Syr­ian Cana­di­ans ex­press mixed re­ac­tion to airstrikes

The Daily Courier - - CANADA - By MOR­GAN LOWRIE

MONTREAL — Syr­ian Cana­di­ans ex­pressed a range of re­ac­tions to the re­cent U.S.—led airstrikes against Syria’s govern­ment, with some de­nounc­ing for­eign ag­gres­sion and oth­ers call­ing for even stronger ac­tion to end the conflict that has dev­as­tated the coun­try.

Toronto res­i­dent Bayan Khatib was at a com­mu­nity fundraiser with other Syr­ian Cana­di­ans on Fri­day night when she learned the U.S., Bri­tain and France had launched the joint airstrikes in re­tal­i­a­tion for a sus­pected chem­i­cal—weapons at­tack on April 7 that killed 43 peo­ple and in­jured hun­dreds more in a rebel—held en­clave near Da­m­as­cus.

She said most of the Syr­i­ans in the room felt a mix­ture of op­ti­mism and worry.

“Many were ex­cited there is fi­nally some­thing hap­pen­ing, that the (Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar) As­sad regime will see some con­se­quences, but other peo­ple were quite wor­ried about civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, fur­ther de­struc­tion of Syria,” Khatib said.

“We worry that’s it’s not part of a larger strat­egy to end the war crimes in Syria, but just a show of power that’s go­ing to scare the regime a lit­tle bit but then ev­ery­thing goes back to nor­mal.”

She said too many gov­ern­ments are ig­nor­ing the atroc­i­ties in her home coun­try and would like to see Canada take more of a lead­er­ship role in end­ing the conflict.

She also said she’s not im­pressed with the re­ac­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, who ex­pressed sup­port for the strikes but seems re­luc­tant to get di­rectly in­volved.

Khatib said she doesn’t be­lieve most Cana­di­ans are aware of the true scale of the hu­man rights atroc­i­ties that are strik­ing her home coun­try.

Were they to see the im­ages she sees of blood­shed, tor­ture, and bod­ies be­ing pulled from the rub­ble, she be­lieves Cana­di­ans would rise up and de­mand ac­tion, as they did in 2015 when a pho­to­graph of a life­less Syr­ian tod­dler on a Turk­ish beach prompted an out­pour­ing of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion.

“Trudeau is not act­ing be­cause the Cana­dian pub­lic doesn’t know what is hap­pen­ing in Syria,” she said. “If they knew they would care.”

Muzna Dureid, a Syr­ian who came to Montreal a year and a half ago, agrees that Fri­day’s strikes don’t go far enough in putting pres­sure on the As­sad govern­ment.

“We need more se­ri­ous steps, more pres­sure to go to the ne­go­ti­a­ti­at­ing ta­ble to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion,” even if that in­cludes mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion, she said.

She was less crit­i­cal of Canada, how­ever, point­ing out the coun­try’s con­tin­u­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts in the re­gion.

“Canada has al­ready done a lot, or tried to do what it can in terms of hu­man­i­tar­ian in­ter­ven­tion, and sup­port­ing civil so­ci­ety,” she said.

While some Syr­i­ans are in favour of airstrikes, oth­ers say for­eign ag­gres­sion isn’t the an­swer.

In Montreal, a protest against the strikes was sched­uled for Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Co—or­ga­nizer Waseem Ramli said he’s dis­ap­pointed that Trudeau is sup­port­ing ag­gres­sion with no ev­i­dence the Syr­ian govern­ment used chem­i­cal weapons.

“We dis­agree with any­one bomb­ing our coun­try no mat­ter what the rea­son is,” he said in a phone in­ter­view. “Pol­i­tics and peace ne­go­ti­a­tions has to al­ways over­come.”

While he is a sup­porter of the Syr­ian govern­ment, Ramli said he would change his mind if con­crete ev­i­dence were to emerge that As­sad were be­hind the chem­i­cal weapons at­tack.

In that case, he said it would be up to the United Na­tions to in­ter­vene.

HADI MIZBAN/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Pro­test­ers burn rep­re­sen­ta­tions of U.S. flags dur­ing a protest against the U.S.-led mis­sile at­tack on Syria, in Tahrir Square, Bagh­dad, Iraq, Sun­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.