December 19, 2016
Hundreds of protesters attended a Standing for Aleppo vigil at the White House Friday night and marched in protest to the Russian Ambassador’s house downtown, decrying the deaths and displacement of civilians in Syria.
Activists, some Syrian but many who said they were just supporters, gathered in front of the White house with songs, speeches, and a protest art performance recreating what life is like amidst civil war for Aleppo civilians. Activists Sana Azam and Meriem Abou-Ghazaleh, a Palestinian-Syrian spoken word poet, organized the vigil and say there will be more.
“Tonight is where we get hope,” says Abou-Ghazaleh. “Because tonight, for the first time in six years of being in the streets of D.C., I’m able to look at a crowd and see more than just Syrians. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me, because for years we’ve wanted this.”
The group swelled to around 500 people as they marched to the Russian ambassador’s house where activists gave impassioned pleas for Vladimir Putin to stop supporting sitting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has been responsible for brutal civilian killings. (The Russian embassy is located far from the White House and would have made for a difficult march in the frigid temperatures.) Protesters chanted “free free Syria” and “free free Aleppo” as they wove through the city, sometimes blocking traffic, before looping back to the White House where they ended the vigil.
“[President Bill] Clinton saved a lot of lives [in Bosnia] and it’s going to stay in his legacy … It’s really awful out there in Aleppo and I’m really upset that nothing has been done by the Obama administration; that he let a genocide go on for so long is just unbelievable,” says Leila Najar, a Virginia resident originally from Tunisia. “We always say ‘never again’ but this is just ridiculous. If not now when is it going to be?”
Since 2011, around 1,000 different Syrian rebel groups have been fighting against Assad’s soldiers to remove him from power, some of whom have embraced extremist ideologies and tactics themselves. The city of Aleppo, roughly half of which was rebel-held, was essentially claimed by Assad’s forces over the weekend….read more here.