Exclusive: Thousands take to Idlib's streets in final act of defiance

Exclusive: Thousands take to Idlib's streets in final act of defiance
2 min read
14 Sep, 2018
In pictures: As the prospect of a bloodbath looms in Syria's last opposition-held region, thousands march in Idlib's towns and cities to celebrate the revolution. Photos by Aaref Watad.
Over 100 demonstrations in Idlib championed the pro-revolution message [Aaref Watad]
Thousands took to the streets on Friday across Idlib, the last rebel-held region left in Syria, calling for the fall of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Despite what many fear will be the bloodiest operation carried out by Assad and his allies of the entire conflict, demonstrators of all ages remained defiant as they cheered the same slogans originally chanted during the protests that broke out during the Arab Spring seven years ago.

Syrian photojournalist Aaref Watad captured two of Friday's rallies, in Maarrat al-Numan in southern Idlib and in Al-Dana in northern Idlib.

"We have said it, we will repeat it and we will never tire of it, down with Bashar!" read the placards raised by protesters in Al-Dana in defiance against the dictator.

Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture "every inch" of Syria.

Demonstrators of all ages waved makeshift green Syrian pro-revolution flags as they gathered outside Al-Dana's town hall.

"The international community is complicit in killing us," reads one boy's sign. Demonstrators denounced western powers for their inaction over seven years of conflict, and cheered in praise of Turkey who have been seeking to reach a ceasefire deal in the northwestern province.

Al-Dana was just one of the hundred or so towns in the region where Syrians took to the streets in similar protests.

In Maarat al-Numan in southern Idlib, more than a thousand people gathered in a similar fashion to 2011, when protests first broke out calling for democratic reforms.

The green, white and black flag has become the flag of the Syrian revolution.

Demonstrators waved the green flag of the revolution as they chanted "no alternatives, Assad must fall".

The demonstrators called for a united Syria, calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with the revolution.

"No terrorism in Syria except the terrorism of Putin, Assad and Iran," read one placard, a rebuff of the regime's claims that all opposition is "terrorism".

The protesters also waved tree branches and leaves, chanting, "Idlib is green, not black", in response to accusations the province was run by al-Qaeda.

"First who fought terrorism are the Syrian Revolutioners," read an enormous sign in English with the aim of grabbing the world's attention and rubbish Assad's claims that Idlib is overrun with rebel terrorists.

Demonstrators denounced the UN and its special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, calling him "an accomplice to Assad's forces".

The Turkish flag featured prominently alongside the revolutionary flag, as Turkey's President Erdogan vows to avert mass bloodshed in Idlib.

Aaref Watad is a journalist and photographer from northern Syria. Follow him on Twitter @aboshamariha