x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Syria refugees in Lebanon protest 'blood election'

Anger over presidential poll that is expected to keep Bashar Al Assad in power.

A Syrian refugee wearing a scarf in the colours of the Free Syrian Army flag during a protest in Tripoli on Sunday against Syria's presidential election. Omar Ibrahim / AP
A Syrian refugee wearing a scarf in the colours of the Free Syrian Army flag during a protest in Tripoli on Sunday against Syria's presidential election. Omar Ibrahim / AP

AKKAR, Lebanon // Hundreds of Syrian refugees held a protest march on Sunday in the Akkar district of northern Lebanon to condemn the presidential election that is expected to keep Bashar Al Assad in power.

“Vote for the man who killed 200,000 Syrians!” read one poster held by a protester in Kusha village, as demonstrators marched waving flags of the Syrian opposition.

Men, women and children living in tents in unofficial refugee camps in and near Kusha took part in the protest march held under the banner of a “blood election”, two days ahead of the presidential poll in Syria.

“Our revolution came to topple the sectarian, aggressive regime. How can we be expected to vote it back in?” read a poster.

Last Wednesday, tens of thousands of Syrians living in Lebanon flocked to their embassy in Beirut to cast their vote in an election branded by the Syrian opposition and its backers as a “farce”.

Two little-known candidates are standing against Mr Al Assad in the vote, which will only be held in regime-held territory and exclude refugees who fled Syria through unofficial crossings.

Saad Dandashi, 55, from Homs in central Syria, took part in the protest along with his three children.

“We can’t possibly vote for the person who killed our children and our women, and who destroyed our houses,” Mr Dandashi said.

The protesters said they had received threats to try to coerce them into voting last Wednesday, including warning that their homes in Syria might be confiscated if they did not.

Sunday’s protest followed several others held in areas of Lebanon, home to a large number of refugees, such as the northern port city of Tripoli and Arsal near the Syrian border.

Lebanon is home to a total of more than one million refugees from Syria’s brutal three-year-old civil war.

* Agence France-Presse