Syrians in Sheffield hold candlelight vigil for those caught in Aleppo bloodshed

Syrians in Sheffield demanded an end to the 'genocide' as they held a candlelight vigil for those caught in the violence in Aleppo.

Friday, 16th December 2016, 1:18 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 8:19 am
Destruction in an east Aleppo neighbourhood in Syria

Up to 100 people gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall on Thursday night, waving flags and spelling out the word Aleppo with lights in a peaceful demonstration.

They told how they had lost relatives in the bloodshed, as rebel forces battle government troops under the control of president Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia.

A candlelight vigil outside Sheffield Town Hall

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Maher Dinawi, who arrived in Sheffield three months ago as a refugee, said two of his nephews and a cousin had been killed in the long-running conflict.

The 56-year-old translator, now living in Netherthorpe, also told how he paid $1,600 for his brother, sister-in-law and two nephews to be smuggled out of the country into Turkey.

"In the UK, the Government is thinking of the welfare of its people, but in Syria the regime is killing its own people," he said.

"Bashar al-Assad wants people to think he's killing terrorists, but he's terrorist number one. He's killed a million people in the last six years and displaced 12 million people, which is half the population.

A candlelight vigil outside Sheffield Town Hall

"I know a man in Aleppo, who before leaving burned his home because he didn't want the villains to enjoy what he had, and a woman who said she would kill herself to stop them taking her body.

"If the international community had acted when it should have done, those lives could have been spared.

"We hope it will now tell Russia, Iran and its allies to stop the killing and work on the political transition and bringing those responsible for these war crimes to justice."

Rebels in Syria are fighting to overthrow what they claim is a corrupt regime led by al-Assad, but the president and his allies have labelled all opposition troops terrorists.

The evacuation of civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo began on Thursday amid a temporary ceasefire, but the UN has said thousands of people remain trapped in the wartorn city.

Maher Barotchi, who was born in Aleppo but has lived in Sheffield for nearly 30 years, called on the international community to act to prevent another genocide like those in Bosnia and Rwanda.

"Many of my close relatives have been killed, and I have two cousins in eatern Aleppo who we've been unable to contact for eight days. We don't know if they've been killed or have fled," said the 56-year-old father-of-two, from Ecclesall.

"We need to raise awareness because if the international community doesn't act now there will be another Bosnia or Rwanda, and everyone will have been killed in this genocide."