Struggles of Rohingya, Yazidi refugees recognized
Stronger Together event celebrates and raises awareness of human rights
Carol Sanders By: Carol Sanders
Posted: 12/10/2017 3:00 AM
After a year that’s included the worst refugee crisis in generations, hundreds of newcomers and their allies gathered in Winnipeg Friday night to celebrate and promote human rights.
“It’s a reminder of the value of human rights,” said Hani Al-Ubeady, who helped organize the third-annual Stronger Together Manitoba event at Canad Inns Polo Park.
Close to 400 people from more than 25 ethnocultural groups attended the event that organizers say highlights the work of community members who have “opened a path for all newcomers to claim their rightful space and stand as integral members of their adoptive home.”
This year’s event paid tribute to the efforts of Winnipeg’s Rohingya Muslim and Yazidi communities in the struggle for human rights.
Rohingya Muslim Mohammed Tayab fled persecution in Myanmar and arrived in Canada in 2015 after being privately sponsored by Winnipeg’s Hospitality House Refugee Ministry.
‘It’s a good opportunity for me to raise awareness; I hope after this event they will know the Rohingya’
— Mohammed Tayab
His parents, siblings and wife are among the 600,000 refugees who fled the reported ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and are trying to survive in overcrowded conditions in neighbouring Bangladesh.
“I have to support my family in Bangladesh,” Tayab said.
He earns minimum wage at his full-time factory job in Winnipeg and sends $500 a month to his family.
At the same time, he’s speaking up whenever he gets the chance about the hundreds of thousands of people for whom human rights seem a distant dream.
Being invited to speak at Friday’s event, to hundreds of people who may not be aware of the plight of Rohingya Muslims, was a gift, Tayab said.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to raise awareness,” he said.
“I hope after this event they will know the Rohingya.”
The theme of this year’s Stronger Together celebration was “from persecution to integration,” and accurately sums up the experience of Yazidis in Winnipeg, said Hadji Hesso, director of the Yazidi Association of Manitoba.
“Integration is going great,” Hesso said.
After being hunted, brutalized and enslaved by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq, the Yazidis who fled and survived have been waiting in refugee camps in Turkey for a place to welcome them.
Winnipeg is home to the largest Yazidi community in Canada, with fewer than 200 people, and they’re getting settled, Hesso said.
“We’re working with all the agencies together,” he said.
The community has dozens of volunteers helping the Yazidis with their resettlement, said Hesso, who is waiting for the federal government to fulfil its promise to resettle 1,200 Yazidis in Canada by the end of the year.
Hesso said he was encouraged earlier this week when a private member’s bill calling on Ottawa to live up to that promise was passed unanimously by members of the Manitoba legislature.
The bill was put forward Dec. 5 by MLA Andrew Micklefield (PC-Rossmere), who spoke at Friday night’s event.
“At the heart of this province is a welcoming place, and people of this province care about human rights issues,” said the elected representative, who knows firsthand what it is like to be welcomed to Manitoba.
“When I was 11 years old, my family came from another place,” said Micklefield, who was born in England. “People helped us get settled. Twenty-five years later, I was elected to the Manitoba legislature.
“I hope we can bring many, many more people to Manitoba.”