Everett businesswoman Edina Skaljic, 27, was raised in Bosnia and came to the United States as a teenager.
Standing next to her cousin in a large group of Syrian rebel supporters at Copley Square on Saturday afternoon, Skaljic held up a cardboard sign bearing the photo of a young Syrian child who she said was murdered by the country’s regime in February.
“She is one of the thousands of children that I see on Facebook [that have been killed],” she said.
Skaljic was among more than 100 people lined up on the sidewalk Saturday across the street from the Boston Public Library to hold flags, distribute fliers, and chant “Free Syria,” within an hour of the start of the event.
Skaljic said the fighting in Bosnia, which left her spending a portion of her childhood in a refugee camp there, deeply affected her family. That gave her empathy with Syrians who are going through similar violence in their country.
‘The whole revolution has been against youth.’
“My grandfather was burned alive, and my brother was heavily wounded,” she said. “The Syrian conflict is very similar.”
Saturday’s rally aimed to increase awareness about the conflict while raising money for thousands of Syrian children who are living in a Turkish refugee camp.
The event was a joint effort by the Syrian American Counsil, the Rise 4 Humanity, and UNICEF. Boston was one of 18US cities to hold such an event, said Nadia Alawa, of East Hampstead, N.H., one of the rally organizers.
“The whole revolution has been against youth,” said Alawa, who has eight children. “All they want is freedom.”
She got involved when she realized how widespread the violence was, and has more events in the works to support the rebels.
Nadia Alawa’s 18-year-old daughter, Huda, was with her and had brought a few friends from Mount Holyoke College, where she recently started her sophomore year.
Huda said she keeps track of the conflict on Facebook and Twitter, although she says she isn’t as informed as her mother.
Also with Alawa was her 4-year-old son, Hady Eid Alawa who waved a Syrian flag over his head as he sat on the back of a bench at Copley Square.
Bassam Nassri was exiled from Syria 25 years ago and now a resident of Worcester. He has a lot of family left in the country, he said. One of his sisters and her family lives in Damascus, where five died in a car bomb Friday. “They can’t get out of the country,” he said. “We are fighting a hard fight.”