ALEPPO – As thousands of civilians remain trapped inside Aleppo, desperate activists are turning to instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp to reach international journalists in an urgent cry for help.
“‘Til this moment, the bombing hasn’t stopped on the besieged districts and nothing has changed on the ground,” Lina Shamy, a Syrian activist, told NBC News through a WhatsApp voice message on Wednesday night, December 14.
“People here can’t trust anymore if an international agreement came. They can’t trust that they will get out from the besieged city,” Shamy, a 26-year-old activist said from her neighborhood of al-Zabdiya in Aleppo.
Pro-Assad forces, including Iranian-backed militias, surrounded Aleppo in July, shut off supply and escape routes for the rebels, and, with the help of Russian jets, have turned rebel-held sections of the city to rubble.
A Turkey-brokered ceasefire fell apart this week almost before it started. As the pro-government forces advance, international monitoring groups say, civilians have been murdered indiscriminately.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Tuesday night that his agency had credible reports that scores of civilians in rebel-held neighborhoods had been killed by pro-government forces, with pro-Assad forces reportedly entering homes to carry out summary executions.
Dozens of dead bodies reportedly littered the streets of east Aleppo neighborhoods, with residents unable to retrieve them.
Civilian residents of eastern Aleppo had their hopes of escape dashed Wednesday morning after a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey fell apart less than 24 hours after it was announced.
It was reportedly set to resume Thursday.
“Within the coming hours its implementation will begin,” said Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, a military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al Zinki rebel group, according to Reuters.
Connection to World
For many Syrian activists, instant messaging remained as one of the few means of communicating the stories of suffering inside Aleppo to the outside world.
Mohamad Shbeeb, 22, is another Syrian sharing his dispatches through the service.
“It’s really a disaster here, a disaster in all the meaning of the word,” Shbeeb told NBC News via instant message.
“People are too frightened” and they “don’t know what will happen,” Shbeeb added.
“We hope that we can protect and keep the lives of the people who are living here. It’s really a disappointment for us to leave our city and to leave the city that we belong to. But to keep the people’s lives is more important than our disappointment,” Shbeeb shared from the Syrian neighborhood of al-Mashad in Aleppo.
Some charities have also turned to WhatsApp to keep in touch with their aid workers inside Aleppo.
“Right now I’m at the intensive care. I can’t talk every second, but I will update you as soon as I can if I have time,” said a Syrian technician in the Syria Charity, a French NGO that provides humanitarian and medical aid inside Syria.
“Thank you, I wish you can deliver our voices and our sufferings. I don’t want promises without fulfillment,” he said.