'Much like events for other Independence Days, the Syrian celebration Sunday involved a flag raised high and mighty. Unlike the ceremonies for other countries, the flag raised by many Syrian ex-patriots was different from the one flown by the governing powers. The difference was intended as a sign of political resistance.
“This is the Freedom Flag, or they call it the Revolution Flag,” said Hassan Almaleh, who works with a New England nonprofit that offers humanitarian aid to people in Syria. “It’s against the regime in Syria. It’s different colors to show we’re different from those people killing. Those carrying the red flag, the regime flag.”
On the steps of City Hall, more than 50 people gathered to celebrate Syria’s Independence Day. The raising of the Revolution Flag, which has a green strip at the top instead of a red one, was the culmination of an event that saw city officials, residents and Syrian refugees speak and listen to words of patriotism and revolution.
Syria’s Independence Day, also known as Evacuation Day, represents the day the last French soldier left Syria on April 17, 1946. After World War I, France occupied Syria, which was part of the Ottoman Empire. More than 70 years after the French departure, the date stirs emotion, as Syria faces adversity and atrocities.
Since 2011, Syria has been in the grips of an armed conflict between President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces. The fighting has killed and displaced thousands of Syrians. Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons against the people of Syria.
The afternoon celebration, a week later than usual because of the Easter holiday, was held to offer support for the Syrian community, to thank those who have helped refugees and to remind everyone of the circumstances overseas.
“It’s just a reminder for everyone that we still exist,” said Noha Alzouabi, who came from Daraa five years ago. “Syria still exists. And there will be one day when we come here again and celebrate the independence from the Assad family. Not just France.”
Speakers included Alzouabi, Councilwoman Ruby Cotton, Councilman Luis Velez and Councilman Andre Sayegh, who has Syrian ancestors. Also speaking was Imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani. Though Qatanani is originally from Palestine, he spoke of the need for solidarity in the face of war.
“We are here to stand beside our brothers and sisters in Syria,” Qatanani said, “who are suffering; who are taken out from their homes.” '