Syrian Canadians call for stronger government action against Bashar al-Assad
If you want to learn what's going on in the world, sometimes there's no better place than the plaza outside Vancouver Public Library central branch on a Saturday afternoon.
Today, I chatted with Syrian Canadians, who hold weekly protests from 1 to 3 p.m. to draw attention to the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. He's trying to hang onto power in the face of massive revolts, which began in the spring.
The spokesperson for the protesters, SFU student Jeanne d'Arc Remko—yes, she was named after Joan of Arc—told me that they are trying to raise awareness about unarmed political demonstrators being killed and tortured in Syria.
"There are so many prisoners they have created makeshift prisons out of soccer stadiums," Remko said. "So over 20,000 people have been tortured since March 15, 2011."
Jeanne d'Arc Remko wants Canadian MPs to pay more attention to Syria.
Remko's family is Kurdish from Syria, but fled in the 1980s. She was born in Turkey in 1988 and later moved to Canada with her parents.
"Since then, I've been able to experience the freedom and all the rights that we have in Canada," she said.
Remko maintained that Assad should be dragged in front of an international tribunal to be held accountable for his crimes.
"I think it's important that people are aware of what's happening, so we can pressure our local MPs, update our Facebook, update our Twitter, and keep the cycle of information going so these dictators can be removed," Remko said. "Each day that they are in power, it's a crime against humanity."
She also suggested there is a "double standard" because western countries are taking military action against the Libyan dictatorship, but have done very little in response to outrages from the Syrian dictatorship.
"I'm not in politics, but I do want our Canadian government to take a strong stance whether or not America does, because we stand for peace," Remko stated. "We are a symbol of democracy. We are a symbol of freedom. We need to help those countries that are being ravaged of their rights and being exploited."
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered in the Syrian city of Hama. In 1982, Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, ordered the military to attack the city to quell a revolt led by Sunni Muslims, which killed tens of thousands.
"It's not about religion this time," Remko said. "It's about people who are speaking out against him [Bashar al-Assad]."