Millions of Syrians are using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Skype to disseminate and discuss the conflict. Each week our Mohammed Sergie monitors the online conversation in English and Arabic, pulling out the highlights in a feature called the Social Media Buzz.
As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Aleppo, or Halab as it’s known in Arabic, has experienced cycles of war and peace for millennia, leaning on its architects, engineers, builders and artisans to return it to previous glory. Some of those architects-in-training died on Tuesday in a bombing of their faculty on the first day of exams, missing an opportunity to rebuild their city when the war ends.
Aleppo University, the city’s most prestigious and largest institution of higher learning, sits in an expansive campus in the government-controlled section of Aleppo, surrounded by the tony neighborhood of Shahba and the upscale Furqan area. Its students have staged peaceful protests against the Assad regime since March 2011 that culminated in a deadly crackdown by security forces in May 2012 and the closure of most dorms after that.
The university, which was dubbed by activists as the Revolution’s University, remained open to students who could reach it, and its dorms were filled by internally displaced refugees from rebel-held areas in Aleppo that were prone to government shelling and airstrikes.
It isn’t clear who is responsible for the bombing of the university and how many people were killed or injured. Pro-Assad media outlets first said the explosion was from mortars, then car bombs, then anti-aircraft missiles and finally settled on large surface-to-surface rockets. The government said 82 people died in the attack.
Residents of Aleppo, some who live only a few hundred meters away from the scene and are vocal opponents of the revolution, were quick to point out in Facebook and Twitter posts (below) that a fighter jet fired two rockets at the University, then circled back a few minutes later to drop the third bomb. People living in government-controlled areas of Syria can’t inspect the aftermath of such violent explosions and aren’t allowed to film in public, which explains the dearth of photo and video evidence from the scene.
(Edward Dark is a pseudonym for an Aleppo resident who used to support the revolution but now calls on the Syrian military to retake control of the city).
(Update: The video above shows a rocket slamming into the dorms at Aleppo University and the fire in the distance is from the Architecture department).
As for the death toll, doctors at the University Hospital just a mile away from the architecture building said more than 200 were killed and people in Aleppo are talking about more than 500 deaths. Below is a note by a doctor at the hospital.