10 Jan
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Rally at Queen’s Park Toronto

Hundreds of people gathered in Toronto’s Queen’s Park on Saturday to protest the ongoing humanitarian crisis facing Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.

“Nothing breaks me more inside than seeing human dead bodies lying everywhere,” organizer Huwaida Pervez-Khan told CTV Toronto. “We are all entitled to live on this planet.”

Roughly 40 percent of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim population — some 400,000 people — have sought refuge in Bangladesh in recent weeks, fleeing violence widely blamed on Myanmar’s military that has seen entire villages razed and countless people killed. The United Nations has called the longstanding crisis in Buddhist-majority Myanmar a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Farid Ullah, who attended the protest, is a world away from his family in Myanmar. He was hoping to hear from them recently when, instead, he received tragic news.

“Your village has been burned down and they have been killed brutally,” Ullah related in an emotional interview with CTV Toronto. “They actually didn’t see the next morning. They have been killed.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland addressed the crowd Saturday and vowed to raise the issue at the United Nations General Assembly next week.

“Our ambassador is seeking access to Rakhine state,” Freeland said, referring to the region where the crisis is unfolding. “We would like our ambassador to go there so that we can have Canadians seeing firsthand what is happening.”

Many at the protest, however, said that more needs to be done, including taking in Rohingya refugees and revoking the honorary Canadian citizenship granted to Myanmar’s civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Please stop this ongoing genocide,” Ullah pleaded. “Why is the world not waking up for the sake of humanity? For the sake of human beings? Why is the world not coming and standing up for (the) Rohingya?”

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Miranda Anthistle

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