Sunday, May 05, 2013

Tears to my eyes

Looking at the computer screen, I could feel tears slowly building up behind my eyes.

I blinked them away and recomposed myself.

I had just watched as the minaret in the central mosque of Aleppo had been demolished by a tank shell.  It had proved too effective a spot for snipers and so it had clearly been decided that it had to go.

It had only been a few years ago that I had walked around its courtyard and had one of my most eye opening experiences of my life.  Guy and I had been walking and chatting, marveling at the beauty of the place.  In one corner of the courtyard, a young Syrian man was seated but looking intently at the both of us.  His eyes clearly followed us as we walked and it was an intense stare that he was giving us.  As we walked past him, I turned, smiled and greeted him with a "salam alaikum".  He immediately pulled back, shook his head, then smiled back and responded with a "wa alaikum salam".  Any hostility that may have been interpreted in his face disappeared and we were given instead his warm welcome.  He clearly hadn't felt any hostility or anger towards us, but had merely been confused as to why a tall Australian man and a Chinese guy had been wandering around in downtown Aleppo.  I couldn't help but wonder how many instances of conflict in history had been caused by simple misunderstandings or situations where people had misinterpreted something said or done by another.

This mosque had survived for centuries.  Now it was gone.  It was the victim of the interaction between extremism, totalitarianism and global power struggles far removed from the place of quiet contemplation it had once been and that it was meant to be.

I will try and remember it as it the beautiful place it once was.

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