Protesters gather against atrocity as battle for Aleppo ends

Nathanael Williams

As accusations of massacre emerge from ceasefire in Aleppo, campaigners and Syrian refugees gather to voice their outrage at cruelty of Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia

SYRIANS, Egyptians, Jordanians and Scots were among those who gathered at the Russian embassy in Edinburgh this afternoon (14 December) to protest the intervention and conduct of the war fought by Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, which anti-Assad protesters said had led to extreme suffering among civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The crowd of up 160 people chanted anti-Russian bombing slogans outside the embassy at lunchtime, challenging the use of barrel bombs on civilian neighbourhoods and calling for international aid.

However, organisers were keen to state that they did not only believe Russia, Iran or Hezbollah to be the author of atrocities and civilian slaughter, also calling on the governments of the UK, US, EU, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to support “true democracy” and cease support for the “unpalatable elements” of the rebel forces in Syria’s conflict.

Speaking to CommonSpace, Amer Scott Masri, a Syrian doctor living in Scotland and the main organiser of the protest, said: “We came here to show solidarity and ask for the Russian bombing on civilians across all of Syria to stop.”

He also had a message for those who have cast doubt on the validity of the Syrian opposition to President Assad.

He said: “As far Turkey, Saudi, Qatar, Iran for sure – they all have their agenda. For me, the true rebels are not extremist at all, but those who want a democratic secular state. Yes, there are many players all come to ‘play’ in Syria. Our message is that they must all go. This started as a democratic revolution against barbaric, barbarous tyrant, you see. That is how it must be seen.”

There has been heated debates among the political class in the UK and the wider international community over what the facts on the ground are relating to massacres, counter-massacres and covert interventions by outside nations. Defenders of Assad’s war effort say that he is a legitimate leader of a sovereign Arab state and is driving out terrorist groups.

Some of the rebel groups in Aleppo and across Syria such as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Army of Conquest and Ansar al-Sharia have links to terror groups. But critics of the Syrian president highlight the use of Iranian militias and Russian airpower to indiscriminately target all rebels and defenceless sections of the population.

Yesterday (13 December) the UN made a statement declaring that following the ceasefire in Aleppo, 82 civilians had been shot down. It is not clear which sources on the ground were used to verify the slaughter. Some rebel groups in the city have faced accusations of the shelling of civilian neighbourhoods and acts of violence agains the population in Aleppo. 

When challenged on what the protesters wanted to see to stop the ongoing bloodshed there were a range of views on the demonstration. Many were at a loss as to what practical action anyone on a regional or international level could implement. However, there were some dedicated to the idea of a “no-fly zone” and “no bombing zone.” A section of the protestors conceded that such a policy could come with risks of a wider war with Russia and Iran.

CommonSpace spoke to Hany Beshr, a PhD student in Edinburgh who said that the dynamic of proxy warfare and foreign intervention was an issue, but distracted from the main issue of civilian casualties and the impunity by which the regime and some rebel groups enacted savagery on innocents.

He said: “I don’t want to get into the whole conversation about who is proxying for who. That is important but not at this moment when you look, look and see the bloodshed. What I am here for is the basic rights of the civilians all over Syria and inside the Aleppo.”

When asked if the Saudi, Qatari and Turkish embassies would be protested in front of, the organisers stated that they “did not trust any of them” and that a protest had previously been conducted against Saudi Arabia’s consulate. This morning Lebanese outlets in Syria reported that there had been delays in the evacuation of civilians and some “lightly armed militant” rebels. 

Picture: CommonSpace

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