Why is everyone changing their profile pictures on Facebook to a solid red photo? It doesn't represent anything romantic. The solid red represents bloodshed caused by TNT barrel bombs targeting civilians in Aleppo, Syria.
The last thing you probably heard on the news regarding Syria was the ceasefire. The fragile truce between different opposition factions and the Syrian government was completely shattered last Thursday when the Syrian regime targeted a medical facility in Aleppo with TNT barrel bombs and missiles.
As President Assad’s army loaded the bombs onto airplanes, one of the last pediatricians in opposition-held Aleppo was busy sewing up wounds of children caused by shrapnel. Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz was killed in an airstrike that targeted one of the last standing hospitals in Aleppo. Al-Quds hospital was supported by The International Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.
What is a TNT barrel bomb? “It's a metal barrel that Assad fills up with TNT explosives to kill us, ” 7-year-old Ahmad told me on my last visit to opposition-controlled Aleppo. Assad-made TNT barrel bombs can easily take out three buildings at once. As buildings are being bombed to the ground and families are separated, keeping in contact is not as easy. I do not know if Ahmad is still alive.
What does it mean for the truce to be shattered? It means constant shelling of civilian neighborhoods in northern Syria. Specifically in Aleppo. Russian airstrikes come into the picture as well. The Russians are helping Assad target opposition-held areas that he no longer has control over. As reported by The Guardian, 90% of Russian airstrikes in Syria have not targeted ISIS. Russia and Assad are targeting activists, and citizen journalists who document daily human right violations.
“It appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a press statement last Thursday, referring to the destruction of the Al-Quds hospital.
The Syrian regime did not stop there, though—it went on to target more residential neighborhoods and schools. Activists and citizen journalists were quick to document and share the shelling on social media minutes after it started. #AleppoIsBurning was trending worldwide on Twitter minutes after the airstrikes took place.
Activists worldwide responded by organizing vigils, protests, and social media campaigns in solidarity with the victims in Aleppo. A large number of Facebook users changed their profile pictures to solid red to raise awareness and spread the word about Aleppo’s bombardment.
As President Obama was making his way to the White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend, a group of protesters stood outside the Washington Hilton hotel to raise awareness of what is happening in Aleppo. American actress Rosario Dawson, stopped and joined the protesters before she proceeded into the hotel for the dinner.
Protests and vigils in solidarity with the victims of Aleppo were held in: Argentina, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, The Netherlands, The U.K, and The U.S.
Activists also have called to boycott Facebook by deactivating profiles because Facebook failed to activate Safety Check feature which allows users in Aleppo to notify friends that they are safe. Safety Check was activated after both Paris and Brussels attacks.
“The international community’s failure to prioritize our protection amounts to a death sentence,” stated Save Our Syria (SOS). SOS is a coalition of Syrian civil society and humanitarian groups from inside and outside Syria that joined efforts in a press release which called the international community to prioritize the protection of Syrians. “We are being left to die as the world watches.”
Alaa Basatneh is a human-rights activist and a writer at Fusion focusing on the Arab world. She is the protagonist of the 2013 documentary "#ChicagoGirl."