NEWS

Alberta protesters march against Syrian regime

03/17/2012 10:01 EDT | Updated 05/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Dozens of people gathered both in Calgary and Edmonton Saturday to protest the Syrian regime.

As the violence in Syria continues one year after the uprising began, demonstrators hit the streets across the country in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

They joined thousands around the world in what was being called a Global March for Syria.

Many called on the Canadian government to intervene and stop the bloodshed that has gripped Syria for the past year.

Syrians in Calgary said they feel helpless — they don't know what to do to help stop what's happening in their homeland. Roughly 100 people came out in Calgary, despite the cold wind.

Calgary senior Imam Jamal Hammoud said the weather is the least of their worries.

"They have to cover their faces otherwise their fathers, their mothers, their cousins there will be in trouble," he said.

He said people here are desperate to see it stop — even if that means a military intervention by western nations.

University of Calgary military expert Rob Huebert said there are signs the turmoil in Syria is changing shape.

"What we're starting to see is probably a change from where it was...a somewhat disoriented, disconnected opposition into what probably will be much better characterized as a civil war," he said.

But Nagah Hage, former chair of the Muslim Council of Calgary, sees it differently.

"When you turn tanks against your people that's not civil war,” he said. “When you displace people, that's not civil war. In a civil war it has to be equal."

Edmonton protesters also rally

Dozens of people also gathered in a downtown Edmonton park to mark one year since the start of the uprising in Syria.

They waved Syrian flags with "Freedom" written across the bottom and held signs calling Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad a war criminal.

“People are deprived of food, water, power,” said Naser Salem, describing some of the stories from his friends and family in Syria. “They don’t really have the ability to exit their homes. If they do they are shot by snipers.”

The United Nations estimates 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising started.

Salam and others at the rally are calling on Canada to cut ties with Syria's government.

“We know the Canadian government has been quite positive when it comes to human rights,” he said. “And we are proud of that. But right now, the Canadian government is not doing its job.”

Edmonton protest organizer Fayyad Sabha also wants Canadians to pay more attention to the conflict.

“Even travelling freely right now, within the country, is very hard,” he said. “This is other than voting, this is other than freedom of speech, this is other than any single, basic political and economical right.”

The march coincides with more violence in the country as twin car bombs struck intelligence and security buildings in the Syrian capital Damascus Saturday, killing at least 27 people and wounding nearly 100, according to state media.

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