The march was organized by a group of over 100 activists, led in part by Anna Alboth, a long-time advocate for Syrian refugees. Alboth told the BBC that, while the march required preparation, the marchers were in a much easier position than Syrians who fled to Europe. “It’s not as if we’re going tomorrow and we have just one pair of shoes,” she said. “That’s the situation many refugees have been in.”
The group aims to walk around 10 miles each day, passing through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece and Turkey. They anticipate the journey will take about three-and-a-half months, with marchers joining for either part of the way or the entire journey to the Turkey-Syria border. If possible, the group may attempt to reach the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been the site of massive civilian casualties and a devastating siege.
The marchers have coordinated with lawyers and organizers on the ground in each of the countries on the route. Despite leaving shortly after the lethal attack in Berlin and amidst rising Islamophobia in Germany and neighboring European countries, organizers hope their focus on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict will defuse sectarian divisions and drive international attention toward the civilian cost of the ongoing war. The group elected to carry only white flags, rather than bearing any overt political symbols, and explained this decision on their Facebook page.
“Why white ones? It’s not a surrender,” they wrote. “For us, we took it as our sign, which symbolizes for us the struggle for peace, democracy and freedom. A community … united against the killing.”