Montreal demonstrators protest Turkish military invasion in northern Syria

MONTREAL — Demonstrators gathered in Montreal Saturday to protest Turkey’s incursion into northeast Syria, warning of humanitarian disaster and U.S. strategic folly.

Members of the Kurdish-Canadian community said the Turkish assault could upend the stability of a fragile region, trigger an ethnic cleansing of Kurds and roll back progress against militants affiliated with the Islamic State, also known as Daesh.

Turkey’s military offensive targeting Kurdish militia comes after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly decided Sunday that American troops would not interfere in it — a radical shift in his country’s foreign policy.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, which has drawn widespread condemnation internationally and across party lines within the U.S., is widely seen as an abandonment of the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been America’s sole allies in Syria fighting Islamic State.

Beritan Oerde, an organizer with the Kurdish Foundation of Quebec, says she hopes the downtown demonstration will help put pressure on governments and international institutions to take stronger action.

“Sometimes we feel very far away but that doesn’t matter. Any type of voice from across the world sometimes puts pressure on institutions and governments,” said Oerde, a political science student at Concordia University.

“It’s a harsh reality — this could have been me,” she said.

Oerde, whose extended family fled Syria in 2013 after the civil war broke out, joined other demonstrators in calling for sanctions against Turkey.

On Friday, the Trump administration threatened crippling new sanctions against Ankara in a belated response to the cross-border assault, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says will create a “safe zone” running along the Syrian side of the frontier.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, currently running for re-election, joined Canada’s major allies in condemning the attacks, spelling out Canada’s position in a series of tweets Wednesday that said Turkey’s unilateral action risks reviving a battered Islamic State.

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