With most Capetonians on holiday, a public demonstration to protest the mounting conflict in Syria drew a small crowd but the message was still clear – stop the war in Syria. About 500 people made their way from Keizergracht to Parliament for the solidarity march, aimed at keeping Syria on the local news agenda.
The protest is a response to the devastating war in Aleppo, which has escalated in recent weeks, as the Syrian government increases its air strikes, shelling and gunfire. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands displaced by the violence.
On the traditional protest truck were prominent members of the Muslim Judicial Council president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams, Shaykh Riad Fataar, Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels and Al Quds Foundation president Maulana Igsaan Hendricks.
Women and children, many of them dressed in black, red and green, were urged to lead the march, to represent the thousands of Syrian women and children who have been killed, injured and displaced as a result of the conflict.
Organisers had strict rules: no covering of faces, threats or intimidation, swearing or anti-semitic chants.
Waving Syrian flags, many protesters carried emotive placards with slogans such as “Stop the genocide in Syria”, “Russia get out of Syria” and “Save the Children in Syria”.
“One cries for those children looking for their parents, those crying over the bodies of their parents. We hope that with these kind of marches, we can make Syrians and other oppressed people know that they are never alone. We as a Muslim community are sensitive to the plight of Syrians,” he said, adding that humanitarian pledges and collections are taking place at masajid to provide relief to the Syrian people.
Al Quds Foundation president Maulana Igsaan Hendricks said the broader community must be educated on the Syrian crisis.
Supporters at the demonstration feel that while a protest will not affect real change in Syria, it is a powerful symbol of solidarity with the Syrian people.
“We can only make dua,” said Aunty Zainab Ameerodien.
“I know it’s something small, but dua is our greatest weapon,” added Nailah Eksteen.
“We in Cape Town… our hearts are bleeding. We came here today to stand in solidarity with Syrians. Inshallah, their liberation will come soon. We make dua that all oppressed people, Syrians, Palestinians and everywhere else are liberated. We won’t stop until we get this message to all the governments of the world,” said an impassioned Ahmed Patel.
“We cannot stand by and do nothing. We all have children. This is wrong on all levels. This should not happen!” added an emotional Sadiq Abrahams.
Aleppo has become a focal point as the Syrian government forces move into the enclave and take full control of the city, which has been a rebel stronghold since 2012. For much of the past four years it was divided roughly in two, with the government controlling the western half and rebels the east. Since the Syrian army’s push on east Aleppo, hundreds of Syrians have been killed, injured or displaced by the violence.
Save the Children has reported that dozens of people have died attempting to flee eastern Aleppo, where the situation for families under constant bombardment and with no proper shelter and almost no food or fuel is “desperate”. Thousands of civilians and fighters are still waiting to be evacuated from Aleppo city but difficulties including harsh weather are complicating the final phase of the operation. VOC