Students demonstrate at Aleppo University on Thursday
BSyria writes for Foreign Policy:
In the early days of the Syrian revolution, those hoping for the speedy demise of President Bashar al-Assad's regime held their breath for Aleppo. Syria's largest city was one of the epicenters of the revolt against Hafez al-Assad's regime in the early 1980s, and was second only to Hama in the number of sons who were disappeared by its feared security forces. But as the months dragged on and the city failed to rise, our emotions moved from anticipation to frustration. Why was Aleppo immune from the protests that have swept across Syria?
Aleppo's silence -- save for demonstrations at its university and a few scattered Friday protests -- became grist for jokes among revolutionary Syrians. "Aleppo wouldn't rise even if it took Viagra,"despaired one of the famous signs wielded by protesters in the northern town of Kafranbel.
But Aleppo's dismal reputation among Syria's revolutionaries is slowly changing. The regime's hold on the city has been increasingly challenged: Recent Fridays have witnessed sizeable protests, and the residents of the lower-income neighborhoods of Fardous, Marjeh, and Sakhour are taking to the streets regularly.
Aleppo is also becoming increasingly violent. Assad's security forces shot dead 13 people in the city last Friday, according to local activists -- on par with the number of fatalities in other hotspots. On Feb. 10, twin car bombings targeting Aleppo's Military Intelligence bureau killed 28 people. The growing Free Syrian Army presence in the areas around the city is also making it hard for Aleppo to remain a bystander to the revolution.
Still, Aleppo remains a long way from playing a role in the revolution that is commensurate with its size and historical influence. Activists have said that Aleppo remaining on the sidelines has made an already arduous revolution more difficult. "Without Aleppo and Damascus joining the revolution, we are going to need foreign intervention," Bara Sarraj, a former political prisoner in the infamous Tadmor Military Prison, told me.
The explanations proffered by Aleppan activists and businessmen for the city's inertia differ. Of course, several reasons could be at play simultaneously. But the diversity of reasons provided is perhaps the most indicative fact of how baffling Aleppo's aloofness is to activists.