Syrian refugees in Vancouver worry despite ceasefire in Aleppo
Refugees in Lower Mainland concerned about family and friends; fear they will never return to Syria
A ceasefire and evacuation plan is back in place in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a day after the previous agreement collapsed in a shower of air strikes and artillery shelling by pro-government forces in the city.
The respite comes after weeks of intense fighting as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad swept through Aleppo, in a military operation that the U.N. has described as a "complete meltdown of humanity." For many Syrians who have fled the besieged city and sought refuge in Canada, the conflict feels inescapable.
University student Abdulrahman Saeed moved to Vancouver from Aleppo with his family in February, as part of the Canadian government's Syrian refugee resettlement plan that began a year ago this month.
Saeed's cousins and aunts are still trapped in Aleppo, and he worries about them despite today's announcement that the ceasefire is back on.
"Everyday, my mum and my father talk to them to see how they are doing," said Saeed. "It is a very bad situation there."
Saeed said he is happy in his new home but misses Syria and the people he left behind.
"I want to go back, just for one day, to meet my friends. I want to know what is happening with them," Saeed said.
Adnaan Hammoud, also from Aleppo, arrived in Vancouver 10 months ago. He tries to stay in touch with the friends he left behind and is constantly watching the news for updates. Hammoud said he sees pictures of his city and hardly recognizes anything.
"There is nothing left, it is all destroyed," Hammoud said. "[Al-Assad's forces] took it now but there is nothing left, no one can live there."
Hammoud doesn't think he will ever return to Aleppo, he said, because there is nothing for him to go back to even if the war ends.
Riam El-Safadi is a medical aid volunteer from Syria who has lived in Canada for twenty years. Since the civil war began nearly six years ago, El-Safadi has returned on numerous medical aid missions. He keeps in daily contact with his colleagues in Aleppo.
"The last contact I had with one of the doctors, he send me pictures where he was doing brain surgery on the ground," said El-Safadi. "They are doing first-aid in basements where they can flee the bombardment, they don't have any more hospitals or emergency rooms."
El-Safadi is preparing to send his 12th medical container from B.C. to Syria but does not know if or when the help will reach Aleppo, where the supplies are most needed. Since Monday, 82 civilians have been shot by pro-Syrian government militias and El-Safadi estimates that at least 800 more people were injured.
"It's very frustrating and, at the same time, saddening that this is happening in the twenty-first century," El-Safadi said. "We said never again after Nazis, never again with Bosnia and Rwanda, and yet we are seeing another horrible atrocity happening."