Aleppo residents explain why they remain in the war-torn city

An air strike in Aleppo.
(Image credit: George Ourfalian/Getty Images)

Anyone wanting to see the damage done in Syria since its civil war began five years ago need only look at photos of Aleppo.

The city was once the economic hub of the country, but after years of airstrikes and bombings, blocks of buildings have been destroyed, the streets covered in rubble. Aleppo covers an area almost twice the size of Paris, and control is split between the Bashar al-Assad regime, rebels, Kurds, and the Islamic State. It's believed that more than 1 million people still live in Aleppo, and in the rebel-held area, the Syrian American Medical Society says there is just one doctor for every 10,000 people, with food and medicine scarce. The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has a dire warning: "Between now and December, if we cannot find a solution, Aleppo will not be there anymore."

CNN recently spoke with residents who either refuse to flee the city or don't have the resources to do so. Mohammed, a 29-year-old father of a small child, said he spends his days looking for food, and when he does find it, the price is 50 times higher than it was six years ago. He lives in the rebel-held area, and says he wishes he had left before the government siege. "The regime has been bombarding the city over the last three years," he said. "It's very, very hard to live here. The new missiles are horrible. I can't stand living here anymore. It is a nightmare." He wants to leave, but doesn't have the $8,000 necessary to get to Turkey with his wife, son, and mother.

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A woman named Salam who resides in the government-held area has a different story. She has a job teaching French at her son's school, and doesn't want to leave her home behind. She said she fears living in a refugee camp, and is just careful to duck under overhangs as she walks through the city streets. "It is not safe," she said. "We are being shelled regularly by the opposition with mortars." Read more of Mohammed and Salam's stories at CNN.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.