In key Syrian city, snipers and bombing tear at fabric of daily life

As rebels and the Syrian government battle for control of Aleppo, residents tap caution – and dark humor – to survive.

Searching for a father

Scott Peterson/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images
Two Syrian men search for remains of their father, killed in a mosque blast in Aleppo, Syria, on Oct. 24, 2012. They finally found his wallet after several days of searching.

The fingers of two young men are gray with dust as they claw through the rubble of a downtown Aleppo mosque, brothers on a grim mission to find any last remains of their father. For four days they have searched, finally unearthing remains that will allow them to complete their father's burial.

But even surprised passersby are skeptical that the two have found what they were searching for, telling them to give it up, to let it go.

Abu Imad, the older brother, doesn’t blame Bashar al-Assad as much as those he sees as responsible for not stopping the carnage. Echoing the views of many in Aleppo, he pauses at this peak moment of his personal tragedy to accuse the US and Europe of speaking about human rights and democracy, but not acting to end the war.

He says digging for his father is “sending a message” to the United States. (An earlier story reported on rebels' bitter assessment of an international community that they say is doing nothing.)

“We don’t deserve that people are killed in Syria; it is all caused by the mistakes of Europe and Obama,” asserts Abu Imad, as curious onlookers interject similar sentiments. “Don’t even speak about the Syrian situation. Just send weapons [to the rebels] and make a no-fly zone [to stop regime air attacks], or shut up.” 

Then the younger brother shouts: He has found his father’s wallet. He extracts it from the rubble, blows off the dust, and the two men open it for all to see this artifact of a life spent working humbly at the mosque. Here is their father’s identity card, and proof of a poor man's devotion – a single currency note for 100 Syrian Pounds, the equivalent of just $1.33.

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