Hundreds of Syrian Canadians gathered outside Old City Hall on Saturday to mark five years since the beginning of the civil war in Syria.
The crowd danced, chanted and waved Syrian flags as it renewed its call for additional support for those still suffering in the embattled nation.
“Even though it’s five years of torture, we are standing with you. We are hearing your voices,” said Ahmed Afseel of Save Our Syria, an organization that advocates for the protection of civilians caught in the conflict.
The first protest of the Syrian revolution erupted in 2011 as the people called for democracy in the country.
But what began as an uprising against the regime quickly devolved into a civil war that has since displaced millions of people and created an international refugee crisis.
Hazem Idleb who moved from Syria to Mississauga in 2014, the rally was about showing that it isn’t too late for the Syrians who remain in the war-torn country to one day gain the freedom he has come to realize in Canada.
“It’s important to show we have hope,” he said. “The president is not going to stay in his position because who forms the country is not the government—it’s the people.”
For both Syrian Canadians who have been in Canada for decades and recent refugees, Saturday’s gathering was also a display of gratitude towards those who opened their doors in times of need.
“My family, right now, is trying to make a news start in Canada–especially for my kids to go to the schools, to start a new life,” said Zaher Sulaiman, whose wife and children arrived in Canada less than a week ago.