NYC: Syrians march against Bashar Assad

New York area Syrians came out the afternoon of Sept. 7 for a Rally to Stop Assad's War on Syria at 40th Street and Seventh Ave., just south of Times Square. Some 100—including many women in hijabs, men beating on drums, and children with Syrian flags painted on their faces—marched in a circle behind police barricades, chanting with a level of passion rarely seen at political rallies: "ASSAD IS A TERRORIST; ASSAD IS A CRIMINAL; ASSAD OUT NOW; FREE, FREE SYRIA; END THE SYRIAN MASSACRE!" Placards read: "GLOBAL SILENCE IS THE CAUSE OF ATROCITIES IN SYRIA," "HANDS OFF SYRIANS: THE TERRORIST ASSAD IS KILLING US WITH CHEMICAL WEAPONS," and "INTERVENTION = CHEMICAL PROTECTION."

An organizer of the march, New York-based Syrian-American activist and blogger Saran al-Jijakli, when asked about the anti-intervention rally that had taken place in Times Square earlier in the day, said: "After two years of war, the left has suddenly discovered Syria? It is the utmost hypocrisy. They are only concerned about Syrian lives when Obama threatens intervention. 700 were killed last week. Those lives don't matter? Disgusting hypocrisy."

Asked about the obvious political problems with a pro-intervention position, he said:  "People here hate war, but so many have lost family members. It is a desperate situation. They are not speaking from a position of privilege, they wake up in the morning not knowing if their loved ones will be alive. I understand if anti-war people must oppose US intervention, what sickens me is they've taken up Assad's talking points."

He emphasized that other foreign powers have already massively intervened. "Iran is our occupier," he said, asserting 10,000 Iranian or Tehran-backed militamen in Syria between Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.

Al-Jijakli charged that Obama may be gambling with Syrian lives if he now fails to follow through with military action. "The scariest thing is that Assad called his bluff, and it has emboldened him and his base. We can expect more atrocities if Assad claims this as a victory."

After the rally, this blogger walked down Broadway to Union Square, where anti-intervention propaganda was displayed at adjacent literature tables from an Occupy Wall Street actvist and the International Action Center—the same group that organized recent rallies where portraits of Bashar Assad were prominently brandished. The banner at the IAC table read "SOLIDARITY WITH SYRIA." When asked about the many thousands of Syrians killed by Assad, the IAC activist replied that Assad is defending his country. The activist purporting to speak in the name of Occupy Wall Street chimed in: "Assad hasn't killed anyone."

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