1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 162

Thursday, May 9, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


Political Unrest and Violence

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 6.8 million Syrians, or almost one third of the entire population, require urgent humanitarian assistance. About 3.1 million, or around 50 per cent, of those who currently require assistance are children. Over the past year, humanitarian needs have risen by 5.8 million people, up from 1 million estimated to be in need in March of this year. Almost half of this increase occurred during the first four months of this year.

Over the past months, the number of internally displaced persons in Syria has more than doubled from an estimated 2 million to 4.25 million people. The number of refugees fleeing Syria to neighbouring countries and North Africa increased by almost 850,000 people in the first four months of 2013. As of Monday, May 6, more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees are registered or awaiting registration in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and North Africa.

Honourable senators, the conflict in Syria is not being fought on isolated battlefields. It is being fought in communities, and women and children suffer most. As the International Rescue Committee’s Commission on Syrian Refugees reports, rape is a significant and disturbing feature of the conflict in Syria. To quote the commission’s report:

The IRC’s women’s protection team in Lebanon was told of a young girl who was gang-raped and forced to stagger home naked—heightening her shame in a society where modesty is so valued…. In one extreme case, the IRC was told of a father who shot his daughter when an armed group approached to prevent the “disgrace” of her being raped.

In closing, honourable senators, I will quote from the International Civil Society Action Network’s brief speaking about Syrian civil society activists.

The international community must recognize their resilience, and aspirations for the future, and support their efforts to withstand the impact of war.

Their work is a testament to the dignity and humanity of Syrians and provides a glimpse of a peaceful pluralistic Syria for which they are striving.

Honourable senators, as I have reported to you, since that brief was published only a few months ago the situation in Syria has worsened considerably. We need to do everything we can to help innocent people, most of them women and children, who are suffering because the war is being fought in their homes.