On­tario man trav­els to Turkey to get aid to fam­ily in Libya

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - DIANA MEHTA

MIS­SIS­SAUGA — A Cana­dian man whose fam­ily is trapped in a mil­i­tant-con­trolled area in the Libyan city of Beng­hazi has trav­elled to Turkey in ef­fort to as­sem­ble an aid ship­ment for civil­ians in the con­flict-rid­den neigh­bour­hood.

Ali Hamza, of Mis­sis­sauga, says he’s made the jour­ney with his wife and four chil­dren in a des­per­ate at­tempt to help his 76-year-old mother and five sib­lings who are among fam­i­lies he says are go­ing with­out suf­fi­cient food, wa­ter and med­i­cal sup­plies in the area of Gan­fouda.

Libya has been be­set by vi­o­lence and chaos since the ouster and death of long­time strong­man Moam­mar Gad­hafi in a 2011 civil war. The Beng­hazi neigh­bour­hood of Gan­fouda in par­tic­u­lar has been be­sieged for months by Libyan army troops that an­swer to a pow­er­ful mil­i­tary com­man­der.

Hamza has been call­ing on the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to speak out on what he calls a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion, ask­ing Ot­tawa to make a strong call for ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties to be al­lowed into Gan­fouda and for the safe evac­u­a­tion of be­sieged fam­i­lies through a neu­tral party, in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law.

Global Af­fairs Canada says “Canada sup­ports free and unim­peded ac­cess for hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and for civil­ians who wish to leave to do so in safety.”

Spokesman Austin Jean says Canada is “deeply con­cerned” with the on­go­ing armed con­flict in Libya and its hu­man­i­tar­ian im­pact on civil­ians, in­clud­ing in the dis­trict of Gan­fouda.

But Hamza says Canada can say and do more.

“I found noth­ing hap­pen­ing. I said I have to make a move,” said the 50-year-old. “I made this jour­ney to Turkey to make my­self avail­able with my fam­ily to take an ac­tion that saves lives.”

Hamza said he’s heard of civil­ians in Gan­fouda hav­ing to re­sort to eat­ing leaves and drink­ing rain­wa­ter as sup­plies run out.

He’s bor­rowed money and put the fam­ily SUV up for sale in or­der to have enough funds to pro­vide 30 fam­i­lies with food, wa­ter and ba­sic med­i­ca­tion for at least 10 days.

He’s met with a Turk­ish NGO known as the IHH Hu­man­i­tar­ian Re­lief Foun­da­tion to dis­cuss get­ting aid to Gan­fouda and said they were try­ing to work with him.

Hamza is also seek­ing a meet­ing with the head of the United Na­tions Sup­port Mis­sion in Libya, who re­cently pub­licly ex­pressed his con­cern about Gan­fouda.

“Deeply wor­ried by re­ports of fam­i­lies trapped in line of fire with no food and wa­ter in Gan­fouda,” Mar­tin Kobler said in a tweet on Wed­nes­day, adding that he called for safe pas­sage to be al­lowed to civil­ians who wished to leave.

De­spite a UN-bro­kered peace deal reached a year ago, Libya re­mains di­vided be­tween east and west.

ROB BEIN­TEMA, METROLAND

Ali Hamza, a Mis­sis­sauga res­i­dent, is wor­ried about mem­bers of his fam­ily trapped in the Gan­fouda area of Libya.

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