Vancouver residents raise funds, gather relief materials for Syria
Watching his native country of Syria engulfed in a bloody civil war from the safety of Vancouver, Riam El-Safadi has one lament.
According to him, if Syria were rich in oil like Libya, the international community would have responded more vigorously to the ongoing massacre of civilians by the Bashar al-Assad regime. However, the 40-ish IT consultant, who immigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, isn’t advocating a foreign military intervention.
“Let it be clear we don’t want our freedom, our independence, our democracy to come on the back of American tanks,” El-Safadi told the Straight in a phone interview. “We want our freedom our way, with our blood. But at least we want the international community to stand by us.”
El-Safadi is a member of the Vancouver Coordination for Syria, a group that’s actively raising funds and gathering relief materials for the conflict-riven country. He estimated the Syrian community in Metro Vancouver to be around 1,000 strong.
“We’re looking to match donations that we are gathering dollar for dollar, so we can send a stronger message to the Syrian people that your blood is not cheap and that you’re not alone,” he said. According to El-Safadi, financial donations can be made online to the Ottawa-based charitable group Human Concern International. (The group attracted news coverage because Ahmed Said Khadr, father of Omar Khadr, was a volunteer in the 1980s and 1990s.)
El-Safadi’s group has held two events so far, raising $82,000. It is looking for someone who can donate a 20- or 40-foot shipping container that can be used to temporarily store medical equipment and supplies. “We’re hoping that in a matter of a few months, some areas in Syria will be liberated so we can send it directly,” he said of the goods. For details on how to help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday (August 8), Syria’s Prime Minister, Riad Hijab, crossed the border into Jordan with his family. He had defected from al-Assad’s government two days earlier, a move El-Safadi sees as a significant blow to the despised regime.