It is a disorienting thing to live amid war. For those who are fighting, the war is the driving force in their lives, providing meaning as the days march onward. But civilians caught in war aren't blessed with such certainty. Instead, they find themselves caught in a limbo: no longer leading the lives they once lead, yet not driven enough to take up arms on one side or another. The people of Aleppo -- and much of Syria -- are forced to reckon with that limbo on a daily basis.
Aleppo has been under siege for over nine months -- ever since the Free Syrian Army (FSA) stormed the city limits in mid-July. More than 94,000 have died throughout Syria, and close to 11,000 have died in Aleppo alone. While the international community dawdles and deliberates, while each side fights for the survival of its reality, civilians here must grapple with the fact that their old lives are gone and their future lives are unknown, and that life must somehow go on between now and then.
So people adapt and cope. The blasts of mortars and artillery fire blend into the background, the threat of snipers becomes a reality to grit your teeth through as you walk home, and dark humor seeps into the daily milieu, calming nerves with a white-knuckled laughter that holds tears at bay. Groceries must be bought, money must be made, bellies must be filled, and days must have some sort of meaning.
The reality of a civilian in war is that life must be risked in order to live. Day-to-day acts can become small feats of rebellion. Risking sniper fire on the walk to work becomes not only a testament to human resilience and our ability to adapt, but sometimes a statement: You can take my life, but you can't take my choice to live it.
Above, out shopping with her mother, a young girl peeks out from a mound of cherries in one of Aleppo's fruit and vegetable markets.