dianadarke

Syria and Turkey commentary

Archive for the tag “Christian Quarter”

Echoes of Aleppo in Gaziantep

English: Caravanserai in Aleppo

English: Caravanserai in Aleppo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Bawabet al-Yasmeen alley at the Chris...

English: Bawabet al-Yasmeen alley at the Christian quarter of Jdeydeh, Aleppo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gaziantep Castle

Gaziantep Castle (Photo credit: Turkish Travel)

gaziantep_fabric

gaziantep_fabric (Photo credit: unionpearl)

Photographs from Gaziantep

Photographs from Gaziantep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photographs from Gaziantep, Turkey.

Photographs from Gaziantep, Turkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eastern Turkey’s ‘Paris of the East’ as it now likes to be known, Gaziantep (just Antep locally), is remarkably close to Aleppo in so many ways, historically, culturally and even in its famed cuisine based on the pistachio. It has at its heart a fortified citadel, its Christian quarter is being gentrified, with boutique hotels and cafes, just as Aleppo’s was a few years ago, but many of Aleppo’s have now been destroyed by the fighting. The Governor of Aleppo in medieval times built many of Antep’s mosques and hans (caravanserais), testimony to the shared trading links and thriving commercial traffic across the centuries.

Here today the links go even deeper. There are many Syrian refugees who are living on the charity of the governor, given soup and allowed to sleep in the mosques. The language problem is an issue for them, as most Turks here do not speak Arabic or English. The commercial links between this part of southeastern Turkey and northern Syria are stronger than ever though, with more trucks crossing the Bab Al-Hawa border than before the war, taking in food and various commodities to Syria, where the factories have to a large extent stopped functioning. Wandering round the souks of Gaziantep with their brimming sacks of spices and nuts, it is only the chatter of the Turkish merchants that force you to remember you are not in Aleppo.

Photographs from Gaziantep

Photographs from Gaziantep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who or what was the target of the Damascus Old City bomb?

The destroyed Christian quarter of Damascus, 1860.

The destroyed Christian quarter of Damascus, 1860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Ancient Roman triumphal arch (Al Khar...

English: Ancient Roman triumphal arch (Al Kharab) on Street Called Straight, Damascus, Syria Français : Arc de triomphe romain (Al Kharab) sur la Rue Droite à Damas, Syrie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A greek Orthodox Procession

English: A greek Orthodox Procession (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world’s media is distracted by the build-up to Egypt’s 30 June showdown, so an important event was given only scant and even misleading coverage. On 27 June the BBC website reported what it called a blast from a suicide bomber in the Christian Quarter of Damascus’ Old City:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23086213

The BBC commentary went on to assume that the target was the Christian community, specifically the Greek Orthodox church of the Virgin Mary which was close to the blast, and then talked about how Christians have been targeted before and are being drawn into the conflict.

But the Greek Orthodox church of Miriamiye as it is known, is not really in a Christian part of the Old City, but beside the Roman Arch on Straight Street which marks the rough boundary between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish quarters. The church is directly opposite Naranj, a classy restaurant right beside the Roman Arch, known to be one of Bashar Al-Assad’s favourite dining places and often used by regime figures.

Closer examination of the facts reveals that the bomb in fact exploded not outside the church, but 50 yards away outside a Muslim charity where the suicide bomber was said to be queuing up for food with other residents. Four people were killed, many more injured and nearby shops damaged. But Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen newspaper put forward another theory – that the target was a nearby post of the National Defence Forces, a regime paramilitary force fighting the rebels.

About three hours after that blast, two mortar shells landed in nearby Al-Amin street, a mainly Shi’a area, wounding a number of people.

No one has claimed responsibility for these blasts, and local residents are confused. Was the target Christian, regime, rebel or Shi’a? No one knows except those who perpetrated the acts.

It tragically sums up what is happening increasingly now in Syria’s civil war – that very often no one knows anymore who is doing what to whom.

Roman arch, Straight Street, Damascus.

Roman arch, Straight Street, Damascus. (Photo credit: jemasmith)

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