Exiled: Syrians in Canada look back on 10 years of civil war

March 16, 2021

By Globe and Mail |

Ten years have passed since the Arab Spring first brought calls for the downfall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and yet the country continues to be mired in a bloody civil war, the reverberations of which sent 6.6 million Syrians, or almost one-third of the country’s prewar population, to seek refuge abroad.

Of those, more than 83,000 have settled in Canada since 2015 after fleeing Syria because of a diverse set of circumstances. Some had their homes and villages destroyed by fighting, while others sought asylum after speaking out against the regime of Mr. al-Assad. Still others escaped or were survivors of the genocidal brutality of the Islamic State.

The jihadist group, which at its peak in 2015 controlled a significant portion of territory in northern Syria and Iraq, deployed brutal tactics that shocked the world and drew in Western militaries, including Canada’s. In addition to targeting a broad swath of the Syrian population, the Islamic State targeted and enslaved an estimated 3,500 women and children of the Yazidi minority.

Though IS no longer officially controls territory, Mr. al-Assad remains in power, and millions of Syrians struggle to rebuild their lives thousands of kilometres away from a home they may never be able to return to. But they haven’t given up – while building networks within their new communities, many have continued to use their voices to speak out against Mr. al-Assad and share their experiences as an exiled diaspora.

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