The besieged Syrian city of Aleppo is a veritable mill of sickening videos and images: Children, torn in two by barrel bombs. Bloodied toes, pokingÂ out from underneath a collapsed building. Mothers, wailing, carrying the dead.
Last weekend, however, Syria’s state television network tweeted a video that, while devoid of carnage, was perhaps just as nauseating â forÂ its callousness.
â SANA English (@SANA_English) September 24, 2016
With Russian assistance, the Syrian government is in the process of annihilating rebel-held eastern Aleppo with a combination of airstrikes and ground assaults. The dead lie in the streets, while aboutÂ 30 doctors attend to a population of more than a quarter million, trapped, and increasingly traumatized,Â on that side of the city.
The video of Aleppo’s “thriving nightlife” was presumably shot in government-held western Aleppo, where, to the degree possible just miles from all-out slaughter, life beats to some of the same rhythmsÂ as it did before the war.
The Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief, Loveday Morris, traveled toÂ government-held Aleppo this past March. Followed by a government watcher, she witnessed scenes of surprising normalcy.
“Families picnic while children line up to buy balloons and popcorn. A few miles away, on a sprawling university campus, thousands of students attend class. Downtown, the cityâs cinema plays the latest Hollywood films. In the evenings, the restaurants fill,” she wrote. “â¦ In Foresta cafe in the cityâs well-to-do al-Azizia neighborhood, David Guettaâs âNo Money No Loveâ blasts out as 25-year-old Hadeel Kasabji enjoys an evening with her family. She said the lack of electricity is a Âstruggle.”
But the crisis in Aleppo has deepened significantly since March, and western Aleppo isn’t as peaceful as it was when Morris visited six months ago. Rebels routinely shell government-held areas, leaving residents close to the city’s front line in a perpetual state of anxiety. Churches have been damaged and mosques near-destroyed. In some areas, basic services are also deeply vulnerable. Speaking at the United Nations Security Council this weekend, Staffan de Mistura, the special envoy for Syria, said rebel forces in the east had switched off a water pumpÂ that was supplying civilians across conflict lines, apparently in retaliation for an airstrike on their own water system.
The combination of Syrian government and Russian air power, however, inflictsÂ incomparable damage on the other side of the city. In the past week alone, hundreds of Syrians have been killed in eastern Aleppo. A cease-fire brokered this month by the Americans and Russians was essentially stillborn, and an aid convoy was bombed and set afire before delivering its much-needed supplies last week.
The video below, posted by a colleague at The Post, shows the aftermath of an aerial bombing in which at least 23 peopleÂ perished, most of whom, according to local doctors, were women and children.
Attack turns Aleppo’s al-Shaer area into shattered urban wasteland. 2 families trapped under rubble. You can’t tell here, but sky is blue. pic.twitter.com/b7BGF1oTfQ
â Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) September 27, 2016
â Karam Almasri (@KaramAlmasri25) September 27, 2016
As evidenced by some of the prideful comments left under SANA’s Saturday night tweet, the nightclub video is a sort of propaganda co-opted by those who would like to believe that the Syrian government represents a vision of a free, even fun Syria.
To them, everyone killed by their government’s bombs is easily dismissed as a terrorist, deserving of their fate.