Syrian crisis: Mum plans protest to 'stop killing children'
When mum-of-two Louise Tickle, 41, saw harrowing footage of babies and children killed during violent clashes between government and rebel forces in Syria, she decided she had to act.
Left in what she describes as a 'sort of paralysed, weeping horror' by the brutal video clips she had witnessed, Louise decided to stage a protest to, quite simply, urge the Syrian regime to stop killing children.
Along with her partner James, 45, and two sons, Sam, four, and Mungo, 17 months, Louise will demonstrate outside the Syrian embassy on June 10 between noon and 2pm.
She spoke to us about what drove her to organise the protest, and why she thinks other families should join her.
What made you decide to organise this protest?
On Saturday evening I was reading my Twitter feed on my phone and saw that 49 children and babies had been killed in the town of Houla in Syria just the night before.
Some died having been hit by shells, and I saw pictures showing their little bodies, all torn and smashed.
Syrian bloggers posted video footage of the bodies of other children - many of them very young, barely toddlers - who had had their hands bound with blue plastic ties before they were stabbed or shot.
How did those images affect you?
It was utterly harrowing, beyond depraved. I watched the clips in a sort of paralysed, weeping horror. I went to bed in a complete state, but knowing I had to try to do something, in spite of not really knowing what to do. I think there's power in an act of protest, even if it initially seems it would be ridiculously ineffective.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
Not really. I was dragged round Greenham Common as a child which put me off protests for ages - I was cold, hungry, and there was just too much wafty cheesecloth and bongo drumming going on for my very conservative 10-year-old tastes.
So you have never protested as an adult?
I joined the massive march against the Iraq war, and in the last 10 years or so, I've donated money to appeals, but not taken any action myself.
What do your family think about taking your children to demonstrate?
My mum is absolutely made up that we're taking the kids - she thinks it's really important that children see that their parents are willing to put themselves out there for a cause they feel passionate about. I also think she feels that I now understand a bit better why she wanted to take me to Greenham Common!
What do your children know about the crisis in Syria? Did they see the footage that moved you to action?
No. Seeing the bloodied bodies of a child his own age would be too terrifying for my eldest child. At four and 17 months my boys are just too small to try to explain what's going on.
What do you plan to do on the day?
Me, my partner and our two kids will be protesting outside the Syrian Embassy, 8 Belgrave Square, London, for two hours, between noon and 2pm on Sunday 10 June.
How will your children be involved?
I'm hoping that it won't be a complete nightmare with the kids playing up - actually, it probably will be! - but we'll have placards and banners saying "Stop killing children" to wave and maybe we'll write the same thing on the pavement outside the embassy with Sam's giant chalks to keep him amused. He loves singing, so maybe we can all do some shouty singing of the same slogan. Possibly to the tune of Old MacDonald.
How do you think the Embassy will react to you and your children being there?
The diplomats inside may be a bit bemused. On a more serious note, 'stop killing children' is the main message, and is important, because although, hideously, children are killed in all conflicts, the organised, state-ordered murder of nursery age infants in Syria is a truly horrendous marker of this particular conflict.
Why should other families join you?
Because so many people are outraged at what is happening, but until now, there has been no public way of expressing that disgust and anger. It's so important to act, even if it seems at first that it will have no obvious effect.
There's power in action, power in saying how you feel, power in stating publicly, by your physical presence at a protest, that this horrendous policy of killing children is utterly unacceptable.
And bringing our children along to the protest is vital - the conflict in Syria started with the torture of children who took part in a demonstration. Having our children very visibly standing outside the Syrian embassy will point up the fact that they can safely come to protest, whereas their counterparts in Syria risk - and often lose - their lives by doing the same thing.
Have you had any dismissive comments from people you've asked to be involved?
It's not so much comments from other people, but having to work on my own sense of being silly to think anything I did could make a difference.
All these thoughts come into your head - things like, will we look like idiots stood outside the embassy on our own if nobody joins us?
Am I being stupidly naive to think that we can make a difference? I don't understand everything about the politics of the Syrian situation, so do I even have a right to take a stand?
There are children dying every day in other wars across the world - why am I only acting now?
Then I had a chat with another mum yesterday when I was planning this whole thing. She said that even if nobody else came, and I got no media coverage of it, and I got criticised, it didn't matter because in life, you can't do everything, but you can do something. This is my something.
What do you hope your protest will achieve?
I want the Syrian regime to stop killing children. I want the Government here and in Syria to understand that people care enough that children are being systematically murdered to protest.
I want parents of those children who were killed last weekend - and over the past year - to know that we care enough about their children to make this effort.
I want the Syrian diplomatic mission to be embarrassed and shamed.
I want all the Syrian children who are still alive today to stay alive.
And I want people to join me, Jim, Sam and Mungo at noon, two Sundays hence, to help us say these things. Anyone who wants to join us can contact me on email@example.com
What do you think of Louise's campaign? Will you be taking your children to protest?