MIDDLE EAST

World marks anniversary of Syria rebellion

A child walks along a damaged street covered with debris in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria February 3, 2014. (Reuters)

Across the world, charities and activist groups have marked the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria on Saturday, as the violence in the war-torn country continues unabated.

Participants in the cities of Melbourne, London and Washington DC, among other cities, have held candlelit vigils to mark the day and remember victims of the three-year crisis.

More than 140,000 people have been killed in the conflict which began as peaceful protests calling for democratic change but has exploded into a civil war after the regime brutally crushed dissent.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has remained in power despite fighting that has driven millions from their homes, while rebels have seized large swathes of the country.

Assad's government is now preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Syrian parliament met on Wednesday to discuss a new election law that would let candidates run for president and permit a multi-party political system, the state SANA news agency said.

The United States said on Friday that the prospect of Assad running for a re-election would be “disgusting.”

"We’ve been clear that Assad has lost all legitimacy to lead his people and any sort of campaign that he might run would be offensive and disgusting, I think, after what he's done to his people over the last many, many months," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The opposition has repeatedly insisted that Assad must step down as part of any peace agreement, most recently in two rounds of failed talks earlier this year.

Renewed calls

Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba is expected to give a statement today on the anniversary of the uprising,

The United Nations has renewed its call for peace talks to resume

Earlier this week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled that Syria's peaceful anti-government protests in 2011 were met by oppressive violence at the hands of Assad's regime and led to a protracted conflict. The UN leader appealed to the international community to rejuvenate the Geneva Syria peace talks.

"Syria is now the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world, with violence reaching unthinkable levels. Syria’s neighbors are bearing the increasingly unbearable humanitarian, security, political and socio-economic effects of this conflict," Ban said.

The anniversary comes a day after Syrian government forces entered the key rebel stronghold of Yabrud on Friday, one of the last opposition-held areas in the Qalamoun area near Lebanon.

Marking the day, around 1,000 people marched to Downing Street in London, waving Syrian flags and denouncing the international community's inaction.

‘You watched’

“Gassed to death, starved to death, frozen to death... You watched”, “Your silence is killing us”, “Revolution until victory, Syrians deserve life,” read some of the banners, AFP reported.

A famous stencil by graffiti artist Banksy, reworked to depict a Syrian refugee girl with a heart-shaped balloon, was projected on Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

Most of the demonstrators were Syrians, as was the case at a similar event in Rome, where 3,000 people marched through the city centre to protest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Hundreds also showed up in Madrid and in Paris, where messages of support to Syria were lit up on the Eiffel Tower.

“We are here today, three years after the start of the repression and the conflict, to support the Syrians who are there and in our country,” the head of the French branch of Amnesty International, Genevieve Garrigos, told AFP.
 

(With AFP)

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Last Update: Sunday, 16 March 2014 KSA 08:40 - GMT 05:40
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World marks anniversary of Syria rebellion
Participants in the cities of Melbourne, London and Washington DC, among other places, have held candlelit vigils
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