Amid the Rubble, Syrian Cities Seek a Postwar Normalcy

Syria’s civil war obliterated their neighborhoods. Now, as Assad’s government tightens its control, the challenge is to rebuild.

A boy walks in front of a former school and mosque in the Sukkari neighborhood of south Aleppo. The mosque is being rebuilt while most of the surrounding buildings remain in ruins.

On the third floor of a crumbling building, a pink sunset glowed through the clear plastic sheet covering a gaping hole in the wall. Sixty-year-old Amira Garman sat in a powder blue cardigan on a swinging bench beneath a gold-fringed yellow canopy. A broken chandelier with a single bulb doused the little room in shaky light. Through the makeshift window she looked down at Al Yarmouk school across the street, its playground now littered with bullet casings and an improvised cannon.

Garman’s family had lived on the top floor, now a maze of caved-in walls and rubble. “I want to be in my home,” she said. They took shelter in this room, one of only two occupied in the building. On their street, shops reopened among the debris; people bustled along with eyes to the ground. As fighting continued elsewhere, a fragile normalcy was returning to Aleppo. But the immense task of rebuilding loomed.

Their neighborhood of Kallaseh, in obliterated east Aleppo, had been surrounded by the Syrian Army after the government’s months-long siege to reclaim the city from pro-democracy rebels and others opposed to President Bashar al Assad’s regime. Once Syria’s largest city, Aleppo had been home to nearly four million people, but hundreds of thousands fled. Across Syria millions more have done so during the brutal seven-year war. More than 400,000 have been killed, and the United Nations has accused Assad’s forces of using chemical weapons to kill scores of people in several towns.

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