In this Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 photo, a Syrian girl chants slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in the Bustan Al-Qasr district of Aleppo, Syria. After months of fighting, thousands of residents have returned to the city as they attempt to return to their daily lives while heavy fighting is still taking place along the front lines in the city. Public demonstrations have unfolded after several weeks of silence as residents demand an end to the violence in Aleppo. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
This was Ansari Mashhad located in the South-West of Aleppo, back in July 2012, just before Assad unleashed his air force and army to bombard and invade the city. “This is Aleppo” the people chant. In those days, the revolutionary spirit was exploding throughout the adjacent neighborhoods of Salaheddin, Sayf al-Dawleh, Ansari Sharqi, al-Sikkari, Bustan al-Qasr, Kallaseh and so on all the way to the old city. The same was true for the East of Aleppo, from Hanano to Tariq al-Bab to Myassar and Sakhour towards the city center.
Close to a year and a half after the start of the revolution, the entire cycle of what had taken place in so many other places in the country repeated itself again. The army shot hundreds of innocent people on the streets, defectors and locals shot back, and so these neighborhoods were shelled by tanks and mortars. This time it was different, Liwa al-Tawhid was formed in the liberated parts of the countryside for the very purpose of liberating the city. They succeeded in liberating those revolutionary parts which form the heart of free Aleppo today.
Assad decided to destroy the city in response, bombarding it constantly and flattening parts of it through air strikes and SCUD missiles. He decided to cut electricity, telephone and internet, and then targeted the water supply, bakeries, actual bread lines and hospitals. Assad was going to make sure that freedom in Aleppo meant death, destruction, fear and famine. He has left large parts of the city homeless and without income. He was even willing to destroy its ancient quarters and its heritage to achieve his objective of total anarchy, with any form of life allowed only in the still occupied parts of the city. In many ways and for many reasons, he succeeded.
However, he did not succeed to break free peoples’ spirit. They lived through all of this suffering and continued to let themselves be heard in cheerful ways of song and dance. Recently there has even been a revival of that spirit, through classic local songs [al-Qudud al-Halabiyeh], religiously famed by scholars such Shaykh Abdul Ghani al-Nabulsi and Shaykh Isa al-Bayanuni, may God be pleased with them, repacked with revolutionary lyrics while maintaining an emphasis on traditional dance, heritage and Halabi identity. A report:
The singer, Abul Joud, explains how they are the sons of Aleppo and need to preserve and revive this tradition in the revolution.
This was him in Bustan al-Qasr in April, unfortunately he was unavailable for Arab Idol.
The following is a selection of videos from demonstrations this year that give an insight into this revival. The list is limited to only a few particular events and areas, following some of the now famous revolutionaries of Aleppo. First is Bustan al-Qasr, Aleppo’s demonstration capital neighborhood where Shaykh Mahmoud Abul Huda al-Husayni as well as the famous little girl in the above picture are from:
This is in March. Abul Joud is singing here as well.
[Photo: Abul Joud with a little revolutionary]
The little boy with the red sweater and cap on backwards is now famous at demonstrations, often in duo with his sister from the top picture.
[Photo: the little singing hero with an even littler revolutionary]
The FSA’s freedom fighters join the dance. The first song is about the traitor Bashar bombarding his own people, and praising the FSA. Then comes the famous “Halabiyeh Halabiyeh” whose chorus goes “We are the men of Aleppo, we want to overthrow this regime and Assad’s gangs, [grant us] Your Victory O God.” The included parts of the song praise Islam, proclaiming by God that Syria is for all and that there is no sectarianism among the people of Aleppo, and praising the FSA.
Abul Joud is still singing at the same demonstration, this time about Bashar being accursed, and asking for God to protect the country.
Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Agedi [head of the FSA’s Aleppo Military Council] was also among the demonstrators that day, while Guevara stands with a sign on the side.
[Photo: Guevara on duty]
The song, sang by the little boy previously mentioned, goes “My mother, don’t be sad for me…” and is about living with dignity, Muslims and Christians together, in freedom, and how they would defeat Assad and the Ba`ath together. Another famous brother is the one in the blue Italy shirt, Abu Maryam, he got into trouble with Jabhat al-Nusra a number of times.
[Photo: Abu Maryam]
Here is Col. al-Agedi at another, earlier demonstration.
[Photo: Col. al-Agedi together with Shaykh Sariya Rifa`i at the Military Council’s HQ in Aleppo.]
Abul Joud is there as well, singing “Halabiyeh Halibiyeh,” this time included a part about the neighborhood of Salaheddin, the first to massively rise up peacefully against the regime and the first to fight back the aggression. First, more from Bustan al-Qasr:
This was Bustan al-Qasr in May, with Abu Maryam now joining Abul Joud in song, all the classics are passing by. The little boy beats the drum.
February, Abul Joud and the little girl.
This is Hammam Hout, one of the city’s famous singers here speaking in front the crowd in April. He came to bring a message of solidarity from Asala Nasri [most famous singer from Aleppo] and others to the revolutionaries of Bustan al-Qasr. His slogans are about Aleppo, its people, its famous pistachios, and “your head, Bashar, I ask for.” He ends with a message for Col. Riyad al-As`ad of the FSA, who lost his leg in battle at that time. Moving on to Salaheddin:
Beautiful Qudud al-Halabiyeh at a massive demonstration at night.
Abul Joud sings Halabiyeh, after liberating the Sa`d Ibn Abi Waqqas Mosque, which was first bombed then occupied by Assad until it was liberated in April. The FSA are at the forefront, of the dance this time.
Halabiyeh in Qadi Askar.
Halabiyeh in Kallaseh
Defiant Halabiyeh in Ansari Sharqi in April, right where air strike massacres took place earlier.
The people of Ansari Mashhad, too, have been victims of rocket attacks. This was from March.
Abul Joud with our little friend in Mghayer in March.
Halabiyeh in Myassar with Abul Joud and his friends back in 2012 [the only in the list], this is where it all started. The demonstration was in support of the National Coalition which had been established at the time.
A reminder: these demonstrations are not taking place in safe areas. These liberated areas are under constant threat from fighter jets, helicopters as well as SCUD missiles and other rockets. The following was “just” a mortar, of which tens of thousands have fallen upon the Syrian people.
The little girl from Bustan al-Qasr fortunately remains unharmed, many others were not.
Finally, a message to Bashar from one Aleppo’s residents:
“With God’s permission, we will come to Damascus, we are Halabiyeh.”
Today, the free people of Aleppo must braze themselves for an impending invasion by Hezbollah and Assad’s new recruits, more than ever they are in need of unity and solidarity, and hopefully, they are now prepared for it.