Dozens of protesters including Syrian refugees gathered outside the Russian consulate general in Edinburgh yesterday to make a “call for humanity” against the on-going violence of the Russian-backed forces of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The protesters were demanding an end to airstrikes in the East Ghouta region of Syria, an opposition-held area that has been under siege since 2013 and which has been subject to an increasingly brutal assault in recent weeks, despite a United Nations call for a ceasefire.
The protesters chanted “save, save Ghouta” and “Putin, hands off Syria” and held signs in Russian and English that read “Putin is a murderer”.
Amer Scott Masri, a local activist and organiser of the protest said: “We are here to condemn the actions and brutality of the Russian and Syrian regime troops and air forces. We demand they drop aid not bombs on these people who have been under siege for several years now.”
Masri also called on the UK government to do more: “The UK as a permanent member of the United Nations security council has to do something,” he said.
The civilian population of East Ghouta is estimated to be around 400,000. More than 500 people have been killed in the past week, many of them children.
Among the protesters were families from East Ghouta who are now living as refugees in Scotland.
SNP politicians have spoken in support of the protesters today.
Stephen Gethins, SNP Foreign Affairs spokesperson said: “The dreadful pictures coming out of East Ghouta demonstrate the appalling consequences of Russian and Syrian Government bombing on the civilian population caught there.
This bombing must end now and the Russian authorities must act and allow humanitarian relief into the area as soon as possible.”
Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East said: “There is a clear disregard for civilian lives- the reports from the region are horrific and heart-breaking. Russia must agree to an immediate ceasefire or come up with an alternative proposition. And we must demand that the UK government keep pressuring both the Security Council and Russia directly.”
The United Nations on Saturday voted in favour of a 30-day ceasefire to allow aid to reach the besieged civilians but the airstrikes have continued with reports of a chlorine gas attack in the hours immediately after the UN vote.
Masri said that the international community had failed Syrians: “We believe in the free and democratic world, but the international community has let Syrian people down for the past seven years. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and the regime still hasn’t been held accountable for its actions.”
A spokesman from the Russian Consulate said: “We share concern about the grave situation in Eastern Ghouta, but categorically object to these groundless and over simplified conclusions. Appalling double standards shown to the fates of suffering civilians in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta, to the dreadful atrocities in Mosul and Raqqa (where no chances for a ceasefire were given resulting in huge casualties among the innocent people), are beyond criticism.”