THOUSANDS of campaigners descended on Moscow, Washington, Paris,
and London on Thursday of last week. Their purpose: to express
support for the people of Syria, as it entered its fourth year at
The #WithSyria event was marked in London in Trafalgar Square.
Hundreds watched as messages of hope and solidarity for Syrians
were projected on to Nelson's Column (right), and the
voices of Syrian children were played to a soundtrack written by
the band Elbow.
The global campaign was organised by a coalition of 115 aid
agencies and charities to mark the third anniversary of the
beginning of the conflict, and to remind the world that the
suffering in Syria continues.
Speaking to the crowds in Trafalgar Square, the Lebanese-born
comedian and broadcaster Dom Joly said: "We are here to celebrate a
terrible anniversary - three years of unrelenting horror and misery
for the Syrian people. Our message is 'Don't let the people of
Syria lose another year to bloodshed and suffering.'"
Speaking before the event, Mr Joly said that he did not know
what the #WithSyria campaign could achieve, but that he had to do
"Who knows what it's going to do, but it's better than doing
nothing," he said. "News cycles can move on, and [Syrians] can
slightly think that they have been forgotten. And I think it's
really important that they know they are not."
Candles marked out a map of the world on the ground as the words
"Stand with Syria" and "Give hope" were projected on to Nelson's
Column. Tweeted messages of solidarity and support were also added
to the light display, as simultaneous #WithSyria meetings took
place across the world.
Speaking at the event, aid-agency experts gave a downbeat
assessment of the situation for Syrians.
The emergency field director for the International Rescue
Committee, Sanj Srikanthan, said: "Syrians are a lot like you and
me - they had middle-class lives - lives you could recognise - but
now they are living in tents. The lack of dignity, the humiliation,
the attacks and torture they faced in Syria is at a shocking level
after three years.
"Most of the armed actors inside Syria couldn't care less for
the majority of unarmed civilians, women, and children, who are
caught in the middle. The incidence of violence against women is
truly shocking - I have been doing this for six years, and I have
never seen anything like it. It doesn't look like it's anywhere
The head of Christian Aid's Middle East programmes, Janet Symes,
said that Syrian refugees wanted jobs to sustain them rather than
"It's very difficult expecting [the host countries] to provide
jobs," she said. "Lebanon has about 900,000 refugees, but a
population of just over four million; so providing jobs for the
refugees will have an impact on the jobs for the Lebanese. It's
important to work together and provide assistance to both."
But, she said, there was also the urgent problem of getting
humanitarian assistance to Syrians trapped inside the country.
"The UN estimates [that] about 9.5 million people in Syria are
in desperate need of humanitarian assistance - nearly 50 per cent
of the population. There are still 240,000 people in besieged areas
where aid is not getting in."
The chief executive of World Vision UK, Justin Byworth, had just
returned from a visit to Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which now
houses almost 150,000 men, women, and children who have fled
"I have a panoply of individual stories of real horror," he
said, "and every single one has a story of such tragedy. . .
"This is the thing that I heard time and time again, especially
from dads and mums" he said. "You ask Syrians 'What do you want us
to do?', and they said: 'Tell our stories; don't let people forget