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March 1, 2023
“My country is chosen by the angel of death” – Khaled Khalifa, for Zeit Online

“My country is chosen by the angel of death” – Khaled Khalifa, for Zeit Online

Published by Zeit Online, on February 15th, 2023, translated from the Arabic into German by Larissa Bender
Below some excerpts in English, translated with the help of Google translate.
Photo credit (c) Hassan Ammar / AP / Aleppo


“I never thought that one day I would stand on the hilltop of the world and see Syria being hit by an earthquake. The earth had trembled a few times when I was growing up, and all I remember is my mother’s fear that we would all die under the rubble. She woke us up after midnight and got us out quickly. The whole city spent the night on the streets, the cry “God is great” rang out from the minarets, and the fear of possible death hung over the city.

During my last visit to my hometown of Aleppo a year ago, I reassured myself that everything that can happen had already happened: houses were destroyed, entire neighborhoods were leveled, the city resembled a ghost town. I asked my friends, “And more can happen?” We had reached the culmination of a people’s annihilation and had been abandoned by the whole world. For 12 years, Syrians have been dying in every way imaginable, drowned, incinerated, killed above ground and under rubble, in prisons or under torture. What happened to the Syrians in the last twelve years, cannot be conceived by the brains of even the most imaginative writers. Some day, when history will be written, no one will believe how the angel of death dwelt in a single country where it tried all its tools on a single people.

A terrible earthquake has shaken this country. The people awaited the mercy of the predator warlords to let the through the meager help the world had promised them. But that help never came, and people only had their bare hands to dig under the rubble for their loved ones.

The destruction covers an area of hundreds of square kilometers. In Syria, the cities of Aleppo , Latakia, Afrin, Idlib, Hama and the whole north-west of Syria, are affected. Surrounded on all sides, this rural area is one of the biggest victims of the Syrian war. Turkey to the north, the Syrian regime to the south, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the east. And the area is controlled by groups that get their instructions from elsewhere.

Disasters are an opportunity for those who profit from crises. The politicians will try to present themselves in the right light while using the victims exclusively for their electoral campaigns. Not a single pill will cross borders without border guards benefiting. Only the bodies of Syrians were initially allowed to be transported from Turkey to Syria via the border crossing at Bab al-Hawa, while donations from Syrians living abroad and aid organizations were blocked and hidden from view.

On the first and second days, hundreds of bodies were brought from Turkey to Syria. On the second, third and fourth days, the Syrians used bare hands and primitive tools to dig under the rubble for victims in the north-west of the country, where the ruling military factions see the earthquake as an opportunity for revenge, blackmail and gain. In the areas controlled by the regime, the situation was no better.

Today is the seventh day after the earthquake. (…) the villages of Jenderis, Salkiin, Sarmin, Darkish, Afrin, Atareb and many other areas stand alone, isolated and abandoned by the predators who share the spoils. (…)

These predators at home and abroad have not been interested in our dead for twelve years. They will also not be interested in our victims of this new disaster”