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A bird’s eye view of the Syrian crisis

by Rachel Muzaic September 29, 2015
A bird’s eye view of the Syrian crisis

Expert panel to weigh in on the refugee crisis and how to end the conflict

The massive movement of Syrian refugees to Europe and the humanitarian crisis facing the international community will be the topic of a discussion at a panel on Oct. 5.

Graphic by Charlotte Bracho.

Graphic by Charlotte Bracho.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) will be hosting this talk in Concordia’s Hall building in room H-110 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and has gathered a panel of experts on human rights, humanitarian aid, and other pertinent fields. Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director at MIGS, said that it will be a wide discussion aimed at informing and clarifying the crisis.

“There’s been a lot of media coverage on what’s happening in the Middle East and this mass movement of people into Europe, and there’s a lot of divided opinions,” said Matthews. “A lot of people don’t quite understand what’s happening, there’s confusion over who’s a refugee and who’s a migrant,” he said.

Some of the panel members will include Béatrice Vaugrante, director general of Amnesty International Canada’s francophone branch, and Yaman Alqadri, a Syrian refugee who Matthews said arrived in Montreal about a year ago, who will be discussing her experiences living in the war zone and her eventual departure.

By having this discussion, Matthews hopes to facilitate better action, he said. “We really want to bring this [information] together and talk about it so that different levels of government can understand what’s happening and what needs to be done,” Matthews said. He added that MIGS would also be organizing a write-up of the event, as well as videos which can be shared with people in power who Matthews said could perhaps be guided by the speakers’ insights.

One of the main issues Matthews said needs to be focused on is the fact that while much attention has been placed on the refugees passing through Europe, very little has been paid to the Syrians struggling in Syria, and that it’s the internally displaced that are most at-risk.

“The world has been caught up and focused on the refugee crisis because of images, like the young child who drowned on the coast of Turkey, and the power of images can make people concentrate on something,” said Matthews. “I think as a country, and as the international community comes together, we have to be more ambitious than just helping resettle refugees … We want to get people thinking about those who haven’t crossed the border and aren’t eligible for any international protection.”

Faisal Alazem, director of the Syrian Canadian Council and co-founder of the Syrian Kids Foundation, will also be a speaker on the panel. He agrees with Matthews, saying Canada needs to improve its approach on two fronts.

“The first front is protecting people. Why do people take these dangerous trips with smugglers?” he asked. “These people are taking all of these risks to reach safety, so the first approach needs to be making it easy for people to reach [Canada].”

The second front, he said, is solving the crisis in Syria itself. He explained that while the Canadian government is so focused on combatting ISIS, solving the problem within Syria has been ignored.

“We need to find a way for Syrians not to leave Syria,” he said. If their country is free of war, barrel bombing, kidnapping, and chemical weapons, Alazem said Syrians will have no reason to flee, he said. “We can start by creating demilitarized zones in Syria,” he said. “If there are humanitarian corridors for aid to pass through, people will not leave Syria. However, I have not seen Canadian political elite pushing towards that type of solution.”

Matthews agreed that finding a solution to the Syrian conflict is crucial. “The reality is, until you protect people within Syria, until you find a peaceful solution to the crisis, the refugees will keep coming. You’ll keep fueling displacement. So we want to come up with new ideas that can bring this conflict to an end.”
The Oct. 5 event is free and open to the public. Registration is strongly recommended. To register, visit the MIGS website.

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