ALEPPO, Syria — Hussam Massoud went shopping with his wife and two children in al-Sukkari neighborhood, alongside thousands of other locals who had taken to the streets on the eve of Eid al-Adha to buy new clothes and sweets. Al-Monitor spoke to Massoud about the festive spirit while his wife and children were inside a store. He said, “It is our holiday, and we will celebrate it no matter how bad the circumstances are.”
Eid al-Adha is one of two major Muslim holidays. It falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah (12th and last month) in the Islamic calendar and lasts for four days. People visit each other during the holiday and distribute meat from sacrificial animals — such as sheep and cows — to relatives, neighbors and the poor. Eid al-Adha is a happy occasion to spend quality time with relatives. Yet for Syrians, the war continues to wreak havoc.
In this regard, Massoud said, “The ongoing shelling by the regime [forces] of Aleppo is causing constant stress. But I am not going to miss the opportunity of bringing joy to my children and family. We are going to celebrate Eid al-Adha no matter what.”
The voices of the vendors rise in al-Sukkari neighborhood, as each tries to attract customers. While families rush to buy clothes and sweets, they greet each other on the occasion of Eid al-Adha. The smiles on the faces of those in the market make one forget about the Syrians' suffering over the last four years.
Massoud’s wife returned empty-handed; she did not find the right clothes for herself or the children. Massoud said with a smile, “Honestly, Eid al-Adha is a happy occasion and a little tiring.” He then went on his way with his family.
Rami Hajjar parked his vehicle, which was filled with childrens' clothing, in the middle of the street and called at the customers, using a local dialect: “Clothes for kids. Clothes for kids. Make your child happy with 1,000 Syrian pounds (about $3)!”
Every holiday, Rami parks his vehicle in the market. He told Al-Monitor, “Sales during Eid al-Adha are good, despite the poor living conditions. In fact, the people no longer care about what is happening. As you can see, they are shopping and buying clothes, as if nothing is going on. Life continues despite everything.”
Residents of Aleppo celebrate Eid (video by Mohammed al-Khatieb)
Al-Shaar neighborhood, which is not far from al-Sukkari neighborhood, witnessed a massacre on Sept. 21 when the regime forces targeted Sed al-Lawz market with a surface-to-surface missile, killing more than 20 civilians and wounding dozens. The regime is seemingly seeking to end life and stability in areas that are out of its control through the repeated shelling of markets and vital centers. This is forcing the people to flee to Turkey or to remote camps and towns.
In the opposition-controlled neighborhoods of Aleppo city, the number of residents does not exceed 300,000 (according to statistics by the opposition-affiliated Aleppo City Council that Al-Monitor reported on in October 2014), despite the opposition forces controlling about 60% of the city, which was considered the largest in the country in terms of population (its population reached 2.3 million people in 2005).
While Syrians have fled the battles in various parts of the country, many returned home for Eid al-Adha. After Turkish authorities allowed Syrian refugees present on its territory to return to Syria from Sept. 23-26 and to stay for up to 10 days, 27,000 Syrian refugees took this opportunity to spend Eid al-Adha with their relatives in Syria.
Hussam Nasser is one of the refugees who returned to Syria for Eid al-Adha. Al-Monitor met him in al-Shaar neighborhood when he first arrived from the Bab al-Salama border crossing. He was exhausted after making an arduous trip from Turkey to Aleppo due to the crowds at the border crossing.
He said, “The Internet has been the only way to communicate with my family. Now I'll see my brothers and relatives after a year and a half. Seeing them is worth the exhausting trip. There is nothing better than the smell of the neighborhood where I grew up.”
Eid al-Adha brings joy to the hearts of Syrians, although this joy does not seem the same as it was prior to the outbreak of the revolution and its subsequent shift into an all-out war. It has been the only event capable of reuniting the Syrian families that are currently dispersed.