Ramallah protesters urge Assad to give up and go

Statement: Palestinians are fully behind Syrian revolution and its demand for freedom and democracy, and are against external influences on Syria.

By NIDA TUMA
August 16, 2011 01:26
3 minute read.
Girl holds poster of Assad

Girl holds poster of Assad311. (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)

 
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RAMALLAH – A few hundred Palestinians gathered at Manara Square in the heart of Ramallah on Sunday evening to show solidarity with the Syrian people and demand that President Bashar Assad stand down.

Teenagers and people in their 20s, and a handful of families, held the Syrian and Palestinians flags and posters calling for Assad to resign.

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They chanted slogans against the president’s regime.

“The dictatorship in Syria is committing unbelievable atrocities day after day,” a 24- year-old protester told The Jerusalem Post. He preferred not to give his name; many Palestinians are not comfortable having their names appear in newspapers, especially in Israeli ones.

He said there is no link between the Syrian regime’s claim of opposition to Israel and what’s happening on the ground of late.

“People’s freedom is more important,” he said. “I even think if the Syrian people were to vote democratically, there would be serious opposition to Israel.”

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He was excited to see new faces streaming into the streets of Ramallah, people who don’t usually participate in political demonstrations. He was happy that many protesters weren’t politically affiliated.

The demonstration was scheduled for Monday but was held a day early because other young people had planned to rally on Sunday, and the two groups decided to join efforts.

Some said the idea was to hold the event on Sunday because another such event was being held by Arab Israelis in Israel that day. Others said the timing was a coincidence.

More and more people in the Palestinian territories are becoming hostile to the Assad regime; some say it claims to resist Israel in order to curry popularity on the Syrian street, and to furnish a cover for its ruthless crackdown on civilian protesters.

Manar Aranki, a Palestinian Authority civil servant, is the coordinator for the Palestinian Committee in Solidarity with the Syrian People. She told the Post that she and friends worked for more than two weeks to organize Sunday evening’s rally.

“We were thinking for a while about demonstrating, but we wanted to give people an opportunity to mobilize; we also received a letter from a Syrian friend asking where the Palestinian solidarity is.”

“We shouldn’t stay silent regarding what’s going on in Syria,” the 29-year-old said.

“The oppression of the Syrian people is increasing every day, and we are witnessing what’s happening in the Syrian streets. Unlike the censorship in the past, cellphones and social media have forever changed the way revolutions happen.”

Aranki has a BA in English and is active on Facebook.

Around 8,000 Facebook members were invited to come to Manara Square on Sunday, and 580 people confirmed that they would attend the protest.

A few groups of Palestinian youth have been active on the Arab Spring issues since the beginning of the year, and many new connections have been made as a result, in efforts to show solidarity with the Egyptian people or to rally on domestic issues such as the end of the occupation.

Many participants thought Sunday evening’s demonstration was linked to the reports that Palestinians might be among the dead after the Syrian Navy shelled the port city of Latakia earlier in the day.

Aranki disagrees with that assumption. “We want to send a message that the blood and fate of the Palestinian and Syrian people are united. If that assumption were true, we would have demonstrated much earlier. We’re sure the Assad regime has killed Palestinians since the riots first broke out in Syria.”

The organizers informed the Ramallah and El-Bireh Governorate of their plans to demonstrate one day before the event.

“The Palestinian police were very cooperative with us,” Aranki said.

The Palestinian Committee in Solidarity with the Syrian People issued a statement saying that Palestinians are fully behind the Syrian revolution and its demand for freedom and democracy, and are against external influences on Syria.

According to human rights activists in Syria, the fighting has killed around 2,200 people, some 400 of them were members of the security forces.

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