Aleppo is sadly more commonly associated with images of patients lying on hospital floors slick with blood and dead families buried in rubble in the aftermath of air strikes than it is with its past image as the ‘jewel of Syria.’
The country’s largest city, home to two million people before the war, is now riven in two and the scene of intense fighting after the government announced a new offensive to finally drive rebels out from opposition-held besieged neighbourhoods.
The Russian backed air strikes - followed up on Tuesday with a ground offensive by Syrian troops - have been described as the worst violence in Syria’s six-year-long civil war.
Activists on the ground report more than 400 people have died in bombings that have included ground-penetrating and incendiary munitions. The UK and France, as well as Nato, have described the attacks on the 250,000 civilians in the besieged areas of east Aleppo as “war crimes.”
But promotional material put out by the Syrian government would have outsiders think otherwise.
A recent video from Sana, Syria’s state media organisation, is headlined: “Aleppo, now dubbed as ‘the world’s most dangerous city’, still boasts a thriving nightlife.” It shows DJs spinning decks at a packed club at an event that supposedly took place this summer, mocking the idea that the the city’s residents live in war conditions.
Conditions in west Aleppo, while not the living hell faced by their neighbours in the east, are still not easy.
The entire city had no water for several days when rebels turned the supply off in retaliation for a strike which hit east Aleppo’s main water pumping station. West Aleppo residents have faced mortar shells from rebels since 2012 and suffered siege conditions in the past for months on end.
Commenters on social media immediately decried the video as “sick” for ignoring the suffering of those in east Aleppo, and accused it of being filmed elsewhere.
Government text messages to besieged residents this week, as well as leaflets dropped from the sky, urge civilians to flee to regime-held areas.
Both Syrian and Russian officials have said there are open humanitarian corridors across the siege barricades, but several reports from the city say that anyone attempting to approach the checkpoints were shot at by snipers.
President Bashar al-Assad’s tourism ministry also came under fire in July for releasing glamorous videos encouraging visits to the Mediterranean beach resort of Tartous.
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