This week the Amnesty International Society sought to prove that flash mobs aren’t just for selling mobile phones as they descended upon Nottingham city centre to raise awareness of the Syrian cause. Amnesty’s flash mob focused on the dangers that injured citizen’s face when seeking medical attention within Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime has taken to kidnapping patients from hospitals on suspicion of being anti-government protestors, resulting in many dying from minor injuries and illnesses. Although some brave doctors and nurses have set up underground makeshift hospitals, they do so at great risk to themselves and their patients.
The United Nations estimates that more than 3,500 people have died since the protests against the Syrian government began in March and there are concerns that there have been widespread human rights abuses throughout the country with fears that the government security forces may have tortured children.
Journalists and governments within the West have been much slower to react to the atrocities taking place in Syria compared to Libya or Egypt. The UN has failed to even pass a resolution condemning Syria, largely due to Russia and China opposing any intervention in what they see to be a civil war. However, progress has been made with the Arab League set to impose an array of economic sanctions whilst they seek to force Mr Assad to allow 500 international monitors to investigate any human rights abuses and to oversee a ceasefire. The University of Nottingham’s Amnesty International Society are keen to increase awareness of the Syrian fight for freedom and to ensure they are not forgotten with the closing of the Arab Spring.
When planning the flash mob, the society wanted to do something simple yet eye catching. Therefore, each member was given a white lab coat and facemask which they hid within their clothing. The group then split up and mingled around the Speaker’s Corner area waiting for the One o’clock bell. This was the signal to freeze on the spot, quickly put on the medical coat and mask and then, in unison raise their hands to their mouths for a minute of stillness.
The sight proved to have exactly the desired impact with many shoppers stopping to watch and take pictures with their phones. Following this, half of the group quickly assembled to hold up posters and flags whilst the other half talked to members of the public handing out leaflets and getting signatures for a petition.
As with much of Amnesty’s work, the main aim of the flash mob was to get people talking and interested in the issues within Syria. This was a great success; many people came up and asked about the protest, keen to find out more about the Syrian cause. The petition was also hugely successful as it gained around 500 signatures. Ebba Wiberg, President of the society said, “It is just a matter of time before Assad’s oppressive regime will collapse. There is only so much we can do from Nottingham, but what we do know is that the more signatures we can gather, the harder it will be for our own politicians to not take a firm stand against the issue of Syria. The final straw can come from enough international pressure.”
The white coats and facemask proved to be such an arresting image that when the group assembled to resume the minutes of silence on the 2 o’clock and 3 o’clock bells, they were surrounded by tourists and shoppers taking photographs. Bryn Cochrane-Milne, one of the Events Officers for the Society said, “It was really satisfying, knowing that an event you organised has been seen by thousands of people. They may not have all signed our petitions, but hopefully the next time they see a story on Syria they will take a look, realising that there’s far more important stuff going on in the world at the moment, as opposed to say the financial crisis etc.”
Here’s Impact’s video of the event.
(Images courtesy of Majda Šteflová)