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The Inferno of Aleppo

Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy, describes the Inferno (Hell) as a place of hot and dry sand where flames fall from the sky “as flakes of snow”:

Of naked spirits many a flock I saw,
All weeping piteously, to different laws
Subjected; for on the earth some lay supine,
Some crouching close were seated, others paced
Incessantly around; the latter tribe
More numerous, those fewer who beneath
The torment lay, but louder in their grief.
O’er all the sand fell slowly wafting down
Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
On Alpine summit, when the wind is hush’d.
As, in the torrid Indian clime, the son
Of Ammon saw, upon his warrior band
Descending, solid flames, that to the ground
Came down; whence he bethought him with his troop
To trample on the soil; for easier thus
The vapor was extinguish’d, while alone:
So fell the eternal fiery flood, wherewith
The marle glow’d underneath, as under stove
The viands, doubly to augment the pain.

-The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, Canto XIV-

Yesterday, Amnesty International (AI) published its last report on Syria “Death everywhere: War crimes and human rights abuses in Aleppo”, where the situation of the city of Aleppo is depicted in a similar way to Dante’s vision of Hell.

AI reports 85 barrel bomb, and 3 missile attacks in Aleppo city during the last month, attacks that took the life of more than 110 civilians. Barrel bomb attacks have already killed more than 12,000 people in Syria since 2012, 3,000 in Aleppo alone; 96% of them were civilians.

The situation described by witnesses of these attacks is Dantesque: “I saw things there I can’t describe. There were parts of children, blood everywhere. The bodies were in shreds”, said Osama al-Findi, a teacher. “I saw children without heads, body parts everywhere. It was how I imagine hell to be”, added another local worker.

The majority of Aleppo population tried to escape from death, fear and desperation by hiding underground. Hospitals and schools have been forced to operate in bunkers, where “there is no sun, no fresh air”, as stated by a doctor.

These attacks have mainly targeted civilian areas, including markets, schools, hospitals and mosques and, according to AI, are constitutive of crimes against humanity. This confirms the findings of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the recent statement of its chair, Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, about the use of barrel bombs and indiscriminate bombardment in the country.

Nevertheless, Bashar al-Assad‘s regime, responsible for these attacks, has not yet recognised the use of barrel bombs, defining the allegation as “a childish story”.

Although UN Security Council resolution 2139 demanded all parties of the Syrian conflict to “cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs”, Bashar al-Asad has continued carrying out indiscriminate attacks on the city of Aleppo as a “collective punishment” against its civilian population.

Despite the constant reports of international crimes, the abundant Caesar evidence on widespread torture and arbitrary detention and the deep humanitarian crisis that the Syrian population is suffering, the UN Security Council has failed to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court.

Moreover, the international community, alarmed by the progressive advance of the Islamic State, remains silent and inactive towards these horrendous crimes and human rights violations. Meanwhile, Bashar al-Asad remains unaccountable for his murderous actions and a persistent atmosphere of impunity prevails in Syria.

However, we need to remember that the last circle of Dante’s Inferno, the most terrible one, was not dedicated to the “violent”, but to the “traitorous”. The International community has betrayed its commitments and obligations towards Syrian citizens, has abandoned them to their own fate in what AI has described as “a cold-hearted display of indifference to an escalating human tragedy”.

In the Divine Comedy, the traitors’ punishment comprised submerging them in a lake of ice. They were frozen, as already were their hearts.

Read the whole report at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/1370/2015/en/


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