Syria’s presidential election will be held on Tuesday, as that country’s civil war continues with no end in sight.
With those facts in mind, activists on Monday began reading the names of 100,000 people killed in Syria outside UN headquarters, in a modest launch of what they hope will be a global protest.
According to a report by the AFP news agency, a dozen Syrian-Americans opposed to President Bashar Al-Assad got the event off to a slow start in New York’s Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, an hour later than advertised on Facebook.
The names of 100,000 of the more than 160,000 people killed during the three-year civil war will be read during a 24-hour period in cities across North America, Europe and inside Syria, they said.
Demonstrators held up a banner that read: “Over 160,000 dead in Syria. How many more? #100000Names,” with U.S. and Syrian flags as the New York traffic rumbled past and few stopped to watch.
Sharp divisions between China and Russia, which have vetoed four resolutions on Syria, and Western powers have paralyzed Security Council efforts to find a solution to the brutal conflict.
Just last week, Russia and China vetoed a resolution that would have referred the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a probe into possible war crimes by both the Syrian army and the rebels. It was the fourth time the two allies of Syria had vetoed Security Council resolutions related to the civil war.
Activists told AFP they chose the location so the Security Council could “see the results of their inaction.”
“It’s very painful for us to know that we’re going to wake up tomorrow and have Bashar Al-Assad be president for another seven-year term,” activist and writer Lina Sergie Attar told the news agency.
“The dead, the displaced, the raped, the maimed. All of these are the accomplishments of this man who wants to declare himself president yet once again and that’s what we’re protesting.”
The names will be shared between, and read out by activists staging similar events in New York, London, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris and in Syria, she said.
Assad is expected to win another seven-year term in Tuesday’s election. He will face two rivals: Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, a 54-year-old lawmaker from Damascus, and 43-year-old Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a lawmaker from the northern city of Aleppo.
Opposition activists and Western countries have condemned the elections as a sham as voting is expected to be held only in government-controlled territory.
Assad has dismissed the claims, saying, “The Syrian presidency... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their... president freely and transparently.”