even better': Residents rebuild in divided city of Aleppo

Reverend Ibrahim Nseir based in western Aleppo says he's committed to rebuilding his church and country as residents struggle to get back to some kind of normalcy.

Reverend Ibrahim Nseir based in western Aleppo says he's committed to rebuilding his church and country as residents struggle to get back to some kind of normalcy. (Courtesy of Rev. Ibrahim Nsier )

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​Aleppo, Syria is slowly returning to a semblance of life.

For the first time in five years, two of Aleppo's soccer clubs faced off for a match at home.

The pitch still showed signs of damage from past bombings, and security forces in riot gear mingled in the stands, but for those who remain in the battered Syrian city, a taste of normal life is something to cheer for.

"This is our hope, that Aleppo will be back and get it right again," Ibrahim Nseir, an Aleppo resident who was at the game, tells The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

'Today, life is better'

It's been just over a month since the rebel-held Eastern portion of the once-thriving city fell to government forces. President Bashar al-Assad's forces now control the city in its entirety, a major blow to the rebel uprising that started in March 2011.

But for residents of Aleppo — East and West —  the challenge is to rebuild life now one brick at a time.

"Today, life is better, and life is going to get even better," Nseir says.

"We know some people who went back to their homes, and started to rebuild."

He admitted that many challenges remain. The entire city is still without water since ISIS cut off the city from its water supply.

Nseir is a reverend with the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, which was overrun by rebels and then bombed in 2012.

"We are planning to be very quick in our rebuilding of the church because the church should always be there."

Others, from Aleppo neighbourhoods once held by rebels, are not as hopeful.

Uncertain future

Zouhir Al-Shimale, a Syrian freelance journalist who grew up in East Aleppo, fled the city — and the country — when the government retook the last rebel-held enclaves in the city. He thinks reconstruction efforts will be long and complicated.

"It will take years," says Al-Shimale, who is now living in Gaziantep, in southern Turkey.

MIDEAST-CRISIS/SYRIA

Russian soldiers, on armoured vehicles, patrol a street in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 2, 2017. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

He explains it's been a shock moving to Turkey to a city that has all the necessities — basic food, running water and electricity — that he didn't have in Syria.

He's not sure he will ever be able to go home.

"I don't think I will get back there," he tells Lynch, unless the government of Bashar al-Assad gives up power.

Al-Shimale believes he and his family would be targeted as rebel supporters.

Peace talks for Syria will resume later in February in Geneva, but Nader Hashemi, an associate professor at the University of Denver and Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies, is not hopeful they will lead to any concrete improvements on the ground in Syria.

"I think these peace talks are simply a way of Russia affirming its complete control over the future of Syria," Hashemi says.

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Samira Mohyeddin and Ashley Mak.