On the 11th anniversary of the Syrian revolution, the streets of London were filled with supporters who stood in solidarity against the war waged by Russia. Both Syrians, Ukrainians and other supporters came together in a heartwarming scene taking a united stand against the wrongdoings and atrocities committed in the name of war. The protest was supported by the Action For Sama campaign; a campaign that aims to end targeted attacks on hospitals in Syria.
The event highlights the struggle of the Syrian people alongside our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who know and understand the heavy costs of war and the degree of human devastation that goes along with it. While the invasion of Ukraine is a little over a month old, the targeting of non-military and civilian
infrastructure in places like Kyiv and Mariupol is a painful reminder of the utter devastation that Vladimir Putin and the Assad regime have committed in Syria. As British citizens took to the streets in protest, Waad Al-Kateab, a Syrian human rights activist and director of the award-winning film, For Sama, made use of her platform to raise awareness with regards to the intentional bombardment and targeting of hospitals and important health-care facilities in war-ravaged areas of Syria.
With the help of Syrian artist, Abo Modar, posters from over the eleven years of war were recreated in remembrance of thousands of Syrian civilians who protested for democracy, change, basic human rights and above all, their freedom!
According to the Physicians for Human Rights, there have been at least 578 attacks on 350 health facilities and 890 documented killings of medical personnel between March 2011 to July 2019. For the past eleven years, Syrian civilians have faced indiscriminate bombings, brutal torture, extensive loss of human life and chemical weapons massacres.
Speaking out at the United Nations
On the 29 November 2021, journalist and activist Waad Al-Kateab spoke out shinning a spotlight on the predicament of the Syrian people and the lack of accountability and the inaction of the United Nations with regards to the war crimes committed by Assad and his Russian ally. In her speech, Waad exclaimed,
“I talk to you today as one of the millions of Syrian witnesses and survivors of
what is defined as war crimes and crimes against humanity by laws that you
states have created. But where is the outrage when your laws are broken?
Where is the action?”
She further commented,
“Those who are demanding accountability, we’re demanding it for all attacks. We are not the ones who are blocking international justice to the 90% of these attacks. Finally, Syria was not a civil war, it’s not a civil war. So please stop referring to this in your statements. It was peaceful demonstration, the whole world witnessed this and it’ll always be.” (Syria, News; December 2021)
The film: For Sama (2019)
The riveting documentary of the female experience of war created from real footage of the bombardment of Aleppo, Syria gives a small glimpse into the reality of war. Waad Al-Kateab manages to capture her personal experience as a young mother who gives birth to and raises her infant child while under siege.
The film is dedicated to Waad’s child and therefore is titled, For Sama (meaning Sky), in hopes of a better future and a sky free of bombs and missiles. Throughout various scenes of the film, the viewer is given a tiny glimpse into the lives of various individuals and communities working on the frontline to ensure that lives are saved and healthcare is afforded to all. However, the reality is far much different as hospitals and critical facilities are routinely targeted and bombed.
Creating a hopeful space
Despite the Syrian revolution reaching its eleventh anniversary, compassion for the misfortune of others runs high. The protest in London is significant in the sense that it demonstrates the degree of sympathy that the Syrian people have. Abandoned by the world and left to pick up the pieces of their lives with little to no help, the people of Syria still have enough compassion, mercy and humanity to think about and stand in solidarity with the thousands of individuals fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Hospitals, schools, homes, and places of worship are all considered as safe zones however, for Putin and Assad, such places continue to be priority targets. The event was held in honor of all Syrians across the globe who continue to face indiscriminate violence while also lending a supporting hand to the brave people of Ukraine by sharing experiences, feelings and lessons learnt throughout their struggle.
“Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.”-Sara Ahmed