More than 300 activists have begun Monday their long march from Berlin to the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo, to draw international support for the civilians trapped in besieged areas in Syria.
Activists from various European countries gathered near Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport, before beginning their nearly 3,500-kilometer walk, with the hope of forcing politicians to take action.
“Thank you for coming, I can’t believe that the idea which I expressed three weeks ago happened,” Polish blogger and journalist Anna Alboth, who initiated the idea told participants.
“I am not naive to believe that I can stop the war, but I think we should do everything to change something,” she said.
Officially titled the Civil March for Aleppo, the campaign was recently launched by Alboth and her friends on Facebook, and drew big attention with more than 15 thousand users expressing support for the initiative.
Alboth said, they are representing ordinary European citizens who are touched by the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, and want their politicians to take action for an immediate and unhindered humanitarian access in Syria.
The activists’ route will take them through the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and finally Turkey, then to Aleppo.
Alboth called on all citizens in these countries to get involved in this action and join the march.
“We welcome everybody to come in the next days, even for two hours, wherever we will be. In our website we will update the map where we are exactly, and what will happen in the next days,” she said.
Alboth said they are open to participation of all individuals from different political organisations or parties, but they would only carry white flags during their walk.
Joanna, a young participant who came from Poland, told the Anadolu Agency correspondent that they are determined to do something for civilians in Syria.
“I feel it a little bit like my duty, because I feel that what is going on in Syria is irrational. We need to do something. I need to go and I need to show that we are still human beings, we have feelings,” she said.
David, a participant from Germany, said the initiative has brought together people from different European countries for one humanitarian cause.
“I think that is very important, especially today when we have many many populistic tendencies, allover the world, especially in Europe,” he said.
David’s mother Gabriele, who was there to see his son, said she was encouraged by the initiative and expressed hope that it would energise others to take action for helping civilians in Syria.
Activits are planning various public events in cities along their route to raise awareness of developments in Syria, and to promote humanitarian access to the besieged areas. Activists hope to arrive in Aleppo after a three-and-a-half-month journey.
Tens of thousands of civilians were evacuated from eastern Aleppo last week, after Turkey and Russia convinced warring parties to hold a cease-fire so those trapped in the area could get out.
But reports of extrajudicial killings and grave human rights violations in areas recently taken over by the regime forces remain a concern.
According to the UN, there are at least 300,000 civilians needing emergency aid in various besieged and hard-to-reach areas in the war-torn country.
Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests – which erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings – with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-battered country, according to the UN.
However, the Syrian Center for Policy Research, a Beirut-based nongovernmental organization, has put the total death toll from the five-year conflict at more than 470,000.