Around 60 people gathered outside the Russian embassy in Karori on Saturday afternoon to protest Russia’s military support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The Russian state is helping to maintain the Assad dictatorship by providing crucial air support in the regime’s attempts to crush the Syrian revolution. Since September last year, Russian air strikes have killed 10,000 people. Basher al-Assad’s unrelenting crackdown on the mass popular revolution against his regime has killed 400,000 people. A full half of Syria’s population have left the country to save themselves from bloodshed.
The protest was called by Syrian Solidarity New Zealand who also held a simultaneous rally in Aotea Square, Auckland. Members of the local Syrian community were joined by local activists and activist groups. Syrians at the rally recited revolutionary songs and chants including “Yalla Irhal Ya Bashar”. The song, whose name and chorus means “Its time to leave, Bashar”, has a long history in the Syrian revolution. In mid-2011, a few months into the uprising, a worker named Ibrahim Qashoush lead the song with thousands of others in the city of Hama. It was a response to a speech by Bashar al-Assad in which he had blamed the unrest on foreign infiltrators. The song responds: “Bashar is a liar / the Syrians won’t be humiliated… Bashar, you’re the infiltrator / to hell with you and the Ba’ath Party… We will remove Bashar with our strength / Syria wants freedom”. Only days later, Qashoush was murdered by the Assad regime to send a message that the song will not be tolerated. Syrians have defiantly sung the revolutionary dabke at protests around the world ever since.
At Saturday’s rally a Syrian protester reminded us that, while the Syrian people will go on forever, Assad will not. He warned the Russian government, and other states supporting Assad, that “they need to wake up and know that Bashar al-Assad is not going to be there forever and if they stand on his side, they’re just going to create more hatred from the Syrian people against them.”
We need to resist imperialism of all kinds. The Russian state’s support for the Assad regime is deplorable. Russian imperialist forces should get out of Syria and get out of the Middle East. While apologists for the Assad regime claim that the uprising is nothing but a US imperialist conspiracy, we recognise the agency of the Syrian people and the popular resistance to Assad that still continues, not only in Syria, but here on the streets of Wellington and around the world. The US imperialist war machine has decimated the Middle East. The crimes of the Bush family, the Clintons, and Obama will not be forgotten, but neither will Putin’s and neither will Assad’s.