“For the last two years the mood has not been conducive to study; the university campus is like a military zone”
I haven’t been able to go to my classes this year, but Tuesday I went to the exams try to pass the year, seeing as I didn’t pass last year. After the explosion, I decided to never go back again. Since last year [Editor’s note: the 2011-2012 school year], the students who go have stopped taking “practical” classes, as three absences means you’re kicked out. But going to “theory” classes is not mandatory.The university was been the epicentre of protests when they kicked off in the northwest region. Some students were thrown out because they were in contact with a United Nations delegation that visited the city. But some support the regime, and they benefit from preferential treatment from the university’s administration.The entrance of the University of Aleppo's arts department. de l'entrée de la faculté des Arts de l'université d'Alep.The university has been the epicentre of protests in the northwest region. Some students were thrown out because they were in contact with a United Nations delegation that visited the city. But some support the regime, and they benefit from preferential treatment from the university’s administration.For the last two years the mood on campus has not been conducive to study. The university campus is like a military zone. We have to go through three checkpoints to get onto the campus: one is run by the army, one by security forces and the third by the Popular Defense Committee [a local armed group that supports the regime]. Despite all this “security”, I was able to get through Tuesday by bribing the men guarding the checkpoints. Other students try to jump over the fences with the help of a professor or someone from the administration.“The taxi ride to get to the University has gone up from 5 to 250 [Syrian] pounds”Of late, no more than 10% of the number of students who are signed up at the university have actually been showing up. In peace time, around 80,000 are on campus [Editor’s note: this statistic dates from 2008]. But many still came to take their mid-term exams. The university could have taken into account the difficulties students have in getting through their courses by decreasing the number of exams to cover only essential subjects, but they didn’t.Students preparing to take their exams on Tuesday, before the explosions.And it’s not just security problems that are an issue. A taxi ride cost 5 Syrian pounds before the recent events; today it costs 250 pounds, so that’s 500 for a round trip. Many students just don’t have the means to travel to and from university. Those who go to classes are the ones who live nearby.Video of a protest by students in Damascus in support of students at the University of Aleppo.We’re trying to hold on to our right to a student life despite the conflict and violence. Even if some of us have participated in protests, myself included, we’re still students who never wanted violence.
“Because of the roadblocks and the combat zones, my route to university has gone up from 5 km to 50 km”
I had planned to finish my architecture degree in 2013, but last year I only went to classes in the first semester. And this year I signed up but haven’t been to any classes. I haven’t taken any exams. So this is the second year I’m failing.To get to campus from the suburb where I live, I took public transportation, but because of the roadblocks and the combat zones, my route to university went up from 5 kilometres to 50 kilometres.Because I live in a rebel-occupied area, it’s dangerous for me to go into parts of the city under government control. Of course, there are students who have enough money to rent apartments or rooms near the university, but they are a minority. A lot of students regularly run into problems with the security forces. Some have been put in prison. Even those who try to continue their studies from a distance face hurdles, like the electricity or the Internet frequently cutting out.“There have new appointments in the top ranks of the university’s administration: all those who are new are close to the regime”Security forces and government intelligence have a strong presence all over the campus. If we try to explain the difficulties that prevent us from coming to university, we risk getting ourselves in trouble and being identified as suspects. Nevertheless, some professors are more understanding with students in my situation, but they’re discreet about it as they’re also at serious risk. Recently, there have new appointments in the top ranks of the university’s administration: all those who are new are close to the regime.