ALEPPO DIARY: Notes from journalist living under siege
For more than 24 hours, MEE contributor Zouhair el-Shimale has been observing, waiting and attempting to evacuate from besieged east Aleppo.
Thousands of refugees faced another cold night as the planned evacuation from the devastated neighbourhoods of Syria's biggest city ground to a halt on Friday amid an attack on a convoy leaving rebel-held areas.
Having reported for MEE from the besieged city for the last few months, Zouhair has been sending MEE correspondent Areeb Ullah voice notes via WhatsApp about progress of his evacuation. The narrative has been edited for the sake of clarity.
Here’s a brief glimpse into the life of someone who has lived under siege and now that the government forces have prevailed, is attempting to leave. MEE will continue to transcribe and update this diary from Zouhir when he sends voice notes.
Friday 16 December
About 800 tried to leave from the evacuation point, so there was a Syrian Red Crescent observer waiting for them.
They were about 25 cars, including one ambulance.
All of them were civilians and injured people, mostly women and children... the buses didn’t arrive.
There was big delay. Waiting from the morning for 6 to 7 hours. It was a huge delay.
After this, they arrived from the regime's side and it was total chaos.
Militias and military guys surrounded them and asked them to exit their cars and kneel on their ground.
They asked the men to do this, not the women. They put them on the ground and kicked them so brutally.
They took everything, money and mobile phones. Everything they had, it was gone.
Having beaten them so badly, they killed four people, total extermination.
After the attack, the people in the crowd, the rest of the 800 people, went totally crazy, messed up, as they were told to leave with no explanation.
Their possessions were taken and they were told to get out.
The militias took many hostages, we don’t how many, but as they got there they started shooting in the air towards people, towards the east and making trouble for the people who were close to the firing.
They had heard that the regime was advancing, attacking the east and all of it, so they were running very fast trying to save their lives.
You can imagine 16,000 people in the street and maybe many gathering in a small area, running at the same time with cars surrounding them and yes, there were no injured in this case but the chaos was really unbelievable.
Everybody, after this chaos, they all returned home, totally messed up and shocked.
Saturday 17 December
It was a nightmare as well today. We were just waiting for hours in the morning to evacuate.
After we got through the evacuation process we were waiting for hours and hours and we ended up being shot at and being forced to leave.
Here we are in the second day of evacuation, trying to reach the evacuation point where many of the families are.
We are in the Sukkari area, where it is not quite as overcrowded as it was yesterday
You can see how many people are on the street. Not overcrowded.
The city is still not empty because the buses have not entered yet and we are waiting.
Because we are waiting and now its around half past two we are still waiting for the buses come.
Maybe the last day here in the Sukkari area.
People are just waiting.
Still waiting, but I’m fine today.
It was really exhausting, I finally got some sleep but it was freezing. I had a meal even if it was very little food.
Yes I can still carry on and be strong for the last hours and maybe tomorrow. I’m thinking that maybe we’ll be let go, inshallah.
Let's keep praying for us and this nightmare to end. Its really unbelievable, how freezing cold it is. People don’t have any source of heat or fire to keep them warm.
I never expected to go so viral, but my tweets are being retweeted loads by people from around the world. Please, keep praying for us during this time.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.