Europe

The woman walking to Aleppo to 'end the Syrian war'

  • 23 December 2016
  • From the section Europe
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Anna Alboth Image copyright Anna Alboth
Image caption Anna Alboth says the walk to Aleppo is a chance to bring change

A woman in Germany says she has been so angered at the reports of civilian deaths in Syria that she is organising a march from Berlin to Aleppo to try to bring an end to the war.

Anna Alboth said she could no longer sit and watch news reports without taking action herself.

So she is organising the Civil March for Aleppo, a 3,400km (2,100-mile) walk that will retrace the footsteps of refugees who managed to escape the war in Syria and make to the safety of Germany.

The journalist, who has already welcomed a Syrian refugee into her own home, said the bombing of hospitals in Aleppo had brought matters to a head for her.

Image copyright Anna Alboth
Image caption Anna Alboth has been supporting refugees in Berlin for some time

"I was having dinner with Syrian women I know in a refugee centre and they were showing me photos of a lot of people who had died," said Mrs Alboth.

"People like me in safe countries can't take it any more, and we see this as a chance to transform things.

"Refugees who hear about it say that if we are willing to give up our comfortable lives to do this, then it is a real demonstration."

Since Mrs Alboth launched the #CivilMarchForAleppo, around 2,500 people have pledged to join her for the entire journey.

She is hoping that will build to about 5,000, with others joining for a few hours or a day in different locations along the walk.

Mrs Alboth lives with her husband, Thomas, two young children and two friends - and now Akeel, a 50-year-old Syrian man who escaped from the war when it became too dangerous to stay.

Akeel is separated from his grown-up children, who also managed to get out of Syria but are living in Turkey and Dubai.

He still has family in Syria.

Image copyright Anna Alboth
Image caption Akeel and Anna share dinner with family and friends at home in Berlin

Mrs Alboth said the experience of supporting Syrians in Berlin had had a massive impact on her life.

"So many people have so many questions about what is going on in Syria and also what life is like for the refugees who have come to live here in Germany," she said.

"I try to explain to people, but also Akeel has cooked a number of meals where we have invited people over to speak to him and so they can learn more from him."

Mrs Alboth said the campaign aimed to get the attention of people watching news reports of the war at home, to come together in a show of solidarity.

Acknowledging the potential risks, she said: "Yes it is dangerous but we are getting in touch with humanitarian and aid agencies to get their advice.

"Some people say why not demonstrate outside an embassy, but which do you chose - the Russian one, the Syrian one - we don't know who is running what is happening in Syria."

Asked how far she expected to get, she said: "If no-one will stop us, we will go all the way."

Image caption It is estimated the walk will take three and a half months

The march is due to set off from Berlin on 26 December, and is expected to take about three and a half months.

The exact route is still being decided but will go through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and finally to Syria.

Intense planning is under way, using lawyers in each country to prepare the paperwork they need to cross international boarders and internal states.

They aim to walk 15-20km (9-12 miles) each day, but are happy to go more slowly if that suits their needs or even use transport in some places.

Other local contacts are planning the day-to-day routes and liaising with churches and hospitals to arrange over-night places to sleep and food supplies.

"We want to keep it as official as possible to ensure we get any police or ambulance support we might need," Mrs Alboth said.

Image copyright AMC
Image caption Civilians in Aleppo flee to safety with the possessions they can carry

"It will be cold and there is a lot to think about, but it is not so bad if we are prepared.

"It's not as if we're going tomorrow and we have just one pair of shoes - that's the situation many refugees have been in."

Mrs Alboth's husband, Thomas, and their children aged five and seven, will join her for the first week of the trip, along with her mother.

She said she expected some people to be able to commit only to part of the journey but that it would be taking part that counted most.

Image copyright Alaa Zedan
Image caption Children in Aleppo pose next to an unexploded bomb

And does she think her hope of making it into Aleppo is realistic?

"People like me think that if five or ten thousand people are marching and getting everyone's attention, then it's impossible that they would bomb you," she said.

"I think if it really happened and they bombed a peaceful march, then this world is worth nothing."

Produced by the UGC and Social News team

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