Life be­hind plas­tic in Syria’s win­dow-less city

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

ALEPPO, Syria—In a city whose win­dows have been blasted from their frames, re­main­ing residents of Syria’s war-torn Aleppo go about their daily lives be­hind gap­ing holes cov­ered with plas­tic.

For in­hab­i­tants of the bat­tle-scarred and di­vided city, glass win­dows have be­come more of a li­a­bil­ity than a lux­ury.

“Ev­ery win­dow pane we have has been shat­tered by shelling,” said Am­mar Wat­tar, an English teacher, as he fit­ted a hard plas­tic sheet into the win­dow frame of his home in the govern­ment-held dis­trict of Al-Mi­dan.

“We changed it the first time, then the sec­ond time, the third time — un­til this time, we de­cided not to change it any­more.”

The win­dows are reg­u­larly blown out in the fre­quent rocket at­tacks and air strikes on Aleppo city, turn­ing the shards into dan­ger­ous pro­jec­tiles.

Re­plac­ing them is also pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive — so residents have been opt­ing to cover the empty frames with sheets of plas­tic.

In many neigh­bour­hoods, chil­dren can be seen slip­ping be­hind white tar­pau­lin hang­ing like cur­tains from the door­ways of their apart­ments.

Aban­doned apart­ment build­ings are of­ten iden­ti­fied by the partly-smashed glass win­dows pro­trud­ing like jagged teeth from the me­tal frames.

Clashes and bom­bard­ment have car­ried on in Aleppo de­spite a Fe­bru­ary 27 truce across parts of Syria and mul­ti­ple at­tempts to se­cure a lo­cal freeze on fight­ing in the city.

As­raa al-Masri, a teacher in a regime-held dis­trict of the city, said a shard of glass flew into her daugh­ter’s leg dur­ing a rocket at­tack.

She has since stopped re­plac­ing her win­dows with glass, but she now faces a new set of wor­ries.

“Bugs, dust, soot, loud noises, the burn­ing smell of the gen­er­a­tors, which are bad for your health and neg­a­tively af­fect our chil­dren while they’re study­ing,” she listed.

Per­haps no one has seen as much shat­tered glass as Mo­hammed Bouz, who used to sell it in a shop in AlMi­dan.

“My stock­pile has been de­stroyed many times dur­ing the shelling, and I haven’t been able to get new de­liv­er­ies,” he told AFP.

Be­fore Syria’s war erupted in March 2011, a square me­tre of glass cost 425 Syr­ian pounds (70 cents) — but it now fetches about 3,300 ($6).

Aleppo’s des­per­ate residents — many of whom have been left job­less since war came to their city in 2012 — opt for the much cheaper plas­tic at a max­i­mum of 500 Syr­ian pounds per square me­tre.

But for Umm Ah­mad’s con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim fam­ily, no proper win­dows means no pri­vacy.

Syn­thetic can­vas bil­lows in the wind, “so my daugh­ters and I can only change our clothes in the bath­room or in the hall­ways so our neigh­bours don’t see us”, the 52-year-old woman said.

Pri­vacy “is some­thing re­ally sa­cred for Alep­pan fam­i­lies”.

Across the front­line in Aleppo’s rebel-held east, shop­keeper Ali Makansi re­counts sit­ting in his gro­cery store one day “when a mor­tar shell crashed into the roof of a nearby build­ing”.—AFP

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