The second anniversary of the Syrian peoples' struggle for freedom is approaching. Alongside many of my friends, I will be marching in central London this Saturday, 16 March, to support that call for freedom and their quest for a dignified and better future. Hundreds of thousands of others will be joining us in cities across the globe.
Their road so far has been a long one, and the price paid very heavy. But the determination and bravery shown over the past two years has been nothing short of a miracle.
At the beginning of the revolution I was asked by a journalist: 'Why can't you wait for the reforms promised by Assad?' I pointed to an interview Assad had done with the Financial Times prior to the start of the revolution and stated that Syria will need a generation to reform. I then told the journalist: "I am 37 now. I don't want my 10-year-old daughter to have to wait till she is 37 till she gets her country back".
The ruthless and reckless violence employed by the Assad regime has forced peaceful protesters to take up arms to defend themselves. They and their families are trying to topple an autocratic regime which has been ruling for more than 40 years.
To date, the conflict has claimed around 90,000 lives. Around five million people have been driven from their homes, fleeing the violence to become refugees in neighbouring countries, or internally displaced inside miserable conditions in other parts of Syria. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of detainees have been subjected to systematic torture and absolutely dire prison conditions. The humanitarian situation the country faces is disastrous, with its infrastructure pounded to ruins by its own government.
The Syrian community here in the UK has been at the heart of the revolution from its very earliest days. We have peacefully protested every week in London, sent vital relief funds and equipment back home, whilst some of our fellow citizens have gone back to provide moral, medical and humanitarian support to their brothers and sisters on the ground.
I helped organise the march last year to mark the first anniversary of the Syrian Revolution. Now I am helping to organise the march to mark its second anniversary. I don't want to be organising the third March! We need action now.
The international community has so far failed to fulfill its full duties towards the Syrian people. They have been slaughtered day-in, day-out over the past two years - let alone the past 40 years - with international actors mere spectators. Two million children, some of them raped, shot and tortured, face malnutrition, disease and severe trauma, becoming innocent victims of a bloody conflict not of their calling.
This must change.
We will be presenting a petition calling upon the United Kingdom government to support the Syrian people using all possible political, diplomatic and economic means. We will call for the following:
- Isolate the Syrian regime internationally and only engage in political dialogue with its representatives on the conditions of a power transfer back to the Syrian people, and on the dismantling of the security and police state apparatus.
- Force the Assad regime to provide safe humanitarian corridors to besieged areas by means of a binding UN Security Council resolution.
- Protect Syria's unity and territorial integrity against any separatism or division.
- Recognise the Syrian people's right to self-defense, including armed resistance.
- Use all possible means including Security Council resolutions to stop arms supplies from reaching the Syrian regime.
- Help Syrian refugees meet their basic needs and support neighboring host countries in fulfilling their commitments to those refugees.
Hassan Walid is part of the organising committee for 'The March for Freedom' taking place this Saturday 16 March in central London @MarchForSyriaUK.