Thousands rally in Trafalgar Square in solidarity with protestors in Syria, Egypt and the wider region

Activists from countries across the region took to a huge stage to share their stories of struggle and perseverance in the face of violent suppression.

Speakers were there from Egypt, Libya, Syria, Palestine and Bahrain. The huge crowd was made up of trade unionists, students, Amnesty International supporters and other ordinary people from across the UK who gathered in a day of "solidarity and defiance". Similar events were held in 21 countries across the globe, from Morocco to Nepal.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General, who addressed the rally in Trafalgar Square, said:

“Our message to the people of the Middle East and North Africa is that you are not alone in your struggle. We are with you.

“Our message to the governments of the Middle East and North Africa is that you will be held to account. The world is watching."
 
Rallies were held in cities across Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Nepal, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

The event in London featured live  link ups to  protesters in the Syrian towns of Dera’a and Idlib.

In Morocco Amnesty International and local activists staged a sit-in in one of Rabat’s main squares.

Activists in Switzerland demonstrated solidarity with protesters in Egypt in an aerial art photograph spelling out the word Tahrir, while in France there were events in 13 cities across the country.

Despite the momentous changes in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, Amnesty International said that governments across the region had proved willing to deploy extreme violence in an attempt to resist unprecedented calls for fundamental reform.

Despite great optimism in North Africa at the toppling of long-standing rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, these gains have not yet been cemented by key reforms to guarantee that human rights abuses would not be repeated.

Egypt's military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), pledged repeatedly to deliver on the demands of the “January 25 revolution” but Amnesty International has found that they have in fact been responsible for a catalogue of abuses that was in some aspects worse than under Hosni Mubarak.

In Syria, the armed forces and intelligence services have been responsible for a pattern of killings and torture amounting to crimes against humanity, in an attempt to terrify protesters and opponents into silence and submission.

Amnesty International has received the names of more than 5400 people believed to have been killed in the context of protests in Syria since mass protests began in March 2011.

Hundreds of people, the majority unarmed, have been killed by shelling and sniping in the opposition stronghold of Homs.

Salil Shetty said: “We have documented a vicious pushback against human rights in countries such as Egypt, while elsewhere, such as in Syria, governments continue to brutally repress protesters.
 
“But the protest movements across the region, with young people and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights playing central roles, have proved astonishingly resilient, and show few signs of abandoning their goals or accepting piecemeal reforms.

“We stand here today to ensure that those responsible for violations – those who are opposed to human rights change - know that they will be held accountable for the abuses they have committed. Their attempts to stand in the way of human rights change must end.”

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