The Twitter poll has closed and the results are in: our Place of the Year for 2016 is Aleppo. Aleppo lead the polls for longlist and shortlist consistently, and news from the city has dominated coverage of the Syrian Civil War in 2016. For the second year in a row, the Oxford Place of the Year is a place steeped in human tragedy and devastating loss. While Nepal, Place of the Year for 2015, coped with a natural disaster and diplomatic restrictions, Aleppo has come face-to-face with war.
Aleppo was once a metropolis of 2 million people, and the commercial center of Syria. It has since become a full-on war zone with entire city blocks destroyed and left in ruins. Though the Syrian Civil War has been going on since 2011, Aleppo was the major point of conflict in 2016. The rebels, as in those fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and for political freedom and civil liberties, were in control of much of Aleppo at the start of the year. al-Assad’s regime launched an air-strike and ground campaign in June of 2016, with help from Russia. The Syrian government is now in control of 93% of Aleppo. 100,000 people are trapped in what is left of the rebel-held parts of Aleppo, with little access to food, fuel, and medical supplies.
The humanitarian crisis in Aleppo has inspired countless headlines around the world–including when video of a little boy bleeding and covered in ash, having survived an explosion, surfaced earlier this year. Aleppo has also been the source of public discourse because of how little people outside the conflict are actually aware of its severity. In the midst of a presidential campaign in the U.S., Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson famously said “What is Aleppo?” during an interview. “Lepo” was a top search term during a U.S. presidential debate, indicating viewers were unaware of the name “Aleppo.”
Featured image: “Saadallah after the explosion” by Zyzzzzzy, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.