Article on political violence executed in the Aleppo province during 2013

Killing the dispensables: massacres perpetrated in the villages of Eastern Aleppo Province in 2013

Author: Josepha Wessels (Malmö University)
April, 2021

British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies


In 2013, Aleppo province was engulfed in violence. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and affiliated Shi’a militias executed a campaign of massacres in the rural areas located on the eastern fringes of the province. The violence caused an exodus from this region, eventually dissipating local rural communities entirely. What can explain such extreme and brutal political violence perpetrated at a local level in the east Aleppo countryside throughout 2013? To find an answer, I analyse the personal accounts of those who witnessed the violence and YouTube videos.

Taken together, these sources provide a visceral description of the massacres—in particular the summary executions in the village of Rasm al-Nafl, as a case study of extreme violence in one of the poorest rural areas of Syria. Problematizing mono-causal sectarian explanations, I argue that a deeper non-sectarian complex of rurality and a process of subaltern othering in combination with opportunism, governmental retribution, and strategic military concern for territorial control in order to secure alternative supply routes to Aleppo, ultimately led to the eradication of life and cultural genocide in these rural areas.