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Syrians in opposition-held Idlib mark 12 years since uprising

Idlib, Syria – Thousands of people in opposition-held northwestern Syria have taken to the streets to mark the 12th anniversary of popular protests calling for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad and his government.

The demonstrations that started on March 15, 2011 quickly took on a revolutionary character. However, the uprising soon turned into full-blown war after violent crackdown by security forces, which also involved foreign powers.

Twelve years later, al-Assad still controls most of the country, thanks in large part to military support from Iran and Russia, after hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven from their homes.

The conflict is currently largely frozen, although fighting continues intermittently, especially in the opposition-held northwest. The region is home to more than four million people, most of them displaced from other parts of Syria during past violence. Last month it was hit by devastating earthquakes that killed thousands.

“With this demonstration, we want to send a message to the whole world that we continue our revolution against the al-Assad regime, despite the attempts of some countries to normalize relations,” said Salma Seif, a former prisoner in a government prison. Wednesday’s main protest in the city of Idlib.

Seif’s remarks echoed the views of other protesters denouncing efforts by some Arab countries to facilitate Syria’s reintegration into the regional diplomatic fold following the February 6 earthquakes.

“We have no choice but to overthrow this regime so that the prisoners in the prisons can see the light again,” said Seif, a displaced person from the capital Damascus.

Hundreds of citizens from towns and villages around Idlib traveled to the city to participate in the demonstration.

Ahmed Hayhan said he had come from Jisr al-Shughour with others “to reaffirm that we continue against the regime that brought other war criminals to Syria to contribute to our killings”.

Hayhan called on the international community to hold al-Assad responsible for the bloodshed.

“The world must take its responsibility after all these destructions and murders that took place because of the criminal Bashar al-Assad.”