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NGOs push for action on Syria with Helsinki march, concert

A consortium of Finnish NGOs is staging a demonstration in Helsinki on Monday evening urging the government to raise the refugee quota and to take a more active role in peacemaking efforts to end the Syrian Civil War. It is to be followed by a benefit concert, which Yle is streaming live.

Mielenosoittajia Senaatintorilla.
A month ago, Senate Square filled with demonstrators protesting far-right violence and racism. File photo. Image: Kimmo Brandt / AOP

An array of Finnish non-governmental organisations are arranging a demonstration in Helsinki billed as the Save Syria peace march on Monday, United Nations Day.

"The Syrian war has gone on far too long and is unbearable," event co-organiser Aishi Zidan told Yle. "We demand that the warring sides must come to the negotiating table and that there be a peaceful resolution to the war. It should be made clear to them that there are rules for war, too. Civilians must be protected and hospitals must not be bombed."

Police advise motorists to avoid driving in central areas of the city between 5 pm and 6.30 pm, when the event is scheduled to take place. Police expect traffic to be disrupted, especially along Mannerheimintie, Kaivokatu, Esplanadi and Unioninkatu.

The march is to begin at Railway Square and end at Senate Square in front of the Lutheran Cathedral, where demonstrators plan to form a large peace sign.

Dozens of organisations are taking part including Lutheran and Muslim groups, trade unions, student and arts groups, as well as rights organisations ranging from UNICEF Finland to the Finnish League for Human Rights and the Feminist Association Unioni. As of Monday morning, some 2,600 people had indicated they plan to attend via the event's Facebook page.

NGOs call for higher refugee quota

The coalition of NGOs organising the march and benefit concert have issued a statement calling on the centre-right government to take a more active role in the Syrian crisis.

"The Finnish government must do all in its power to facilitate a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria," it says. "Finland must play an active role in the United Nations and the European Union to facilitate negotiations among the relevant parties."

The statement also calls on the state to accept more of "the most vulnerable" quota refugees from Syria.

"Instead of decreasing the number of refugees accepted, as has been the trend, Finland should take in more refugees. Safe routes must be created for refugees fleeing Syria to enter Europe and Finland," it adds.

Yle streams benefit concert

Following the march, there will be a benefit concert at The Circus near Narinkkatori. Yle will stream the concert live beginning at 8 pm. Hosted by Yle's Rakel Liekki, the show features Finnish pop-rock stars such as Maija Vilkkumaa, Tuure Kilpeläinen, Erin, Vuokko Hovatta, Scandinavian Music Group as well as Somali-Finnish rapper Bizzyiam, Palestinian singer Jowan Safadi, Syrian refugee violinist Refat Zin Eddin and keyboardist Fares Shems. All proceeds go to support aid efforts in Syria through aid groups partnering with the Finnish Foreign Ministry.

The Syrian Civil War has been going on for more than five and a half years. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 300,000 people have been killed, with millions displaced by the conflict.

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