|Julie Angus stayed with her family in Aleppo after cycling from Turkey with Colin Angus in 2008. (Colin Angus photo)
The day after a B.C. woman raised more than $2,500 for her family in Syria, crowdsourcing site Indiegogo shut down her donation page citing U.S. sanctions against the war-torn country.
"It's wrong to punish innocent people living in a country that's war-torn, especially when there's so much generosity and people want to help," said Julie Angus, 38, a Comox, B.C., adventurer, filmmaker and author.
Angus's father is originally from Syria and much of her family still lives there, suffering under the 21-month-long civil war between rebel forces and President Bashar al-Assad's army. More than 45,000 people have been killed.
Angus's uncle, Bassam, lives in Aleppo with his wife and three children, ages five, eight and 15. He's been out of a job for a year, living off whatever Angus's father can send their way from Toronto, she said.
The region has been devastated by the conflict. Clean water, food and medicine are all in short supply.
"They're in a very dangerous part of Aleppo. Their windows have been shot out. There are tanks rolling down their yard," Angus said.
She said Bassam had to buy medicine for his pneumonia on the black market because he couldn't get it at the pharmacy. The kids haven't been to school in over a year.
"Going outside is dangerous. My uncle was very close to a large explosion when he was outside 11 days ago going to get bread."
So on Dec. 19, Angus set up a page on Indiegogo to raise money to help her family. She promoted it through her adventure blog.
She raised $2,500 in 36 hours, before Indiegogo shut down the page pending an investigation, citing the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control's strict sanctions against Syria.
The OFAC site says it's OK to send money to friends and family in Syria, "provided the funds transfer is not by, to, or through the Government of Syria or any other person whose property and interests in property are blocked."
Angus worries she won't be able to build the same momentum again.
"It was right before Christmas and when people were at home with their families and thinking about how their generosity could help other people around the world," she said.
But now, she said, it's bills time.
Indiegogo didn't reply to QMI Agency's request for comment. In the meantime, Angus is starting from scratch with a donation box on her blog, Angusadventures.com.