'We need something concrete': Ottawa Kurds demand action on Turkish incursion

Ottawa's Kurdish community is calling for action to stop the Turkish incursion into northern Syria that they say has put their family members and friends in danger.

About 200 protesters march from U.S. Embassy to Parliament Hill

About 200 protesters marched from the U.S. Embassy to Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon. They hope the Turkish forces will stop their offensive in Rojava, an area of northern Syria, against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters. (Yasmine Mehdi/CBC)

Ottawa's Kurdish community is calling for action to stop the Turkish incursion into northern Syria that they say has put their family members and friends in danger.

About 200 people rallied Saturday afternoon in front of the U.S. Embassy to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw American forces from the border region, leaving their Kurdish allies behind.

Turkish forces began the offensive on Wednesday and have continued it against U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters. Casualties have continued to climb and thousands of civilians are fleeing the violence.

Juan Simo, a board member of the Ottawa Kurdish Community Association, said he's still worried about his extended family back in northern Syria, who've fled their border city. 

"My mind is there, I'm thinking about them a lot. I'm still worried about them," he told Alan Neal, host of CBC's All In A Day, on Friday.

A man in a Kurdistan hat rallies in Ottawa during a protest against Turkey's offensive in northern Syria on Oct. 12, 2019. (Yasmine Mehdi/CBC)

Protesters urge Canada to intervene 

Rojen Rahmani, who helped organize the protest, said she's worried about the humanitarian crisis unfolding. 

"We are devastated. The Kurdish reaction is absolute devastation," she said Saturday afternoon. 

Earlier this week, Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland posted a series of tweets about Canada's position on the conflict, saying Turkey risks rolling back progress made against ISIS-affiliated militants in the region.

"We appreciate that [she] condemned this attack on us, but it's not enough. We need something concrete to happen," Rahmani pleaded.

Hawar Bahramiwand, another protester, also wished Canada would step up its rhetoric against its NATO ally. 

"There is a lot of different political opinions in this, and I'm not saying anything is black and white," she said. "But at the end of the day, there are innocent people dying."

Turkish forces are pushing deeper into northeastern Syria, for the third day in a row. Turkey's cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters has set off another mass displacement and widespread criticism. We speak with members of the Kurdish community here in Ottawa. 8:13

Nujin Doustan, a member of the Kurdish Association of Canada and United Youth for Kurdistan, said before Saturday's protest that it's been disturbing to see images of people injured in the rubble.

"Words don't save lives," Doustan said. "Unless there's sanctions, unless there's actual physical actions, words are not enough."

The Turkish ambassador to Canada, Kerim Uras, told CBC's Power & Politics on Friday that the operations are targeting ISIS militants to create a buffer zone on the Turkish-Syrian border. He said civilian casualties have been limited compared to other operations in the region.

Protests in support of Syrian Kurds have been organized across Canada. In Montreal, a rally drew over 250 people, Thursday. 

With files from Salma Mahgoub and CBC Radio's All In A Day