What I saw today at the “Hands Off Syria” rally

We heard a lot of stuff in the news lately about a potential strike against Syria. I attended one of the “Anti-War” demonstrations to hear what they had to say.

When I arrived in front of the United Nations in Geneva, I immediately noticed that the rally was nothing else than a puzzle made out of many different subgroups. I’m gonna try to highlight who those groups are and why they were attending this “Anti-War” protest. The following claims are based on the Facebook attendance list and based on people I met and interviewed.

Who was attending?

Pro-Assad Syrians

They were probably the most vocal. They chanted while waving proudly the Syrian regime’s flag. The reason why they were attending the rally is obvious, they don’t want this regime to fall and believe that it’s the most legitimate force in the country. Those who I talked to didn’t grieve the thousands of dead bodies of the chemical weapon attack in Damascus. Most of them appear to be convinced that the chemical attack was launched by the “terrorists” on children kidnapped in Latakia.


The event was advertised widely on a lot of Facebook pages and a surprisingly high number of Turks decided to attend (over 389 listed but it’s very unlikely that they were all attending).

From my understanding most of them took this chance to protest Erdogan’s policies but took a more moderate stand regarding Syria. They do want this war to end because they are sick and tired of instability in the region. Blaming a lack of democracy in their country and then backing Assad sounds like very weak reasoning to me.

PKK Activists

Over the last few months, a lot of people have speculated that PKK was backed by the regime, the presence of PKK flags at the protest seems to confirm that theory.

Swiss Nationalists

Representatives from several nationalistic parties have been spotted in the protest including UDC, MCG and Jeunesses Genevoises.

Their presence is not surprising. They are long time militants for a strong Syrian regime that crushes jihadists.They believe that strikes would make the situation in the Middle East worse and might lead to more immigration.

Given some images that can be found on the Jeunesses Genevoises’ Facebook page, I’m having trouble understanding how these guys are showing up at a “Anti-War” protest.

Picture that can be found on their Facebook Page

The Communists

The communists were also very vocal. Their presence seemed to be a pure protest against American-Imperialism. They didn’t give me the impression to be very worried about the conditions in which the Syrian people are living but rather obsessed by the fact that an American strike would be a terrible imperialistic action.

Russian LGBT Activists

Accidentally, it turns out that there was another demonstration taking place at the same time. Those protestors where criticizing Poutine’s anti-LGBT policies.

I think you can imagine how happy they were to protest close to Russia’s supporters.

Anti-War protester in front of the UN.

(Misled) Anti-War Activists

Dear Anti-War Activists, as Leila AS pointed out,the “war” in Syria has already been going on for more than 2 years now. Where have you been when the war started there? I mean, I like the fact you’re standing against war but why aren’t you working harder on stopping the ongoing war? I’ll tell Obama to stop thinking about strikes when you’ll get Assad and his allies to give up on this war.

Syrian Regime’s flag, upside-down

You probably attended this protest with very good intentions but you could have looked up where Syria was before going to the protest and learned that you should actually hold the regime’s flag the other way around.

So, what is the common message I can take out of this protest? The fact that Bashar Al-Assad’s regime should not be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons and that they don’t want anyone to interrupt Assad’s war on Syria, is the only thing they seemed to agree on.


I’ve not seen one of them expressing any grief for the 1000+ people who died in a chemical attack in Damascus. Not one. I’m all for Anti-War protests but this really didn’t look like one. Massacres like the one in Eastern Ghouta is an outrageous act of war we should all be protesting against.