More than 200 demonstrators gathered in Phillips Square in downtown Montreal Saturday, asking the Canadian government to take action as Turkish forces continue to attack Northern Syria. The rally was one of several held across North America this week.
Most of the demonstrators were members of Montreal’s Kurdish community, several of which said they feared for the safety of their friends and family in Syria.
“Not knowing what’s going to happen next is very frustrating because we’re literally just watching people die and it’s televised,” said Beritan Oerde, a 22-year-old organiser with the Kurdish Foundation of Quebec.
The rally was held nearly one week after U.S. President Donald Trump made the controversial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the border region, leaving Kurdish allies behind. The move received widespread criticism internationally, with many calling it an abandonment of the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been America’s allies in fighting ISIS troops in the area.
Oerde said she wasn’t surprised that the U.S. withdrew its forces, but was frustrated nonetheless.
“It’s really outrageous,” said Oerde. “The U.S. yesterday sent 2,000 extraditional troops to Saudi Arabia to protect oil reserves, in addition to the troops that are already there.”
“So they’re clearly saying to the world, ‘We care more about oil reserves than people.'”
Freeland denounces incursion
Earlier this week, Canada’s foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland took to Twitter to denounce the incursion.
“Canada firmly condemns Turkey’s military incursion into Syria today,” she tweeted Wednesday.
We call for the protection of civilians and on all parties to respect their obligations under international law, including unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
“We commend the important role that Turkey has played in hosting Syrian refugees and stress that legitimate security concerns should be addressed diplomatically and in full respect of international law,” she wrote.
Oerde and other protesters said the minister’s words were not enough. They would like to see the Canadian government take action in the situation.
“Sanctions would be welcome the way Denmark and Finland did, they immediately paused their arms sales to Turkey,” Oerde said.
She added that she would like to see a reformation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in order to make that possible.
“NATO is based on world wars but we live in a very different world today,” said Oerde. “Globalization is very different and the consequences of it are very different.”
“It’s not a system that works anymore.”
Rallies are expected to continue in other parts of Quebec in the coming days.