Two weeks before the sudden cease-fire, Abdul Aziz Ajini’s neighbors thought he had gone crazy. While others in the village of Kurin, located in Idlib province, trembled with fear ahead of the major offensive on the immediate horizon, Ajini, a former professor of English literature at a local college, began to rebuild his home, which had been bombed to rubble years ago.
As the people of Idlib were trying to sell their homes, property and furniture to raise money for their escape — even though no one was buying, and nobody even knew where they could flee to — Ajini was busy collecting cement and bricks and hiring an engineer. Even the engineer pulled him aside and asked: “Tell me, Aziz, are you really sure this is a good idea — now, of all times?”
He himself hadn’t even bought any new clothes for months. People were ready to flee at a moment’s notice, taking only what they could carry — whatever fit on a motorcycle or in a car. An entire province of nearly 3 million people was waiting with bated breath, listening for the sounds of approaching fighter jets, those harbingers of death.
Then on Sept. 17, something happened that no one had been expecting: Turkey and Russia reached an agreement and the offensive was called off. There would be no new attacks. The news came 10 days after a summit in Tehran failed to produce any results. Now, weeks after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s announcement that “this festering abscess must be liquidated,” there has been a sudden turnaround. At least for the time being. [Continue reading…]