MONTREAL – It’s a date that millions across the planet won’t soon forget.
“The 15th of March is a very symbolic day because it’s the anniversary of the Syrian Revolution,’ said Faisal Alazem, who organized Sunday’s protest. “So this is when the first protest erupted in Syria [in 2011].”
Five years later, Syrians have not backed down. A recent ceasefire has brought thousands of pro-democracy protesters back to the streets in Syria to call for the removal of president Bashar Al-Assad.
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“The Assad regime is the first and only reason for what the country has gone through,” said 22-year-old Yeman Qadri who, when she was only 18, was arrested, detained and tortured for distributing flyers on the University of Damascus campus that were unfavorable to the regime. “On my flyers I didn’t write anything against Bashar Assad himself, I was just asking for basic human rights and basic demands, like the Canadians have here.”
But she recognizes that her story is small compared to those of the hundreds of thousands who haven’t lived to tell theirs.
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Today, whether in Montreal or in Damascus, the Syrian people are still demanding what so many of us take for granted.
“People are still repeating the slogans of the beginning of the Syrian uprising : democracy, freedom, dignity,” said Alazem. “And it just feels good.”
Marching from Concordia University to Philips Square, hundreds of people took to the streets Sunday afternoon in a demonstration of strength, unity, and perseverance.
“The goal is to renew our allegiance to this revolution, to remind the people that there is still war happening, that there are still people dying,” said Kinan Swaid, president of the Concordia Syrian Students’ Association.
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For many, the event was an act of solidarity with their counterparts on the ground in Syria, who they keep so close to their hearts despite being a world away. Among them was Saeed Qatou who arrived from the besieged city of Homs just two months ago. With the help of an interpreter he told Global News that he loves his new home, but acknowledges that so many are still left behind. And for them, he is without words.
The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that the conflict has displaced 6.5 million people within Syria and 4.8 million refugees outside the country. As far as the number of people who have lost their lives in the ongoing revoultion, there is disparity; but according to the UN, over 250,000 people have been killed and well over a million wounded.