ISLAMABAD: For the 200 protesters standing outside the Syrian Embassy in Islamabad on Thursday, their main demand was freedom for their countrymen back home.
Condemning the trigger-happy policies of their country's ruler President Bashar Al-Assad, who shelled unarmed civilians, the Syrians in Islamabad were joined by Yemenis, Palestinians and Pakistanis in the protest.
The protesters said that over 850 registered murders are enough a reason for the regime to step down. Carrying Syrian flags and chanting 'Irhal, Irhal' (leave, leave), Syrians from all sects and religions presented in Pakistan participated in the protest.
Most protesters burnt their Baath party membership which was thrust upon them at the time of their birth. "We send our resignations from the ruling party besides sending our demands through courier tomorrow," said an organiser of the demonstration.
"I have been unable to reach my family for the last four weeks and I dread the worst," said Anas Khalil, a citizen from the town of Latakia.
"Though we cannot go home now but we trust our people that they will change the regime Insha-Allah," said Khadija Shabaan. She hails from Daraa and was clearly uncomfortable as she told this scribe that she had little information about her brothers and sisters there.
“I am determined to come here every day to register my protest and my Pakistani friends have promised to join me."
Khadija believes that she would not get any support from the embassy after this protest as "the diplomats from Damascus are here to work for Bashar's family than the people."
"We used to be close friends but now after the troops started killing Syrians, our relations with Alawites are tense who keep abusing and threatening us on Faceboook pages as well as through text messages," says Naoras Abdullah, a resident of Hama, where Bashar's father killed over 10,000 peaceful protestors in February 1982.
Ahmad Al-Sori said: "We are unable to transfer money. Businesses back home have closed down due to the law and order situation while the government has placed curbs on telephones and the internet. This means we do not know how are friends and families are in Syria. The lives of many Syrian students here in Pakistan are getting harder by the day."
The protesters were joined by Pakistani civil society activists. Engineer Sajid criticised the Pakistani policies towards the changing Middle East.
"The influence of United States is curse on Pakistan and Islamabad may not help our Syrian, Yemeni and Libyan brothers and sisters without Washington's nod which is such a shame," he regrets.
On the other hand, a Yemeni protester spoke for the entire Middle East. Ahmad Moosa notes: "Our souls are ready for sacrifice. We would remain peaceful whatever happens even if you kill us. We want the whole world to know who Bashar Al-Assad, Ali Abdullah Saleh and Muammar Qadhafi are."
Some officials of the embassy quietly shot videos of the protesters and took photos while the ambassador, Ali Al-Mohra, watched from his office window.
It must be noted that the Islamabad administration had denied permission for the peaceful protest while the ministry of foreign affairs has never protested against the killings of innocent people in Syria over the last two months. As the Syrian uprising enters its eighth week with continuous reports of state-sponsored bloodshed, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the regime to halt mass arrests and to heed calls for reform.
The protesters are planning more demonstration in the cities of Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Sialkot, Hyderabad and Karachi to show solidarity with their Syrian brothers.
The writer is a freelance journalist.