Manitoba

Violence in Aleppo 'devastating' for Syrian man living in Winnipeg

A Syrian man living in Winnipeg says he is devastated by the continuing destruction of a place he once called home.

'I can't believe that we live in a world that can't put an end to this war,' Ahmad Alkhatab says

Men inspect the damage after an airstrike on the rebel held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, on Sept. 25, 2016. (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

A Syrian man living in Winnipeg says he is devastated by the continuing destruction of a place he once called home.

Fighting and airstrikes have increased in Aleppo in recent days as the United Nations announced close to two million people in Syria's largest city are without water.

"It is catastrophic. It's devastating. It's something [that] can't be describable," Ahmad Alkhatab said in an interview Tuesday.

"The killing and the bombing, we have seen every day in the news," he said. "I can't believe that we live in a world that can't put an end to this war in Aleppo."

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization called for the eastern part of Aleppo to be evacuated of ill and wounded people.

The WHO said about 35 doctors remaining in east Aleppo must care for at least 250,000 people in the city's besieged rebel-held sector, which came under a massive assault by pro-government forces.

A Syrian man living in Winnipeg says he is devastated by the continuing destruction of a place he once called home. 1:58

'A very marvellous city'

Alkhatab, who settled in Manitoba with his wife and two children in February, grew up near Aleppo and went to university in the city.

He described prewar Aleppo as a huge city that was the first in Syria to be industrialized.

"It had a population of about 5.5 million — that was before the war. I didn't know now how much of the population is there," he said.

"It was a very marvellous city, exciting city, a lot of things to do when you are in it."

Ahmad Alkhatab and his family came to Manitoba from Jordan, where they lived in refugee camps for several years. (Pat Kaniuga/CBC)
He and his family were living in a village 30 kilometres south of Aleppo when conditions turned violent in 2012, and the road connecting his village to the city was destroyed by bombing.

They flew to Lebanon before moving to Amman, Jordan, where they stayed for three years.

They were registered as asylum seekers there and were unable to find work, Alkhatab said.

"We were not allowed to work there, so we were supposed to depend on the staff and the support coming from the UN, and the support there was not enough to feed for one day," he said.

"We had to work sometimes under the table, just to put the food on the table…. The support that they were giving for the whole month, it was just enough for one day."

Because they were Syrian asylum seekers, he and his family were considered second-class citizens in Jordan and had few rights, he said.

"The situation is very difficult there," he said. "They are starving. There is not enough food; there is no water; there is no electricity; there is not even a way to connect with each other."

Alkhatab said while he doesn't personally know anyone who's left in the Aleppo area, he remains worried about the conflict there and hopes for a peaceful resolution.

Bird's-eye view captures true impact from years of war 1:10

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that Ahmad Alkhatab and his family arrived in Manitoba in February 2015. In fact, they came to the province in February 2016.
    Sep 28, 2016 9:46 AM CT

With files from Thomson Reuters