No more room for the dead as Syria’s Aleppo is crushed

December 5, 2016 | By | Reply More

The old Aleppo cemetery filled up a year ago. The new one filled up last week. Now the dead are left in the besieged enclave’s streets, buried in backyards and overwhelming the morgues.

aleppo cemeteryMedical officials secured yet another plot for the dead. But they say they have no way to dig graves with government troops now crashing into opposition-held eastern Aleppo, shelling civilians as they flee and forcing thousands to squeeze into a chaotic, devastated and shrinking pocket of neighborhoods.

“We have no more room,” said Mohammed Abu Jaafar, the head of the local forensic authority. His department is so overwhelmed, the staff registering the dead pleaded with him not to take any more bodies.

“Even if I were to consider mass burials, I don’t have the machines to do the digging,” he said in a telephone interview.

Dignity in death has been lost as the rebel-held enclave that has held out for four years collapses.

For two weeks, government forces bombarded the area, killing more than 310 civilians, including 42 children, and up to 220 opposition fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Then last weekend, ground troops stormed into the 17-square-mile (45 square kilometer) enclave, captured half of it and advanced on the rest.

U.N Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien pleaded Wednesday for access to eastern Aleppo, home to some 275,000, “before it becomes one giant graveyard.”

Residents of a southern neighborhood close to a government advance only learned that a body was lying in the ditches when a cat started eating at the corpse.

“A woman from the neighborhood came and reported it to the morgue. We still don’t know who the corpse belongs to,” Abu Jaafar said, holding his breath. “I swear to God I cried.”

With eastern Aleppo under a tight siege since July, supplies and food are running out.

Just before the ground offensive, government airstrikes knocked out all seven medical facilities in the enclave, including five equipped with trauma and intensive care units.

The doctors scattered around the strip, setting up small underground medical points to avoid detection but able to give only the simplest basics of care.

A nurse who works in one underground clinic said some wounded have died as they waited for medical attention, and because of a shortage of blood. Even worse, some after surgery could not survive the cold weather, she said.

When government forces and their allies took the northern part of the enclave, over 30,000 people fled into government and Kurdish-controlled parts of the city. Thousands more fled into the remaining rebel-held southern districts, already overwhelmed and running short on all supplies.

On the road fleeing, at least 50 people were killed in government bombings in the last few days. Images of their bodies lying on the ground amid the debris and their packed bags were a reminder of the cruel nature of the conflict, now in its sixth year.

But since the war intensified, residents of east Aleppo have had to resort to whatever is closest to honor their dead.

“We have buried our dead in our gardens for a while,” said Amino, of the council. When possible, he said people take their dead to the Tababa, or the health authority run by Abu Jaafar that operates the morgue and issues deaths certificates.

Documentation is nearly impossible when the whole population is in flux. Since Saturday, 20 bodies lie in his morgue unidentified after the shelling of people fleeing the ground advances. Another 70 bodies remain unidentified from the airstrikes that preceded the ground assault.

Abu Jaafar posted a picture of a 5-month-old girl found under the rubble somewhere in Aleppo two days ago. Her parents are believed dead, and the little girl lost a leg. She is now in the care of the nurses in one of the underground clinics.

“With ambulances overwhelmed and many of them out of order, people are acting as rescuers,” Abu Jaafar said.

With no respect in death, Abu Jaafar said surviving in collapsing Aleppo may be even worse.

 Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Arab uprising

Leave a Reply