Mohammed Qutaish and his vision of “Future Aleppo.”


Mohammed Qutaish’s art installation “Future Aleppo” showcases a rendition of an Aleppo that, constructed out of wood and paper and brought to life with colored pencils and crayons, could be a view of a future for the city he calls home.

But even with his work’s hope, Mohammed, a 14-year-old teenager from the devastated Syrian city, will have to wait for his dream of a rebuilt Aleppo, with pro-government troops capturing the majority of the city by Dec. 13 after years of constant fighting, a reality that contrasts from Mohammed’s brightly colored construction paper streets.

What Mohammed sees as a bustling street with all the markings of a well-developed nation, has a much bleaker reality. Aleppo has been a hotbed of fighting between pro-government and rebel forces since mid-2012, which resulted in the deaths of more than 24,000 civilians in the city, according to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, forcing many to flee the region entirely.

Yet, with the recapture of Aleppo by pro-government forces there still remains no end in sight to the bloodshed, with the head of the U.N.’s human rights office, Rupert Colville, announcing that the U.N. had received “multiple reports” that more than 80 non-combatants were killed as pro-government troops advanced into the city.

“I began building my model after I experienced my city being destroyed by airstrikes and missiles. My sorrow, caused by this destruction, has inspired me immensely,” Mohammed says in his description of “Future Aleppo,” hosted at the Mmuseumm exhibition space in New York.

With the launch in 2015 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, Aleppo and the aftermath of the Syrian civil war will pose a unique challenge to meeting many of the goals, such as peace, justice and strong institutions for all.

In order to achieve a world that meets the U.N.’s goals for 2030, Syria must undergo a transition from its current-war torn status into something more representative of its former stature, while grappling with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and critique that his reign is one of terror and violence.

With the report in April 2016 by the New Yorker that a European Union watchdog agency had acquired enough evidence to convict Assad of war crimes in Syria, any attempt to meet the U.N.’s resolution to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies” must ensure that Syria is indeed a free and peaceful country.

In a tweet Monday, The White Helmets, a group of volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria, gave a haunting view of what life in contested regions of Aleppo is like: “There is no total number of casualties in Besieged #Aleppo today, all streets & destroyed buildings are full with dead bodies. It’s hell.” In an interview with Daily Mail, White Helmets spokesman Ibrahim Abu al-Leith recounted, “The bombing is unreal, the streets are full of people under the rubble. They are dying because we can’t get them out.”

Even with such dire reports coming from the city, there is hope for the civilians still trapped there as aid organizations such as the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society prepare to evacuate the critically wounded from rebel-held regions, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling for Russia and pro-government forces to “show a little grace” in a speech Monday.

Human Rights Watch has called upon the Syrian and Russian governments to “facilitate the delivery of aid to Aleppo” as well as allow for independent monitors to investigate claims of war crimes or other rights violations, something neither Russia or Syria has acted inclined to do in recent weeks.

Aleppo will continue to exist as a Syrian urban center, but requires an end to the violence that has robbed it of its former splendor, which resonated with Mohammed in his description of “Future Aleppo”: “This is my city of Aleppo. I am building the Syria of tomorrow.”

Mohammed aspires to one day become an architect and help rebuild his community.

(Written by Tim Hernandez; Dec. 14, 2016)

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