A tale of too many cities #feb11global

Reflecting on recent events on the BBC’s “This Week” last night, The Observer's Andrew Rawnsley said that the story from Syria had been one of “a tale of two cities”. He referenced the relative calm in the capital Damascus, who this week welcomed a visit from the Russian Foreign Minister with celebrations and flags, in stark contrast to the horror unfolding in the besieged town of Homs.

In a press release we put out on Wednesday evening, we made it known that since Friday Amnesty International has received 246 names of people reported to have been killed in Homs, including at least 17 children. While some of those killed were armed men fighting against the government forces, the majority were reported to have been unarmed.

Yet the real picture in Syria, must take in other cities as well as these two. Today there were reported explosions in the Northern town of Aleppo. Syrian state television is saying the Free Syrian Army is responsible, but other reports contest that. In other towns, peaceful protests continue. We will be beaming in live footage of some of those to Trafalgar Square tomorrow, on a huge screen, via live links to demonstrations in Dera’a and Idlib. We also hope to speak live with people in Homs.

Amnesty has organised a global day of action taking place tomorrow, Saturday 11 February  on the one-year anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak.  Trafalgar Square will be the largest of those rallies. Thousands of Amnesty members, supporters, students, trade unionists and other ordinary people will be demonstrating solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa region, who are continuing to stand up to brutal repression with courage and dignity.

Solidarity is one of the aims, but the other is to demonstrate defiance against people who are opposing human rights change. People like President Assad in Syria.

Not only is this a tale of more than two Syrian cities, we will also be hearing from speakers from Egypt about why they are back in Tahrir Square, from Women for Libya on their experiences over the last year and from speakers who were at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout last year demanding their rights. This coming Tuesday marks a year since the start of protests in Bahrain on February 14th. With this month also marking 30 years since Syria’s brutal Hama massacre of 1982, it is a tale of multiple anniversaries too. It is hard not to wonder what sort of anniversaries next year might hold.

As well as Trafalgar Square, there will be similar events held in 21 other countries around the world, from Nepal to Norway. It is easy to feel impotent looking at the horrendous unending bombardment of Homs, but there is comfort in knowing the breadth of solidarity and shared defiance being shown to protestors across the world. Come down tomorrow and join in 12-2. Sky News, Channel Four and ITV have already booked their places. Tune into BBC Breakfast just after 8 am to see Kristyan Benedict our crisis response campaign manager talking about the day ahead.

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