Syrian civil war: Hundreds renew 'pledge' to oust Assad

Protesters in the besieged Eastern Ghouta say there will be no silence until they achieve regime change.

    Syrian civil war: Hundreds renew 'pledge' to oust Assad
    Hundreds of people poured into the streets of the Syrian village of Saqba for a protest march on Friday [Ward Mardini/Al Jazeera]

    Eastern Ghouta, Syria - Among the hundreds of people who poured into the streets of the Syrian village of Saqba on Friday afternoon was Abu Amer, a civil defence worker who says he is determined to see the Assad regime fall.

    "I'm out today in my official civil defence uniform, and I am fighting with everyone here for our freedom and to call for the toppling of the regime," Abu Amer told Al Jazeera, noting that, like many of those marching on Friday, he felt a sense of responsibility to support the cause until the end.

    I do not want my kids to learn that it's acceptable to remain silent. They should fight for their freedoms.

    Abu Ahmed, protester in Saqba

    "Through the nature of my work, I have seen a lot of the difficulties people in Ghouta have faced first-hand. I have witnessed the destruction of these villages by the regime's air strikes. I have pulled children out from under the rubble with my own hands," Abu Amer said.

    "That's why I'm here now: I have made a promise to avenge every innocent child I've pulled out from under the rubble."

    Two weeks into Syria's ceasefire, protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have resumed in a number of towns and cities throughout the country, including Saqba, located in the besieged Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. 

    INTERACTIVE: What's left of Syria?

    The Eastern Ghouta has been under siege since 2013, leaving tens of thousands of people trapped inside an active war zone.

    Demonstrators called their protest the "Renewal of the Pledge" - a reference to their determination to topple Assad, which was at the heart of the 2011 uprising that spiralled into a five-year civil war. The war has killed more than 250,000 Syrians and displaced millions more.

    Protesters also cited a lack of faith in the ceasefire, which they said was being violated daily in the Eastern Ghouta region. With sparse food and medical supplies coming into the area, many called for a complete lifting of the siege and an opening of the roads leading to Damascus, which have been closed off by checkpoints since the start of the siege.

    Abu Ahmed, a Saqba resident who participated in Friday's protest, says he has suffered a great deal both from the siege and from his individual persecution by the regime. He told Al Jazeera that he had been detained twice, and only released from the Adra prison after his family paid out six million Syrian pounds ($27,000).

    'I have pulled children out from under the rubble with my own hands. That's why I'm here now,' said protester and civil defence worker Abu Amer, pictured at right [Ward Mardini/Al Jazeera]

    "I was released from prison, and now I'm determined to get back to the revolution, to get back at every person who tortured me and humiliated me while I was detained," he said.

    Families of the thousands of Syrians jailed in military prisons throughout the country also turned out at the protest to demand the release of the prisoners, many of whom have been detained for years.

    Protester Abu Mohammed, an aid worker in Eastern Ghouta, said he joined the protests after watching the international community ignore the plight of Syrians. Aid provided by the United Nations has been nowhere near enough to cover the basic needs of tens of thousands of civilians suffering under the three-year blockade.

    "I do not want my kids to learn that it's acceptable to remain silent," Abu Ahmed added.

    "They should fight for their freedoms. I don't want them to be as silent as our fathers and grandfathers were ... We're here now to renew our pledge and our dedication to seeing this revolution through until the end."

    Additional reporting by Malak Alkassir

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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