On Tuesday, a handful of runners took to the crumbling streets of Aleppo, Syria, to compete in a race through the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr. According to Reuters, the race was won by Ahmad Sobhe, who received a trophy at a kind of event not usually seen in war-torn countries.
The race came the same day as a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported more than 200,000 people have died in the country in more than two years of conflict. Aleppo has not been spared — the ancient city is a shell of its former self, with only 1 million remaining residents out a pre-war population of 2.5 million, NBC reported.
According to Tom Finn of Middle East Eye, the 60-person race was organized by a Syrian media agency and a local youth group. The race was to honor the victims of a group execution whose bodies were discovered in the Queiq River. The incident became known as the “river of martyrs” when 65 corpses were discovered in a single day.
“We are proving to the world that we, as free athletes in Aleppo, are resisting despite everything that is going on,” one of the organizers of the event told Middle East Eye. Another said: “We are showing the world that we are playing sports in the most dangerous city in the world … It’s also to relieve people from the stress of the continuous strikes and crimes committed by the regime and to showcase our talented athletes who partake in such events.”