ALEPPO – It's been three months since the Syrian government launched its offensive on this city’s opposition neighborhoods, using barrels packed with explosives. After a two-week lull during harsh winter weather, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have reportedly resumed – and even increased the intensity – of the raids.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that more than 400 people have been killed in the country's largest city by these makeshift “barrel bombs” since the beginning of February, even as Geneva II peace talks were under way.
Most rebel-held areas in Aleppo have turned into a no-man’s land as residents flee; entire neighborhoods such as Maysar, Jazmati, Marjeh and Meisraniyeh are deserted, their shops shuttered. The exodus from the city is reportedly the largest since the Free Syrian Army first entered in July 2012.
It is not only heavy shelling that has pushed the residents to leave. Many residents are driven out by rumors that regime forces are planning to storm the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo.
Fears increased after a broad coalition of rebel groups began fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS); the former is losing ground this week in its fight against government troops.
Residents say that fighter jets are everywhere. They say schools, hospitals and car parks have been the main target, as the government claims they are the main places for congregations of armed groups.
As Syria’s once-efficient medical system collapses, Aleppo’s few field hospitals are overcrowded. The rudimentary medical points often administer little more than basic first aid. Civic groups have try to identify where help is most needed, as explosive barrels pound the city. They try to rescue those trapped under the rubble, using just simple tools at hand.
Abu Ahmad, 40, a resident of the Maysar neighborhood, has refused to flee. “Most of my neighbors and relatives have left, but I’d rather die here than flee and ask others for help. This is my home, and I’m not leaving.”
While Abu Ahmad’s son stayed behind with his father, his mother and other siblings fled to their relatives in the rural outskirts of the city. “I feel sad about the exodus from my neighborhood. What have we done to deserve this?” asked Abu Ahmad.
Since the December offensive began, many of Aleppo’s remaining families have scattered.
Most of the displaced have found themselves in the towns and cities of rural Aleppo, where the shelling is less intense than in the city. Other families have come to stay with their relatives in the suburbs. Those who left for the Turkish border crossing at Bab as-Salamah found themselves among an influx of newly displaced families, with many forced to go without tents, blankets and food.
Other families decided to move to the government-held western neighborhoods of Aleppo. They have set up tents inside buildings and in orchards, while others sit on the side of the road next to small fires trying to keep warm against the winter cold. The lucky families receive help from local charities housed in abandoned schools and university dormitories. Schooling has been replaced by the most basic survival.
A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.
A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."
The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.
Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021
Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?
The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.
The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.
The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."
The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."
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