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Protesters gather in D.C. to mark one-year anniversary of Syrian uprising

By Becky Perlow, CNN
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Sun March 18, 2012
According to organizers, more than 1,200 protesters, many of them Syrian-Americans, attended the rally.
According to organizers, more than 1,200 protesters, many of them Syrian-Americans, attended the rally.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 1,000 activists gather outside White House to call for action
  • An uprising and violent crackdown broke out one year ago in Syria
  • "If they (U.S. officials) don't interfere, there will be civil war," an activist leader says

Washington (CNN) -- After months of bloodshed that has left the Syrian people on the brink of civil war, more than 1,000 activists gathered outside the White House on Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the uprising in Syria.

The activists -- ranging in age from children to senior citizens -- waved Syrian flags and held posters denouncing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The protesters were calling upon U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene in the conflict that has left more than 8,000 people dead, according to U.N. estimates.

Mahmoud Khattab, chairman of the Syrian American Council and one of the organizers of Saturday's rally, said he's tired of Obama's words and wants to see them turned into action. Khattab, who has met with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, said the Obama administration hasn't stepped in to help Syria for a number of reasons, including a divided opposition.

"That might be true, but I don't think that that's an excuse, you know, to let things as is in Syria," said Khattab, adding that the administration told him there is danger of a civil war if it interferes. "What I feel and what I tell them, in fact, if they don't interfere, there will be civil war and there will be a big mess in Syria that will spread to all surrounding countries."

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According to organizers, more than 1,200 protesters from around the United States -- many of them Syrian-Americans -- attended the rally, where a surprising youth presence expressed their frustration with the situation. Wearing Syrian headbands and face paint, they clapped and chanted in unison, "We just want to stop the killing, freedom for Syria, God willing!"

Some of that frustration comes from a lack of American awareness, said 14-year-old Tala al-Saghir.

"Really what we have to do is, you have to inform other people because people don't know about it," said al-Saghir, who has family living in the battered city of Homs. "All they know is that, 'Oh, there's something going on in the Middle East,' when really it's much more than that. They're fighting for their freedom. It's something we have guaranteed here in America. We have it no matter what. But these people don't have it and they're fighting for that, and we need to respect that and help them."

Nadine Tayeb, 16, agreed.

"As a Syrian-American, we need help," Tayeb said. "We need help from D.C. We need help from Obama. We need help from people who can actually make a difference. We're trying our hardest, but clearly it's not helping. So we are asking for America's help."

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