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This article was published 10/10/2019 (298 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kurdish refugees in Winnipeg are speaking out in opposition to the abuse against their loved ones after Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria and subsequent attacks on Kurdish fighters.
Turkey launched a military assault in the region Wednesday, days after the United States’ controversial withdrawal of its troops. Turkish forces have continued to launch airstrikes and attacks on Kurds.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants to establish a "safe zone" along the Turkish-Syria border to return Syrian refugees home. The zone, Erdogan said, would be free of Kurdish fighters (whom his government views as terrorists aligned with rebels inside Turkey).
On Thursday evening, about 50 people gathered in the snow outside the Manitoba legislature to rally for peace in Syria, where a civil war has been ongoing since 2011.
"We want great countries to stand with Kurds, save Kurds in that area. Don’t leave us alone," said Omran Zahrab, a Kurdish refugee who sought asylum in Winnipeg one year ago. "This is our message to the members of Parliament in Manitoba."
Zahrab escaped from persecution in Syria to Iraq in 2012. He spent six years in a refugee camp before moving to Winnipeg in 2018. His parents, siblings and friends are still in Syria.
"I’m very worried about them. (At) any moment, the bomb will come to the centre of my home. The kids, the children, all men, all women. They target everybody. I’m worried about everything," he said.
Turkey's president has claimed 109 "terrorists" — in reference to Syrian Kurdish fighters — have been killed in the attacks. It is unclear how many civilian fatalities have occurred.
Tens of millions of Kurds live on land divided among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and many of them seek a separate state.
On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland condemned Turkey’s actions in a series of tweets.
Canadian troops previously trained Kurdish security forces in Iraq. They have since shifted focus to lead the NATO training mission for Iraqi state security forces.
The United Nations Security Council met Thursday to discuss the incursion.
— with files from The Canadian Press
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
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