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