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Syrian-Canadian reports threats over activism

03/08/2011 1 News

The federal government is prepared to investigate a report of threats and intimidation of Syrian-Canadians who have voiced support for the uprising against the regime in their home country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
In an interview Wednesday with CBC Radio's The Current, a Syrian-Canadian woman said she and others in her community started receiving the threats after she posted videos and spread information online about the violent crackdown on protesters in Syria.
"I felt I was in Syria, not in Canada," said the woman, whose name is being withheld by CBC News out of concerns for her safety.
"I really feel threatened, I am always terrified that they might attack me on the street or at home."
When asked Wednesday about the reports, Harper said the government will investigate the claims.
"I have not heard these accusations, but we certainly would be prepared to look into them and ensure that the Syrian government is not taking any such actions within this country," the prime minister told reporters in Hamilton, Ont.

The RCMP said it didn't have word of any trends across Canada of threats being reported.
Meanwhile, Harper repeated his government's condemnation of the violent crackdown by Syrian forces on protests against the rule of Bashar Assad as "totally unacceptable" and "abhorrent."
Canada has already imposed travel and economic sanctions against members of the Syrian government. Harper said the government will continue to work with the international community to increase the pressure on the Assad regime.

"That suppression is simply not a viable route for them going forward and they will continue to have the full pressure of the international community against them."
An estimated 1,600 civilians have died in the crackdown on the largely peaceful protests against Assad's regime since the uprising began. Most were killed in shootings by security forces on anti-government rallies.
'Something will happen that you won't like at all'
The woman who talked to the CBC said she and others also live under the constant threat of their names being sent back to Syria, where their relatives could face persecution.
A person she knew posted a message on her Facebook page telling her it was in her "best interests" to stop her activities "because Syria and our leader, Bashir Assad, will remain strong, regardless of whether you or others accept it."

"I'm warning you for the last time to stop what you are doing," part of the message said.
"Otherwise, something will happen that you won't like at all. I've given you fair warning. You know what it means to be accused of being a traitor in our country. I won't say more. You get the point. If you want to consider it a threat, go ahead. I'm sure you will delete me from Facebook. But I swear by God, I will follow you, no matter what it costs."

The woman said that after much thought, she contacted police about the threat. Meanwhile, other activists she knows have received similar threats over the phone.
"They said, 'You don't care about your son's life in Syria?'" she said of the phone calls.
She suspected the intimidation was part of a wider campaign orchestrated by Syrian government agents inside Canada, although she acknowledged she had no proof supporting her allegations.
Calls to the Syrian Embassy in Ottawa for comment were not answered.
While the woman said she felt it was risky to talk to the CBC, she wanted to spread the word about how the regime is preventing Syrians abroad from participating in their freedoms.
"I believe that the Syrian people need to live with security, dignity, justice and freedom and that cannot happen as long as the current regime is in power," she said.

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