Aleppo - a city with no future? Bishop tells of life under constant bombing

Residents walk amidst the rubble at a site damaged by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Saliheen district, May 1, 2015.Reuters

Christians in Aleppo are under bombardment every day in a city that seems to have no future, according to the Chaldean bishop of the Syrian city.

Antoine Audo, Bishop of Aleppo, told Agenzia Fides of "dirty wars" in the Middle East and warned that the sufferings of Christians were being exploited by people trying to present the conflict as a religious war in order to make political gain.

"We are under bombs every day. I think many Christians will flee from Aleppo and seek shelter in the coastal area, but they will do it when schools and universities close, after the exams.

"In the disaster in which we live, even this year schools and universities remained open in the central districts of Aleppo. Many still believe that studying is important for the future although one lives in a city that seems to have no future."

In recent days, jihadist militias have consolidated their positions.

"For more than three years we have not been using airports to get out of Aleppo. The impression is that a strong propaganda and psychological war against the government is being implemented, orchestrated even at an international level. They speak of an attack against Aleppo. Maybe they are planning something," the Jesuit bishop said.

He said that three weeks ago, heavy attacks were carried out by armed anti-government groups against targeted districts where Christian cathedrals are concentrated and then also against Suleimanya district, home to many Christians.

He speculated that the aim was to make an international impact and justify a military responses.

He said: "They have done everything to present this conflict as a religious clash between Christians and Muslims, or Shiites and Sunnis. Of course, Christians are the most defenceless group, they have no weapons, they are afraid. But certain slogans and certain driven interpretations only serve to hide the real reasons and the real dynamics of the war. There are those who want to divide the whole area into small sectarian entities, as they tried to do in Iraq, in order to continue to dominate everything."

Earlier this week, Amnesty International also published report claiming Bashar al-Assad's regime is committing war crimes by using barrel bombs to kill civilians and destroy infrastructure in Aleppo.

The regime had just bombed a school and community centre where students were sitting exams at the time. The 74-page Amnesty report describes "unthinkable atrocities" such as air strikes killing mainly civilians, detention and torture.

Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa for Amnesty, said: "Widespread atrocities, in particular the vicious and unrelenting aerial bombardment of civilian neighbourhoods by government forces, have made life for civilians in Aleppo increasingly unbearable.

"These reprehensible and continual strikes on residential areas point to a policy of deliberately and systematically targeting civilians in attacks that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"By relentlessly and deliberately targeting civilians, the Syrian government appears to have adopted a callous policy of collective punishment against the civilian population of Aleppo."

Aleppo has been under siege for three years.