Displaced Syrians say they 'will return without Assad' on displacement anniversary
Protesters took to the streets in Idlib province carrying signs reading "we will return without Assad [in power]", expressing their will to live free from the rule of Syrian dictator President Bashar Al-Assad.
Aleppo was seized by the Syrian armed opposition in July 2012, before being recaptured by Assad's regime in December 2016 after a five-month siege and battle backed by Russian air power that left the historic city in ruins and killed thousands.
"The demonstration is very important to remind the world of the criminality practiced against us by the Assad regime and its allies," photographer and reporter Bilal Al-Hammoud - who was displaced from Maarat Al-Numan in the Idlib province but also attended the demonstration - told The New Arab.
Though Al-Hammoud wasn't displaced from Aleppo, he explained he "share[s] the same feelings with other protesters" due to their shared goal of returning to their homes.
"I wanted to participate... to tell Bashar al-Assad that I will return to Aleppo... we are continuing our revolution until my daughter can grow up in Aleppo," Fateh Raslan, a man displaced from Aleppo, told The New Arab's Arabic-speaking sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
“On the fifth anniversary... we decided to be present to demand the right of return without the Assad regime... we have left our city by force, but we will continue our revolution until we can return," Bilal Al-Abdullah, also displaced from Aleppo, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
For many forcibly displaced Syrians, memories of the horror they experienced were embedded deep within them, fuelling their motivation to persist and fight for a free Syria.
"Aleppo is the remains of our martyrs, the remains of our children that remained under the rubble, and it is our duty to remember them always at every moment... the blood of our martyrs is our fuel” Media Activist Ibrahim Radwan, also from Aleppo, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The Syrian revolution began on 15 March 2011, before the Assad regime violently cracked down on peaceful protests demanding democratic reform.
Over 500,000 lives have been lost in the ongoing conflict, more than five million Syrians have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries and an additional six million Syrian civilians have been internally displaced since.