By New Worker correspondent
New Worker supporters and other peace activists joined several hundred London-based Syrians outside their embassy in Belgravia Square last Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the launch of the Nato-inspired and funded rebellion against the Baathist-led popular front government of Bashar al-Assad. They had come to celebrate the survival of the Assad government in the face of all that the imperialists had been able to throw at it.
But the rally started in a doleful mood with the news of two car bombings in Damascus that morning by western-back terrorists, which had killed at least 27 civilians and injured many others.
A wreath in honour of the victims was placed on the rostrum in front of where the speakers were about to address the crowd.
Similar rallies were being held at Syrian embassies around the world and of course in Damascus.
A very high proportion of those attending were women, who would have most to lose if the Baathist government fell to the right-wing extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda-backed “rebels”.
There were also a number of Syrian Christians – men and women – who told the New Worker that Syria was one of the few places remaining in the Middle East where peoples of different religions could live alongside each other in peace and friendship.
Assad’s picture was everywhere at the rally but there were even a number of people who had opposing political views but wanted to resolve these peacefully. The last thing they wanted was a Nato intervention with the bloodshed, death, destruction and loss of human rights that these interventions have brought to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
They wanted peacefully negotiated reforms and were content that Assad has put a process in place towards this end. Their advice to those who opposed Assad was to use their vote against him in elections.
They were outraged that the Nato-backed terrorists had tried to hijack their political fight, ignoring what the Syrian people really want in favour of what Nato wants to impose on them.
Some at the rally reported that a well-known leading member of Al Qaeda who had played a role in toppling the Gaddafi government in Libya was now present – with the same Nato imperialist backing – to try to do the same thing in Syria. There are high hopes he will be arrested and put on trial.
And there were many in the rally who identified Al Qaeda and the extremist members of the Muslim Brotherhood as the stooges of American imperialism – paving the way for imperialist interventions by fomenting internal civil wars in peaceful Middle Eastern countries – albeit many of the rank and file were not aware this was the role they were playing.
There were a number of speeches, some in Arabic, but one who spoke in English was Lizzie Phelan – a young anti-imperialist journalist who last year reported directly from the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
She began by noting that it was St Patrick’s Day and reminded the crowd that her country had been fighting against the same enemy, British imperialism, for 800 years.
Lizzie then quoted from a speech against colonialism and the colonialist mentality, made by Assad’s father, many decades ago, that is very relevant today.
The old Syrian president had said that their country would be “the rock that colonisation breaks on”, and warned of the distorting media campaigns aimed to undermine Arab confidence in their leaders.
“And today,” she added, “The greatest enemies of democracy are trying to tell us that they are fighting for democracy in the Middle East.”
She reported the bloodshed, devastation and destruction that have been wreaked on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in the name of “democracy”.
And Lizzie paid tribute to the anti-imperialist example set by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who led the Free Officer Revolution in Egypt and fought to bring about Arab unity in the fight against imperialism.