Eid al-Adha is one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar. The day marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s the feast of the sacrifice, when any Muslim who is able should sacrifice an animal and donate the meat to the poor.
There is little to celebrate in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, however. A cease-fire called for the holiday is already crumbling, and in some areas it never took hold.
Inside Aleppo’s old city, where fighting between government troops and rebel fighters has stepped up in recent weeks, there’s an old stone shop where a few dozen sheep await their fate.
The sheep sell for about $150, but compared to last year they aren’t selling. This shop sold about 100 last year, but this Eid it’s only sold 25.
People are going through the streets, some shopping and trying to have a normal holiday, but our interpreter says that most of the shops are closed. People have no money, so they don’t have money to eat.
The city is quiet in the early morning hours on the first day of Eid, but then news spreads that the cease-fire has been broken around the country. In one rebel area of Aleppo, fighters claim government forces shot and killed two rebel fighters. Rebels fired back, and the fighting flared up all over again.
Like every Friday for the past year and a half, there are protests. Activists claim government troops fired on protesters in eastern Syria and in the capital, Damascus. The government says the rebels were the first ones to break the cease-fire. Both sides take pains to list all the violations that they say the other has made.
A recent protest in Aleppo wasn’t big — most aren’t these days — but it was lively. Banners said, “We want to celebrate our Eid with freedom.”
It’s an Eid tradition in Syria to dress up the family in new clothes and go and visit relatives. Some families are out and about, but others have either left the city or stayed home.
Another Eid tradition is to take the kids out for a swing. At a nearby concrete playground, scores of kids piled onto a huge steel structure that looked like a merry-go-round suspended from the air, swinging back and forth.
Abu Waheed says he’s grateful for the reduction in violence. At the very least, the regime’s army has stopped flying fighter jets over the city — jets that often let loose their bombs in civilian areas.
Waheed hopes that the cease-fire will hold and they keep on like that all the time. We just want to go and live, he says, and for the children to be safe in the streets.
Waheed says parents try to tell their kids as little as possible about the fighting and to try and pretend things are normal. This year, he says, Eid is for the kids. Us adults, we have no Eid.