More than 2,000 British Muslims attended a demonstration outside the Syrian Embassy in London yesterday night in solidarity with the people of eastern Aleppo.
The event was organised by activists from a coalition of different British Muslim organisations.
Starting at 9pm the number of attendees had reached around 2,500 at the peak of the protest.
Keynote speakers included Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad (London Shariah Council), Moazzam Begg (CAGE), Asim Qureshi (CAGE), Dilly Hussain (5Pillars), Ibtihal Bsis (Barrister), Taji Mustafa (Hizb ut-Tahrir), Imam Shakeel Begg (Lewsiham Islamic Centre), Dr Salman Butt (Islam21c), Ibrahim Jung (broadcaster) amongst others.
From Idlib, British aid workers Mohammed Shakeel, Tauqir “Tox” Sharif and his wife Racquell Hayden Best addressed the crowd, as well as Bilal Abdul Kareem of On the Ground News (OGN).
Solidarity, justice and accountability
There were consistent messages throughout majority of the speeches delivered by the speakers, which included the importance of remaining united with the Muslims of Aleppo and Syria in general, standing up for justice, and accounting tyranny.
Taji Mustafa and Ibtihal Bsis spoke strongly against the inaction of neighbouring Muslim governments, namely Turkey, for not militarily intervening in Aleppo.
Dilly Hussain stated how the “superficial anti-Assad rhetoric” and policies of the UK Government shifted very quickly from the early years of the Syrian conflict to criminalising any support for Islamic rebel groups (not just ISIS).
Asim Qureshi mentioned the double standards of western governments criticising the Assad regime as being part of the “Axis of Evil”, yet British and American secret services were involved in illegal rendition and torture with Damascus.
Moazzam Begg took over as chair for the period when speakers from Syria were brought in via live feed, but he also highlighted the hypocrisies of the British government in their approach to the Syrian government, as well as sharing his own experiences when he visited the war-torn country.
British aid workers Mohammed Shakeel, Tauqir “Tox” Sharif, Racquell Hayden Best and Bilal Abdul Kareem all praised the attendees of yesterday’s demonstration for raising awareness about the war in Syria, as well as coming out in solidarity with the people of Aleppo.
All the speakers from Syria who delivered their speeches via a live feed, stressed the importance of continuing to account the British government, the leaders of neighbouring Muslim countries for their inaction, and questioning media narratives such as those who are opposing the Assad regime are “terrorists”.
The event was concluded with some words of inspiration for British Muslims to become more politically active, further praise for the Muslims of Syria as being the beacons of bravery and hope for the Ummah, and a dua Qunoot by Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad.
Eastern Aleppo – Ceasefire and evacuation
Eastern Aleppo has been held by the rebels since 2012 but the rebels had been forced into smaller areas of the ancient city in recent months by a major ground offensive by Assad forces supported by Russian air power.
Yesterday night, Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told an emergency session of the UN Security Council: “According to the latest information that we received in the last hour, military actions in eastern Aleppo are over.”
Under the evacuation deal brokered by Turkey and Russia, civilians and rebels from eastern Aleppo are to be evacuated to rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
Evacuations were due to start at 3am GMT but has now been delayed because the Assad regime is demanding the evacuation of its injured fighters from nearby towns held by rebel forces.
However, fresh shelling was reported earlier this morning from regime forces.
Russia – Assad’s strongest ally – said the Syrian army resumed firing after the rebels broke the truce, a claim the opposition forces reject.
The UN says it is “not involved” in the evacuation plans but “stands ready to facilitate the voluntary and safe evacuation of injured, sick and vulnerable civilians from the besieged part of the city”.