‘I saw my city die’

I’ve been in Copenhagen and in Nijmegen talking about the war in Syria, presenting both updated versions of The Death of the Clinic (on attacks on hospitals and medical facilities: see here, here and – for my first update – here) and a new presentation, Cities under siege in Syria.

The new presentation ties those violations of medical neutrality – bluntly, war crimes – into the conduct of siege warfare in Syria and elsewhere and tries to recover the experiences and survival strategies of people and communities living under those desperate conditions (a far cry from my good friend Steve Graham‘s ‘new military urbanism‘, and a catastrophic combination of spectacular, episodic violence through bombing and shelling, and the slow violence of deprivation, dislocation and starvation).

More on this soon, but on Thursday the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a remarkable report, I saw my city die, which is accompanied by an immersive microsite.  If you scroll to the end of the microsite, you’ll be asked to submit your e-mail for a link to the downloadable pdf of the report (I’ve just discovered you can also access it here).  More from the ICRC on the report here and here.

The report focuses on Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and includes wrenching first-hand testimonies:

The three conflicts in the report – Iraq, Syria and Yemen – account for around half of all conflict-related casualties worldwide between 2010 and 2015.

Some 17.5 million people have fled their homes, creating the largest global refugee and migration crisis since World War II.  11.5 million people – more than three people per minute – have fled their homes in Syria alone, since the start of the war.

It is not only lives and homes that are destroyed in these conflicts. The increasing use of explosive weapons that have wide impact areas, decimate the complex systems of services such as electricity, water, sanitation, garbage collection and health-care that civilians rely on to survive, making an eventual return to these cities even harder for those who have fled.

“The majority of people had very little choice and felt it was best to leave,” said Marianne Gasser, Head of ICRC’s Delegation in Syria. “Their houses were turned to rubble; there was very little food and no water or electricity. Not to mention the violence they had been witnessing for so long; no one could be expected to endure such suffering.”

This is a just preliminary notice: I’ll have much more to say when I’ve had a chance to read all this and think some more, so watch this space (and their space).

One thought on “‘I saw my city die’

  1. Pingback: Cities under siege (I) | geographical imaginations

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