At 10:00 on 26 December 2016, approximately 3000 people gathered at Tempelhofer Field in Berlin’s southern suburbs ready to embark on a long walk from Berlin, Germany’s capital city, to Aleppo in Syria, a city almost completely destroyed by civil war.
The route between Berlin and Aleppo is symbolic because it is the path followed by hundreds of thousands of refugees who have already been forced to flee their homes and country. Labelled the ‘refugee route’ marchers will march in the opposite direction across Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey before finally reaching Syria.
Having just successfully crossed Croatia, the marchers have already and will continue to experience first-hand, many of the conditions that Syrian refugees have experienced in the process of fleeing the civil war with their family members while trying to take as many of their household possessions as they are able to carry and transport. One example is Ahmad, a Syrian refugee they encountered on the border between Slovenia and Croatia, who claimed that “This [barbed-wire border] fence was built for me.”
Those participating believe that the time to act is now and that people cannot simply continue to sit behind their laptops and TVs doing nothing. By carrying white flags with them, the overriding message of the marchers is to call for peace and an end for the war in Syria. Calling themselves “random, average people” they do not represent any specific political parties, organisations or non-profits. Rather, they are just genuinely concerned by the current situation in Syria and want to help try and make a difference. One marcher, Helena, says “I march to walk the change, to empower all of us for [our] actions and co-responsibility for the world we live in.”
As the crow flies, the distance between Berlin and Aleppo is almost 3,400 km so those who participate in the entire route are certainly embarking on quite a challenge. Others are invited to join in for the stages that suit them for as long as they can. Not sure what they will face, or what reaction they can expect upon their arrival in Aleppo the marchers are calling for peace and don’t want to just do so from a safe distance.
The idea of organising a march in the opposite direction was first thought of by Anna Alboth, a journalist and author of The Family Without Borders travel blog. Quickly interest in the idea spread and the team starting to organise the march grew into dozens of people from different countries in just a few days. By the time of their arrival in Aleppo the marchers expect to have significantly increased awareness of the current situation in Syria, not only in the city of Aleppo, and for governments, the United Nations and all other institutions involved to have peacefully ended the conflict.
For more information about the march, to follow its progress and to learn how to donate funds and vital supplies visit the Civil March for Aleppo website. You can also follow updates and the progress of the marchers on social media on Twitter and on Facebook.