Auck­lan­ders protest Aleppo mas­sacres

Auckland City Harbour News - - MILESTONES - AMANDA SAXTON

Syr­i­ans and their sup­port­ers gath­ered in Auck­land on Satur­day to de­mand an end to the ‘‘mas­sacres and slaugh­ters’’ in east Aleppo.

About 300 peo­ple at­tended the protest, which kicked off at Aotea Square at 2pm.

Shouts of ‘‘shame on you’’ and ‘‘they are drown­ing in blood’’ rang out on Queen St as pro­test­ers voiced their ire at Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who has sup­ported As­sad’s regime.

Syr­ian Sol­i­dar­ity spokesman Ali Akil en­cour­aged those who had been moved by the im­ages and videos of mas­sacres ‘‘to lis­ten to your in­ner voice and stand with the Syr­ian peo­ple in their dark­est hour of need’’.

On Thurs­day the United Na­tions de­scribed scenes in Aleppo - Syria’s big­gest city - as a ‘‘com­plete melt­down of hu­man­ity’’.

Fifty thou­sand cold and hun­gry civil­ians re­main in the city and evac­u­a­tions stopped amidst con­fu­sion on Fri­day, the BBC re­ported.

More than 500,000 peo­ple have been killed since the con­flict, be­tween As­sad’s sup­port­ers and rebel forces, be­gan in 2011.

In Aleppo it­self, about 31,000 peo­ple have died.

‘‘We’re talk­ing about the old­est in­hab­ited city in the world, and its peo­ple, be­ing oblit­er­ated,’’ Akil said.

‘‘Imag­ine tanks com­ing down the road now, here in Auck­land, and killing us. Imag­ine bombs fall­ing from the sky now, killing us.’’

IT en­gi­neer Wasim Chowma was at the protest. He has lived in New Zealand for 13 years, but orig­i­nally hails from Aleppo.

‘‘I re­mem­ber the smell of the jas­mine and the colour of tiles on the street, I re­mem­ber vis­it­ing the cas­tle of Aleppo... I still re­mem­ber my grand­fa­ther tak­ing me to all these places and un­for­tu­nately these places are no longer there.

‘‘The old bazaar, the souq, and the old mar­kets - all of these are not there for my chil­dren to see.’’

Chowma im­mi­grated to New Zealand with his par­ents and three sib­lings in 2003. His wife and young son were also at the protest.

‘‘We’re stand­ing here in soli- dar­ity with the peo­ple of Syria and of Aleppo in par­tic­u­lar,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s about do­ing our min­i­mum duty as hu­man be­ings... we don’t turn a blind eye and turn silent.

‘‘Our stand here is not go­ing to ben­e­fit them any­thing - it’s more about how deep we feel sorry for them.’’

He said it it was im­por­tant for New Zealan­ders to be able to ask ques­tions about events in Syria and forge con­nec­tions with peo­ple who had fam­ily mem­bers there.

‘‘Our stand here gives us an op­por­tu­nity to be ex­posed to more ques­tions... then [New Zealan­ders] can de­cide for them­selves what’s right and what’s wrong.’’

JA­SON DORDAY/FAIRFAX NZ

Han­nah Towner and her niece Bodhi Wilson-James at­tended the protest af­ter be­ing moved by photos of help­less Syr­ian chil­dren.

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