SYRIA

In Aleppo, people protest at night and get back to business by day

 While smaller Syrian cities such as Deraa and Banias are ablaze with violent protests, Aleppo, the country’s second largest city, remains surprisingly calm.

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While smaller Syrian cities such as Deraa and Banias are ablaze with violent protests, Aleppo, the country’s second largest city, remains surprisingly calm.

 

The city of Aleppo has so far been largely spared by the anti-government protests that have swept across the country since mid-March. When demonstrations do occur, they are usually short-lived, student-led, and limited to night-time.

 

The following videos where filmed from the roof of a building in front of Aleppo’s university, overnight on May 17. They show several hundred students protesting in front of the campus, before police arrive to disperse the crowd, arresting dozens.

 

Video published onYouTube.

 

Video published on YouTube.

 

With 1.7 million citizens, Aleppo is Syria’s second largest city and the country's economic capital. It is widely believed that, should massive demonstrations erupt there, it would be a major setback for president Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to quell the protest movement.

 

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.

"Aleppo is a commercial city. We do business, not politics"

Oum Chahama lives in Aleppo.

 

Those protesting in Aleppo are mainly students, and they’re not really from the city itself. Most were born in other parts of the country and came to study here, so they are protesting against the repression that their families and friends are falling victim to in their hometowns.

 

The protests usually take place at night. During the day, it’s business as usual, almost as if nothing had happened the night before. Aleppo has remained calm because it’s a commercial city. We do business, not politics. People are too afraid to lose their businesses to dare revolt against the regime. There were a few, sporadic protests, usually after Friday prayers. But as soon as the army or police show off, most people scoot.

 

In fact, security forces are well aware that people in Aleppo aren’t as determined as in other cities. As a result, they avoid adding fuel to the fire, and let small protests take place at night. My four brothers were all briefly arrested for participating in a protest, but they were released unharmed after a few hours. The situation is very different from the stories of torture and executions we hear from other cities. All this makes us feel quite out of sync with the rest of the country.”