© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Bashir Mayaleh delivers a passionate speech about his home country of Syria during a peace vigil outside the P.E.I. legislature Friday.
Rajaa Haddad gets worried whenever she thinks about her two sisters, uncles, aunts and “many, many” cousins living through the bloodshed in Syria.
Haddad, who was born in the Damascus area but now lives in P.E.I., has been to Syria many times in the past 10 years to visit those family members.
She’s been keeping contact with them recently through Skype, whenever they have electricity, to make sure they’re alright while also praying the U.S. doesn’t launch a military strike in the country.
“Our country has been going through two-and-a-half years of suffering, of bloodshed,” said Haddad in front of a crowd at the P.E.I. legislature Friday. “Enough is enough. Let Mr. (U.S. President Barack) Obama know that two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“No bombs from Obama” was the overwhelming message from a group of individuals at Province House Friday participating in a peace vigil against possible U.S. military intervention in Syria.
Tensions in the Syria conflict have heightened in the past week, with Obama seeking congressional authorization for military action against the country. It’s a move Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said would risk triggering a regional war and spread “chaos and extremism.”
Many of the speakers at Friday’s vigil, organized by the Island Peace Committee, had a personal connection to Syria and all agreed a U.S. bombing of the country would be the least effective way to bring about peace.
Katherine Mourad provided a youthful voice to the protest.
The P.E.I. resident is of Lebanese descent and has many relatives living in Syria.
She said it is scary to know that when she goes to sleep at night, she could wake up and find out that family or friends have been killed.
“The fact that I have family struggling and seeing their friends and everyone die around them, it’s heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking,” she said. “It affects more people than you think. It affects every single human being and they just don’t know it.”
Mourad said she is “sickened” by people turning on each other in the country and that even innocent civilians are being injured and killed.
However, more violence isn’t the answer, she said.
“Look at how much war and terrible things have already happened to them and they (the U.S.) think enacting more war is going to solve it,” she said. “It’s not going to solve anything.”
Bashir Mayaleh said it is both nerve-wracking and frustrating knowing that his sister is still in the country.
Having been in contact with her, he said the rebel force has been killing many innocents in the country.
He said western media coverage of the crisis has been biased, that a U.S. strike would make Syria a third-world country, and that if he was in the country he would fight with the government.
“I know the government never killed their own people. The military is my brother and your brother and everybody’s brother,” he said. “The rebels are killing the innocent people.”
Haddad said her family living in the country is also supportive of al-Assad.
“The opposition made a mistake and the president and government made a mistake but it doesn’t have to start a (international) war,” she said, adding that while the conflict started religious in nature it has become something much more. “The outsider rebels have come from everywhere... if you want to do jihad do it in your own country, not in Syria.”
Haddad said members of her family were in better spirits when it was announced the U.S. wouldn’t enter the country.
However, that is now in question since Obama has begun seeking congressional approval.
“There is still that question,” she said. “Syria is a beautiful country I pray someday it will have the peace it had before so we can all go back to live or visit.”
— For the latest developments in Syria, see more coverage on Page A7, B5 of the print and e-editions of The Guardian Weekend.