March for Peace, 2pm tomorrow at Pride Hill

Last night I met a group of extraordinary people who settled in Shropshire about a year ago, having escaped war-torn Syria as refugees. They had come to a collective decision that they need to do something to express their despair about what is happening to the people of East Ghouta, a once affluent and beautiful suburb of Damascus, Syria. Sitting in a comfortable kitchen in Shrewsbury, I was aware that it is near impossible for most of us to imagine what these people are going through. Most people, thank goodness, have never experienced the struggle to survive under violent siege.


There has been war in Syria for seven years; East Ghouta has been under siege since 2013. There are some 400,000 people trapped in the enclave, with hundreds killed in recent months, including at least 90 just this Wednesday. Malnutrition is endemic and thousands of children are at the point of starvation. The bombing is relentless and there is little or no food, clean water or medical supplies getting through. It has been too dangerous to deliver humanitarian aid. Repeated attempts to establish a humanitarian ceasefire and deliver desperately needed food and supplies have failed; UN convoys have come under fire. Medics confirm that many casualties are suffering from the effects of chemical weapons. The UN secretary general has called Ghouta “hell on earth” while its high commissioner for human rights has described it as a “monstrous annihilation”.


Snippets of film and voices are broadcast on the UK television news lately; the images and stories are harrowing and appalling – nobody knows how or when the assault may end. For the Syrians living here, in relative safety and comfort, the plight of the residents of Ghouta is not hard to imagine, or to remember – it is a constant source of anxiety and fear. A small number of refugee families have been settled into Shropshire communities. They are here because they survived this kind of relentless assault, or they are survivors of torture, or both. While they are now safe from the physical impacts of warfare, they are tormented by the knowledge of the people – mostly women, children and elderly people at this stage – who remain trapped. Many have relatives and friends there and, on the rare occasions when communication lines are functioning, they learn exactly how intolerable and precarious life has become. Families are huddled underground in cold, dark basements; it is dangerous to leave the buildings to search for food and every time someone leaves they say their goodbyes lest they don’t return. Many children have never known peace, nor seen the inside of a schoolroom. The people here are doubly traumatised; the worry and grief are etched into their eyes, their faces. Although they and their families have managed to escape the immediate threat of war, they feel “frozen” in their lives because they are in no position to offer meaningful help. Their distress is palpable.


When asked what East Ghouta was like before the war, the Shropshire Syrians  say “it was like paradise on earth”; nobody thought of leaving. Photographs from before the war show a prosperous, leafy suburb bordering the capital. These days, it has been bombed back into “the stone age or worse”. Survival is increasingly difficult and it has become nearly impossible to escape.


They recognise that it is hard for people here to imagine how it feels – to endure this suffering or to watch helplessly as friends and relatives endure or succumb to it - but they ask that we join them in silent protest against the ongoing siege, assaults and humanitarian crisis. “This is a protest for peace” they say, “we need peace in our country now”. Please join them and other concerned Shropshire residents to march silently from the top of Pride Hill down to the Quarry Park at 2pm on Saturday 12th March. Bring candles in jars, and to light at the Quarry. Bring placards and banners. Make a donation to support the work of Médecins Sans Frontières  (Doctors without Borders) in hospitals on the ground.


There will be a chance to sign a collective letter asking the UK government to intervene for a ceasefire, to help stop the killing and negotiate peace; you can also write to your MP or other members of parliament. Our Syrian friends ask that we think of the innocent kids, women and elderly in particular, to show them that they have not been forgotten.


Main event
2pm gather top of Pride Hill, silent march to the war memorial in the Quarry. Lighting candles to remember the victims of war. Bring banners, placards and candles in jars.

Before the event
10am to 1.30pm drop-in banner and placard making workshop at Participate Art Space (opposite Wilkos in the Riverside Shopping Centre). Some materials will be available but please bring anything you can.




Laura Noszlopy Laura Noszlopy

Laura is a writer, editor and anthropologist, as well as a keen gardener and cook. Besides blogging for Love Shrewsbury she runs an editorial and communications consultancy.

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