The children of Aleppo have a few questions for the U.S. presidential candidates, one of whom who will assume responsibility this January for the United States’ role in stopping the carnage in Syria that has already claimed nearly half a million lives.
“When will you come and stop Bashar?” one child asked, referencing Syrian President Bashar Assad, who’s been accused of committing war crimes against his own people. “Because he’s attacking us, killing children and blockading us.”
“The planes are coming, and they’re firing at us. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” another child said.
The Huffington Post worked with freelance journalists in Aleppo to let children answer this question on camera: “If you could ask the US presidential candidates one question, what would it be?” The kids weren’t coached, and filmed their answers only during daylight hours, when it was safe to go outside. They looked directly into the camera and conveyed the urgency of their ordeal. Mostly, they wanted to know when they’d be saved.
“My request is: Stop the planes. Stop the shooting. End the siege.”
The circus-like presidential contest in the U.S. has largely distracted from the humanitarian crisis in Syria as the country’s civil war stretches into its fifth bloody year. But as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton prepare for their final presidential debate on Wednesday, these children’s questions deserve to be answered.
“The children of Aleppo are trapped in a living nightmare. There are no words left to describe the suffering they are experiencing.”
Some 100,000 children are trapped inside a 24-square-mile “kill box” in a rebel-held part of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Xisco Villalonga, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, said last month. At least 130 kids in the area have been killed in Syrian government and Russian airstrikes over the last 25 days, according to Save the Children and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The children of Aleppo are trapped in a living nightmare,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth said recently. “There are no words left to describe the suffering they are experiencing.”
There’s no longer access to safe drinking water. There are desperate shortages of food and medicine. Without critical supplies to perform surgeries and blood transfusions, medical workers have reportedly been forced to let children die on hospital floors. There are just 30 doctors left in eastern Aleppo, serving a quarter of a million people.
Underground bunkers, once a refuge where children could even attend school, are now unsafe, thanks to the introduction of Russian bunker-busting bombs.
“We’re now more likely to see children being pulled from the rubble or treated on the floor of a hospital than sitting at a school desk,” said Nick Finney of Save the Children.
Even though Russia has announced of a brief, eight-hour ceasefire this Thursday, there’s no guarantee the bombing won’t continue afterwards, despite a call from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate the airstrikes in the city as war crimes.
Also concerning are reports that pro-Syrian government fighters are amassing outside eastern Aleppo, preparing for a ground offensive.