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Environment

How the Last Gardener of Aleppo Brought Hope to Syria

The UK's Channel 4 News recently interviewed the last gardener of Aleppo, Syria, a man known as Abu Ward who somehow fostered a "small oasis of color and life" inside the rebel-controlled half of one of the most hellish cities on Earth.

Cluster bombs, barrel bombs, precision missiles, and much more, rain daily upon Aleppo, wrecking apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, homes, community squares, streets — everything and anything.  The regime of President Bashar Al-Assad tramples the ethical constraints of war, and seems bent on extinguishing all life in the city. 

In such a hazardous, unpredictable place, it's a miracle that Abu was able to grow his flowers for more than five years. Working with his son Ibrahim, 13, he cultivated vibrant flowers, vegetables, nuts, and other plants. People bought flowers to adorn streets and their homes, small, courageous attempts to promote peace. 

As a reporter for Channel 4 News said, "Abu Ward's whole existence seems dedicated to the beauty of life."

Eventually, a barrel bomb landed near his garden and killed him, casting a grim shadow over a city teeming with them. 

The endless raids, the perpetual shortages of food and water, the families torn apart — there is little to be hopeful for in Aleppo.

But the rest of the world cannot keep up its indifference, it cannot turn away, hemming in the carnage of the war, acting like it will eventually burn itself out. 

Abu's son Ibrahim left school to help in the garden center. Now the garden is closed and Ibhrahim is weighed down by grief, unsure what to do. 

Abu thought that "the essence of the world is a flower," its color, its smell, its ability to inspire. But in the time since his death, the world of Aleppo seems mostly defined by another floral attribute: fragility. If Aleppo is ever to resemble a blooming flower again, the world has to find an end to the war.