SENIORS News Group Editor Gail Forrer reflects on Christmas 2016.
SENIORS News Group Editor Gail Forrer reflects on Christmas 2016.

Our Christmas gift must be to save Aleppo

SENIORS Newspaper Group Editor Gail Forrer reflects on how terribly different this Christmas period is for those living in war-torn Aleppo.

IT'S a warm, hazy, grey clouded morning. Next to the Noosa River the air is soft and salty, the water is a dark silvered blue.  Closer to the river mouth, flocks of small white birds appear to rest on a long slither of emerging sand bank.

I have pushed the wheelchair holding my broken-limbed friend up to the river. We park on the water's edge and together breathe in this beautiful moment.  I'm so glad to be helping out a good friend. Yet, in spite of what she says, I think this simple act could be helping me out more than her.

You see, I feel this time next to the river is a reprieve from the world tragedies I can do nothing about. I have read that a diet of violence and pain desensitises you, but I feel absolutely hopeless, scared and deeply sad. You see I don't know what to do. The tragedy of Aleppo cannot be ignored, the faces, the wounds, the bombed ruins of a civilisation.

We wheel back from the river to my friend's fresh, modern apartment and after ensuring she is secure and settled. I drive along the motorway to my safe, interesting and fulfilling job. I listen to my favourite New Age philosopher spruiking love for all mankind and release a long, loud sigh.  I enter the office turn on the laptop, check earphones and decide to seek some advice about the video camera for future recordings.

Then I check my Google alerts and beam into updates on the German Christmas Market attack. Germany, I think, the one country that has gone all out in the numbers of refugees they have accepted.

I flip out of there and into our social media sites, people like the happy stuff, we can tell by the number of likes.  I like the happy stuff too.  I bet the people of Aleppo would like the happy stuff.

Last weekend, I felt a tiny spark of hope,  I heard evacuation buses had been sent in to rescue remaining civilians, then  I heard the evacuation had stopped,  then I heard the evacuation buses had been bombed. I saw the burnt out bus images on social media.

At work, the morning duties are done. I exchange Christmas social notes with a few colleagues.  I think of a few little gifts I could buy and how I will make sure that they are fair trade products. As it should be, the office is awash with tinsel, baubles, coloured lights and cards.   Everyone has something going on. 

Yes, everyone has something going on and in a moment, a mix of words expressed by the US Ambassador Samantha Power at the UN assembly come back to me: "Are you incapable of shame?" she asked.

And then these words: "Syrians trapped by fighting are sending out their final appeals for helps, or they are saying their goodbyes." 

A doctor named Mohammad Abu Rajab left a voice message. "This is a final distress call to the world.  Save the lives of these children and women and old men.  Save them.  Nobody is left.  You might not hear our voice after this."

A photographer named Ameen Al-Halabi wrote on Facebook: "I am waiting to die or to be captured by the Assad regime. Pray for me and always remember us."

A teacher named Abulkafi Al-Hamdo said: "I can tweet now but I might not do it forever.  Please save my daughter's life and others.  This is a call from a father".

Another doctor told a journalist: "Remember that there was city called Aleppo that the world erased from the map and history."

Last night, from the comfort of my couch I watched a few amazing minutes depicting future technology and how we will live with it in 20 years.  It was marvelous and beautiful, easy, luxurious and very clever. 

I'm making final arrangements for my work assigned at Woodford Folk Festival and am overjoyed at how easy it will be to network through the ether. I'm hoping members of my much-loved extended family will come out and join me there.

But Samantha Power's last words return to me. "Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later," she said.

But finally she did say what to do and as little as it is I am doing it now:

You have to tell those responsible that they must stop. This isn't the time for more equivocation, for self-censoring, for avoiding naming names, for diplomatic niceties of the kind that are so well-practiced here on the Council. Say who is responsible. Appeal to Moscow, to Damascus, to Tehran, that they have to stop.

Use every channel you have - public, private, bankshot, through someone who knows someone. The lives of tens of thousands of Syrians still in eastern Aleppo - between 30,000-60,000 people - and hundreds of thousands more across the country who are besieged, depend on it.

Share this story with anyone you think can make a difference.

May you have a peaceful and loving  Christmas.

- Gail

(Gail Forrer, Seniors Newspaper Group Editor)

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