By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) – Hundreds of people from the Turkish-American community gathered outside the White House this weekend to voice their support for Turkey's efforts to end the Assad regime's violence in northwestern Syria.
The rally Saturday afternoon in Lafayette Square came after the Syrian regime launched a deadly attack late Thursday in Idlib province that martyred at least 34 Turkish troops.
Since then, Turkey has been hitting the regime's positions in Idlib through Operation Spring Shield, which began Sunday.
Children read out the names of the fallen soldiers at the beginning of the rally followed by a reading of the national anthem and recitation of versus from the Quran.
Speaking at the event, Gunay Evinch, co-chair of the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), offered condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers, who he said were protecting Syrians from the Bashar al-Assad regime's displacement policy.
"That for years the world has stood by and watched the atrocities of Assad is a shame. That Russia and Iran support the Assad regime is deplorable," said Evinch.
The gathering was also attended by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Osama Abuirshaid, the national policy director for American Muslims for Palestine, and Rahim Shahbazi, vice president of the Azerbaijani Societies of North America.
In his speech, Awad criticized the Trump administration's "confusing" policy on Syria and said American troops were in Syria to protect oil but not civilians.
"It is very shameful that this administration [is] sending our sons and daughters to protect the oil fields but not to protect the civilian population that is mercilessly being killed, bombed and shelled by the Syrian regime," he said.
The CAIR executive also praised Turkey for hosting millions of Syrians despite the economic challenges it is going through.
"Thank you to the Turkish people and thank you to the Turkish government. You opened your borders and hearts," he said. "You sent your daughters and sons not to protect oil fields but to stand by Syrian people."
Holding up signs in support of Turkey's efforts in Idlib, the demonstrators chanted slogans like "Stop Assad's atrocities" during the gathering, which was attended by Syrian, Palestinian and Azerbaijani Americans.
Turkish soldiers are working to protect Syrian civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in Idlib.