Yesterday, the minaret of the ancient Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo has collapsed as a result of heavy shelling. The mosque was built at the beginning of the eighth century, the minaret was its oldest part. The mosque contains the shrine of Prophet Zachary, peace be upon him. Throughout history it has suffered much damage from natural disasters, fires, and the Tatars. It has also been renovated several times by the Mamluks, the Seljuks, and the Ayyubids. Only Bashar al-Assad would do both: the least of them in good, and the worse of them in evil. Here too, the motto “Assad, or we will burn the country” would come to apply.
In 2003, the minaret and the courtyard were renovated. Nine years later, this courtyard was the scene of people being attacked by the regime’s security forces:
As the regime’s terror machine encroached upon the city, this sacred place of worship, blessings and scholarship had become a base for desecraters with and without army uniforms. How such desecrations exactly take place in many mosques has been exposed by the perpetrators themselves through their own recordings, the details of which require another post. Suffice to say that such things occurred here as well and caused the courageous Shaykh Yusuf Hindawi to stand up against them. He has still not been released and his condition is very worrisome.
The Shaykh had made his choice to speak up and protest peacefully, like so many others before him. But this regime has not accepted any alternative to complete submission. And so the free men of the city had a difficult choice to make. They could either continue to allow them to use the mosque as their base, desecrating it, arresting its scholars, harassing worshippers and launching attacks on innocent civilians from it, until this would end without a battle. Or they could seek to liberate it by force, thereby ensuring damage being done as a result of the fighting and risk massive destruction and revenge attacks in response. They chose the latter and that and more is what it resulted in. The mosque was burning, and would face even more destruction and devastation throughout the months to come for it remained a battlefield up to this day:
And now, another horrific milestone has been reached: heavy shelling has caused the minaret to collapse, after having stood tall above Aleppo for over a thousand years:
The response from free Syrians has been loud and clear. The NC, the LCC’s and the FSA accused the regime of shelling the minaret and causing its collapse. So far, no videos of this have been released. What has been released is a video of the fighting that took place not long after the minaret collapsed, filmed from the position of Liwa al-Tawhid and released by them:
It corresponds with the narration of Assad’s forces shelling the mosque and seeking to storm it, after the FSA took control of it again recently. So do two other videos that have been released containing the statements from fighters present:
This would also have not been the first time that the mosque and its minaret had been shelled, as can be seen from this older footage:
One image has been going around purporting to be footage of the shelling that caused the minaret to collapse [the first one below], but it seems that it rather comes from the above videos:
This is what the front entrance with the collapsed minaret looks like now:
Strangely enough, there is barely any reporting on it yet on the regime’s national and international propaganda outlets. Those who promised to destroy everything they could unless the people would submit, and who had done exactly that on an incomprehensible scale for the past two years, were however apparently quick to deny responsibility and instead accused Jabhat al-Nusra of setting off explosives inside the minaret. Such ridiculous claims and accusations are just as common as the destruction itself. However, it does not end with destruction:
Antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades have been charred, valuable Islamic relics ransacked and ancient artifacts — including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Mohammed’s hair [peace and blessings be upon him] — looted. BBC
Some of this and more is discussed and show at the shrine, for the first time filmed from inside the chamber:
This is what the Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo used to look like:
Finally, a very outdated list of mosques and footage of their destruction and shelling: