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Syrian expats seek to boost awareness

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Residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp wait for aid in Damascus, Syria.

UNITED NATIONS PHOTO Enlarge Image

Residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp wait for aid in Damascus, Syria.

FRUSTRATED Syrian expats in Manitoba are inviting fellow Winnipeggers to join them in marking the third anniversary of the Syrian revolution.

"What we're asking Winnipeggers is to know what is going on there, and to care," said Jude Kasas of the Syrian Assembly of Manitoba.

It's hosting a public-information session with the head of the Washington, D.C.,-based Syrian Support Group March 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre auditorium.

'What we're asking Winnipeggers is to know what is going on there, and to care'

-- Jude Kasas of the Syrian Assembly of Manitoba

"We would like them to join us in demanding our government take serious steps in the UN and force some real resolution," said Kasas. "For some reason they're letting Syria continue as it is. Things are not getting better."

While the world focuses on tensions in Ukraine, the Syrian government has been "systematically committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance" for the last three years, a report by the UN Human Rights Council says.

"The warring parties do not fear being held accountable for their acts," the three-member panel wrote in the report released Wednesday.

Both sides are breaking international laws with impunity and the UN Security Council knows it, the report said.

So far, millions of Syrians have fled, tens of thousands have died and 250,000 are still being besieged and subjected to "relentless shelling and bombardment," the human rights council report said.

"We don't want American troops on the ground or UN troops or NATO troops," said Kasas. "We want them to do what they did for the Libyan people -- to at least enforce a no-fly zone," said Kasas. "You can't do anything when someone comes thousands of feet above your head and drops these explosive barrels and missiles."

He said there have been misconceptions in the media about what is taking place in Syria.

"They called it a civil war. It's not a civil war." It's a revolution for dignity and freedom that the regime responded to by massacring its people, said Kasas.

The UN report listed jails and government offices as places people are detained and tortured, and accused the Syrian government of using sieges as part of its strategy, withholding water, food and medical care in violation of international law.

While it did not blame anyone in particular for an August chemical attack on Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, the report said: "The perpetrators likely had access to the chemical-weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2014 0

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