“The Civil March for Aleppo is only one initiative, one attempt to have people talk about the situation in Syria.”
A group of people made headlines in December 2016 when they announced they were planning on marching from Aleppo to Berlin; retracing the steps of Syrian refugees.
The Civil March for Aleppo, an assembly of people walking to show solidarity with the people of Syria, set off to walk the refugee route – backwards – on 26 December.Their manifesto is simple: “Civilians for civilians, we will walk, hand in hand, from Berlin, through the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey – to Aleppo.”
The group is made up of children with their parents, young couples, families, journalists and filmmakers, students, workers and friends. Some of them have even quit their jobs or studies to take part in the historical march.The initiative was started by a Polish travel blogger, Anna Aboth, who lives in Berlin, Germany. She explained that she could no longer just sit around while people were suffering amid the refugee crisis and decided to take action. Given her existing online fame and her pool of followers, the idea blew up and quickly gained traction.
Anna Saraste, Press Assistant of the Civil March for Aleppo, told the IPF: “It has been crazy. We were quite surprised.
“But the message behind the march is so simple. That’s why it has become so successful.”
Finnish-born Anna makes it clear that it is a solidarity march: it is from civilians to civilians and about the people of Syria. The group walk during the day and sleep in various cities along the way.
But not every one agrees with what they are doing. The group has received criticism on social media for not having a political message, with others questioning the ultimate goal of the march.
“It is sad,” Anna said. “This is only one initiative, one attempt to have people talk about the situation in Syria.”However, the negative messages haven’t deterred everyone from joining in the march. Roughly 50 people from 15 different countries walk on any given day, while over the weekend, the numbers are much higher, with as many as 200 people taking part. Anna and her team expect the number to jump to 1,300 people at some stage of the journey.
So far the marchers have been welcomed with open arms in the cities they go to. They have slept in gyms, sports facilities, churches, and one priest even had the whole group staying in his own home.
“It is great but there is a wish that the same treatment will be shown to refugees coming the other way around. Those who are coming to Europe and who are in even more need of support.”
The Civil March for Aleppo expects to reach Syria in March or April 2017, but safety comes first for the attendees. Anna said they are monitoring the situation in the country every day as they do not want to endanger people by entering a war zone.
“The Syrian border is closed at the movement,” Anna said. “Nothing is moving over the border in any direction so we will have to see how it is in a couple of months.”
Czech student Martin Madej, who took part in the march for three days, describes the atmosphere as beautiful. He told the IPF:
“There are people of various nationalities, age groups, social profiles and so on. All of us joined the cause of standing up against the horrible crimes.”
The 23-year-old student said many like him join in for shorter periods of time, explaining that how long you walk for is not what is important.
He continued: “Can you only march from one part of town to another? That is absolutely fine. You showed your support. Everybody is welcome to join.”