On the 18th of April, the Syrian Association for Citizen Dignity launches a public campaign to commemorate the first peaceful sit-in since the outbreak of popular protests more than ten years ago: the New Clock Square sit-in in Homs. Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the main square of Homs and declared a peaceful sit-in, demanding Bashar Assad to resign after the funerals of a number of protesters were shot dead in Homs the previous day.
On the 17th of April 2011, demonstrations took place in several neighborhoods of the city, coinciding with the anniversary of Syrian independence from France, where the security services confronted those demonstrations with live bullets, resulting in the death of a number of demonstrators.
On the next day, the martyrs were buried in a solemn funeral from the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which turned into a mass demonstration where tens of thousands of people participated. It was accompanied by a call for a commercial strike, after which the funeral demonstration turned into the famous sit-in.
The sit-in in the New Clock Square in Homs was an important turning point in Syria, as it is where the slogan of bringing down the regime was raised for the first time. It also encouraged Syrians, all over Syria and from all communities, to speak up and demand their rights and freedoms. It reflected the extent of cohesion among Syrians, from all communities, in a unique and advanced civilized scene, after many years of absence of any space to express their rights and demands. At the same time, it was the beginning of an era of extreme violence, persecution and forced disappearance, accompanied by a policy of collective punishment of the people of the city through the siege and bombing of civilian neighborhoods by the Syrian regime, which continued for years, causing the displacement of a large number of residents in an attempt to replace them with populations more loyal to the regime.
On the occasion of the Homs New Clock Square sit-in, the Syrian Association for Citizen’s Dignity affirms that:
- Freedom of expression and claiming rights, whether human rights or citizenship rights, is a fundamental right of the Syrian people like other peoples. Syrian people have been peacefully demanding their rights since 2011 and are still seeking them inside Syria, in areas of displacement and countries of asylum. Syrians demand to live with dignity and freedom without persecution by the security services and the various authorities of the Syrian regime.
- The Syrian regime has proven that it is an authoritarian regime that killed, arrested and tortured peaceful demonstrators demanding freedom and dignity. This regime was, and remains, the main driver of displacement of more than half of the Syrian people, and it must be held accountable for its crimes and violations.
- The Syrian regime has heavily engaged in a policy of systematic forced displacement and demographic change in order to reach its goal of a “useful” and “harmonious” Syria, with the aim of replacing the societies that it believes are against it, with societies that are more loyal and obedient to it, in order to avoid any uprising in the future that could threaten his rule. Thus, it is necessary to resist the attempts of forced demographic change by affirming the right of return for all the displaced and preserving all their rights.
- The right to a safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrians is an indispensable right that the Syrians will not give up on. This return can only take place in a safe environment that provides freedom of expression, movement and thought, the reveal of the fate of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons, the release of detainees, the dismantling of the security services and other steps that preserve this right.
The commemoration of the Homs New Clock sit-in, the horrific massacre that followed it, and other painful events that the Syrian people have lived, confirm that our people will continue to pursue their goal of achieving a free and dignified life free of tyranny, which is the life that this great nation deserves.