Two and half thousand Europeans plan to march into Aleppo waving white flags in a three month long, 2,000 mile demonstration against the civil war taking place in Syria.
This year, like last, has been characterised by the massive flow of people northwards through Europe, many of them Syrians fleeing the bombs of Assad and the opposition factions. But a group of Europeans has decided to make the trek in the other direction in order to bring an end to the war, now in its fifth year.
“We’re carrying these white flags to let the whole world know our message: Enough is enough. This war has to stop!” the group say in their manifesto.
The march, which departs Berlin on Boxing Day, 26 December, was organised by journalist Anna Alboth.
“I was having dinner with Syrian women I know in a refugee centre and they were showing me photos of a lot of people who had died,” she told the BBC.
“People like me in safe countries can’t take it any more, and we see this as a chance to transform things.
“Refugees who hear about it say that if we are willing to give up our comfortable lives to do this, then it is a real demonstration.”
The precise route the march will take is yet to be finalised, but the group will leave Germany via the Czech Republic, then head through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey before finally entering Syria.
Lawyers in each of the countries en route are preparing paperwork to ease the crossing of borders along the way. “If no-one will stop us, we will go all the way,” Alboth said.
The plan is to cover 9-12 miles a day, but are happy to travel more slowly in some places, or even use transport if required. Local contacts are planning the daily routes and liaising with local places of good will, such as churches and hospitals, to offer the marchers beds for the night and food.
“We want to keep it as official as possible to ensure we get any police or ambulance support we might need,” Alboth said, but admitted there was inherent risk, saying: “Yes it is dangerous but we are getting in touch with humanitarian and aid agencies to get their advice.”
But she was unconcerned about the prospect of being bombed, saying: “People like me think that if five or ten thousand people are marching and getting everyone’s attention, then it’s impossible that they would bomb you,” she said.
“I think if it really happened and they bombed a peaceful march, then this world is worth nothing.”
She and the rest of the group believe that the risk is outweighed by the chance of making a difference.
“We want to go and help people like us, who just weren’t lucky enough to be born in Berlin, London or Paris. We will not tolerate the siege of Aleppo anymore. Civilians for civilians, we will walk, hand in hand,” the group’s manifesto states.
Alboth added: “Some people say why not demonstrate outside an embassy, but which do you chose – the Russian one, the Syrian one – we don’t know who is running [or] what is happening in Syria.”