Irish-based Syrians call for end to trade links with Russia

Thirty members of Irish Syria Solidarity Movement protest outside Dáil Éireann

Syrians living here have called on Ireland to end trade links with Russia and Iran over their support for the Assad regime.

About 30 members of the Irish Syria Solidarity Movement demonstrated outside Dáil Éireann on Wednesday to call for greater action to stop the war in their homeland.

Although none was willing to be identified for fear of reprisals against family still living in Syria, most did not hesitate to express their concerns under cover of anonymity.

“It’s really sad, I am really in pain now,” says one student. “Assad is still there. He is worse than Isis, he is worse than Hitler.”

The young man arrived in Ireland last year, having spent time working for a humanitarian organisation in another country closer to home.

The student says he dislikes US president Donald Trump, but supports him now that he is threatening to bomb the country in retaliation for the latest alleged chemical attack at Douma on April 7th.

“People died in a chemical attack…if the world was doing anything [ABOUT IT]we wouldn’t have this,” he says. “It’s insane. It’s beyond imagination.”

On railings around the Dáil posters hang announcing support for the country’s civil opposition and drawing attention to the dangers facing its children.

A focus of the protest is to draw attention to Ireland’s continued trade relationship with Russia, which demonstrators believe should cease given the country’s support of the regime.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show Ireland exported €42.5 million of goods to Russia in January and imported €52.4 million worth.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tánaiste Simon Coveney had condemned the Douma attack this week.

“Ireland believes that the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances is unacceptable,” it said. “Ireland has consistently condemned such attacks and called for full legal accountability for those responsible.”

As for trade, it said there was a “multifaceted political and economic” relationship with Russia, which benefited the Irish economy.

“However, this partnership does not prevent us from raising concerns via the appropriate channels, as we have done regarding our concerns about the situation in Syria on many occasions.”

Hassan, another Syrian protestor who volunteers only a pseudonym to protect his identity, says the US and Russia are just “two faces in the one coin” as they argue about developments in the conflict.

“They have to stop the war without any more wars or without using weapons,” he says. “We believe now it’s that America doesn’t want solutions, it wants interest.

“I am here [at the demonstration] so that people are at least standing by [THOSE], alone, hopeless in Syria.”

ISSM was set up in 2012. Organiser Leonie O’Dowd says it keeps in contact with Irish based Syrians but most are too nervous to speak publicly about what is happening in their country, particularly those with family still on the ground.

Syria was “a land of silence” before 2011, she says, with secret police used to stamp out dissent.

“Since then [ASSAD]is using terror, he is using detention - people know that if they speak out members of their family are very likely to be detained,” she says.

The organisation claims there have been numerous chemical attacks in the country carried out by the Assad regime.