Hundreds protest in UK over 'inhumanity' of Aleppo offensive

#SyriaWar

Protesters outside prime minister's residence and Syrian embassy express frustration at international failure to stop 'mass murder' in Syria

Around 300 mostly young people gathered outside the residence of UK PM Theresa May to protest the government's handling of Aleppo (MEE)
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Wednesday 14 December 2016 13:17 UTC
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Hundreds of people gathered outside Downing Street in London on Tuesday night for an emergency rally against the "inhumanity" of the violence in Aleppo, and to demand a UN-brokered ceasefire for the city.

Around 300 mostly young people demonstrated outside the residence of UK Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of a day that saw Syrian government forces and its allies advance on an ever-shrinking enclave of rebel-held territory in Aleppo.

The protest organisers, a grassroots group called Youth4Aleppo, said they were demanding "the unrestricted delivery of humanitarian aid  including air drops  and the safe evacuation of all civilians and non-combatants from Aleppo".

One demonstrator, a Syrian who fled Aleppo in 2013, told MEE that he had travelled from Wales to take part in the protest.

"The most important thing I want is the fall of Assad," said Wael, who did not want to give his full name.

"We need humanitarian corridors inside Aleppo. Where is the humanity in this? Our crime was that we wanted freedom," he added.

Many condemned the West for inaction in stopping what they called "mass murder" in Syria.



(Adam Omar/MEE)

"We've come today because we think the West has coasted along and failed to do anything in the name of peacekeeping in Syria," said Frances Grahl, a student at the nearby SOAS university.

"I'm not in favour of military action because that hasn't worked out well in the past. But I want to see a ceasefire in which Russia is held accountable, and increased humanitarian aid."

Grahl accused the international community of focusing on the Islamic State group while turning a blind eye to crimes committed by the government of Bashar al-Assad and its allies.

Others said they felt "frustrated" by the UK government's failure to change its policy on Syria to reflect the situation in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.

"There's a frustrating [unwillingness] by my own government to make any kind of change to its policy on Syria and the way in which it is allowing the destruction not just of one city, but of many cities and towns," said Junaid, a protester. 

"It's on a scale that we can't even relate to anymore. It's become just numbers."



(Adam Omar/MEE)

About 1,000 protesters gathered later at a separate demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in central London.

The crowd was addressed by British aid workers speaking from Syria and by Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US journalist trapped in eastern Aleppo who on Monday had sent what he said he believed would be his “final message" as bombs rained down.

“Stay educated, stay engaged and stay with us,” Kareem told the crowd.

Usman Ali, a protester from east London, said he believed the shocking images and messages broadcast from eastern Aleppo via social media in the past two days has contributed to the sizeable turnout.

“It's sad but it took the imagery to get people out,” he told MEE. “Those photos and videos pushed people to the edge.”

'Dying slowly'

Majid Freeman, a volunteer involved in aid work who has travelled to refugee camps in rebel-held areas of northern Syria several times, said that British charities were already preparing to send extra aid to help those awaiting evacuation from eastern Aleppo to Idlib province. But he said he did not trust the Syrian government and its allies to honour any evacuation deal.

"We are making preparations for arrivals of evacuees in Idlib. But this is the regime and we can't take their word for anything. We can't trust them and we won't believe it until we see it," Freeman told MEE.

"They might be playing some sort of mind games with the rebels. I am just praying that the people inside can come out and aid can get to them. There are thousands of injured people who are dying slowly."

Shakeel Begg, a London-based imam, told MEE that people had come out to show solidarity with those in eastern Aleppo in the face of international indifference.

“World leaders are not supporting the people. So you have Muslims, youngsters and the community coming out to show support.”

The protests came as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting in New York to discuss the situation in Aleppo.

The meeting saw heated exchanges, with US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power accusing Russia of having "literally no shame".

Russia has on several occasions used its veto as a permanent member of the Security Council to block proposed ceasefires in Aleppo.

Middle East Eye's Areeb Ullah and Simon Hooper also contributed to this report.