About 40 to 50 people gathered outside Alberta’s legislature Thursday evening to remember the victims of Syria’s civil war, which has now entered its seventh year.
Organizers of the vigil said the event was also aimed at voicing opposition to the war, the use of chemical weapons and the recent U.S. airstrikes launched in response.
“There’s a huge opposition to what (U.S. President) Donald Trump’s been doing lately, especially the recent bombings in Syria,” said Baiyinah Syed, who organized the event. “It’s putting people’s lives in danger and that’s the big issue… there’s these innocent people… who are being put at risk.”
One week ago, Trump ordered 59 missiles to rain down on a Syrian air base in response to an April 4 chemical weapons attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The chemical attack left up to 90 people dead and despite widespread international condemnation, have been called a “100 per cent fabrication” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We’re giving voice to those that are voiceless and it’s super important that the people who cannot speak up for themselves… have a voice on an international level,” Amira Shousha, the event’s co-organizer, said. “We’re just doing our part of a greater cause in Edmonton.
“It’s also the idea… that anyone could have been in that situation that the Syrian refugees are at and that thought itself should push people and motivate them to get out there and make the voices of those who cannot be heard heard.”
Syed and Shousha said while they hoped for some type of international intervention in the conflict, they opposed Trump’s airstrikes and the international support they received in the aftermath.
“What we’re personally trying to do today is to try and go from being passive in this – with Justin Trudeau condoning Donald Trump’s attack – we want local politicians and people to oppose it,” Syed said.
The organizers said a number of Syrian refugees attended the event which included speeches and poetry reading.
“Beause we’re Canadians, we felt the right to safely do this,” Syed said. “It’s especially important for us to make sure that we exercise that right and if we forget and people lose interest in this, which unfortunately happens too often, then people will not continue to get involved.”
Syria’s civil war grew out of anti-government protests that began in March 2011 during a wave of open opposition to dictatorships in a number of Arab countries.
The United Nations estimates at least 400,000 people have been killed as a result of the fighting while about 4.9 million Syrians have fled the country and more than six million are internally displaced. (KLM, Phil Heidenreich)