Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Syrian Crisis: From the Mouth of a Syrian

I have previously written on my Blog about our Syrian friend Bara. You can read a post written my Bara back in 2006 which shares how he initially met us by clicking here.  It has been years since we have seen Bara. The last time was when Isaac was just a baby and he visited us on Eglin AFB. But we still stay in touch. He will always remain a wonderful friend to us. We have such amazing memories of getting to know him during our years at Mayo Clinic.

In light of everything happening in Syrian right now, I asked Bara to share a guest post explaining, from a Syrian's point of view, what is happening over there right now. Bara currently lives in the USA with his wife. However, he had always planned to return to Syrian after he studied medicine here in the States. It is his home, and he loves both Syrian and the USA greatly.

So here, in Bara's words, are how he sees and can explain to us what is happening in Syria. These are Bara's opinions and Bara's words. He asks you to excuse any small grammatical errors as English is his second language. (I have decided to leave the text as he wrote it so it is completely authentic.)


Thanks Wendi for inviting me to write on your blog regarding the refugee crisis boiling in Europe.
I am sure many of you have been moved, rightfully so, with the recent photo of Baby Aylan who drowned while trying to flee with his family toward Europe.

Needless to say, through the current crisis, there have been less gruesome yet equally touching pictures of Syrian people trying to make it to Europe.

Throughout history (1930s onward), similar pictures have yielded similar international attention (example: Vietnamese girl running naked away from bombing), however, not all of them have translated into real solid international action.

As a matter of fact, every time a picture like this surfaces, a very strong outcry goes through the globe but the emotions subside soon after and people get back to their normal life and nothing gets done.

I am writing to you all now through Wendi's blog hoping that this won’t be the case here.

Down below, I have listed few things that you as American can do to help. Prior to that I wrote quick review/educational piece explaining what’s happening in Syria. If you don’t have the time to read the review, you can skip it to the “How can I help” section below

Many American’s (and people around the world for that matter) still don’t understand what the heck is happening in Syria. No big deal! I am Syrian and I lived most of my life in Syria, and I sometimes feel I don’t know who’s who in Syria!

If I want to explain things in a very simplistic fashion, I would re-post an old caricature that simply, yet precisely, depicts the situation in Syria.

Clearly, this caricature is too simplistic! But I am including it here for people who don’t want to get into too much detail.

For people who do want to get in details, here is the rundown:

Syria, ROUGHLY speaking, is composed of the following sects/ethnic groups:
  1. Muslim Sunni (80%): those are obviously the majority in Syria. This group has been grossly underrepresented in high-ranking officials in the army/government.
  2. Muslim Alwite (5-8%): Alwite is a sect within the Shitte branch of Islam (for reference: Iran is the only country that is mostly Shitte). Important to state that Alwite are known to be secular in their daily life. For them, being “Alwite” is more of identity rather than a religion they live by on daily basis. The current Dictator: Bashar Al-Assad and the ruling elite belong to this sect
  3. Christian (10%): mostly Orthodox and Eastern Catholic. There is small percentage of Protestants. Also small percentage of Assyrians/Syriacs who still speak the very same language the Jesus spoke 2015 years ago.
The current dictator: Al-Assad has been in power for 11+ when the revolt started. He inherited power from his father: Hafiz Al-Assad who was in power for 25+ years. Both ruled Syria with iron fist and were absolutely ruthless with any voice/action against their dictatorship.

The revolt started in March 2011. Started peaceful demanding democratic changes. As expected, the dictator cracked down with heavy fire on the peaceful demonstrators. Unfortunately, the peaceful demonstrations turned violent and that’s how we ended up with the current civil war.

Fast forward 4 years, the current players on the ground are:
  1. The dictatorship regime: led by Al-Assad and heavily supported by Iran and Russia. Iran supports them for religious reasons (as mentioned, Alwite Assad does technically below to the Shitte-dominated Iran). Russia does support him for logistic reasons: Syria is the only place outside Europe where Russia has military base.
  2. Free Syrian Army (FSA): those were the first people from the Assad Arm who defected early on and refused on fire on peaceful demonstrations. They formed the FSA hoping to take down the regime. Unfortunately due to lack of support, the FSA has shrunken over the years to almost nothing right now. Almost too late now, the USA is trying to revive it and train them. Again, this is coming way late in the game as most well trained and sincere fighters have gone to option 3 and 4. 
  3. ISIS: those are the terrorists who are committing all those gruesome actions in the name of the religion. Unfortunately they are gaining power day by day. The Reason? Very simple: every time you have dire and desperate situations, people go astray and get radicalized!
  4. Islamic Militia’s: despite the anxiety that the word “Islam” causes to most Americans, I can assure you, those are good people. Those are the same ones who gave up on the FSA and elected to count on local clerks/religious leaders for support and funds. There are some talks that the western world would start supporting them for more solid and rapid victory over Al-Assad and ISIS.
Why did I mention all of this?!?! Because that will lead us to the most important part where most Americans do care about: HOW CAN I AS AMERICAN HELP???

How can I/you help?

Believe me, not gonna ask you to donate money! There are more pressing issues you can help with:

First and foremost, you can help the refugees by solving the reason why they became refugees. This means putting pressure on our local leaders in the US to motivate the white house to do something.

Al-Assad regime has crossed all the “redlines” that was placed by the white house and international community. The most noted one was when Al-Assad troops used chemical weapons and killed ONE THOUSAND AND ONE HUNDERD CIVILANS in one day! YES, you read it right: 1100 people were killed in one attack and the current US administration did nothing.

Good way to start getting involved politically is by checking this website: https://thesyriacampaign.org and signing up to their e-newsletter. On that site, you can choose different ways you can help out at an individual level

Humanitarian Aid:
Of course, I won’t expect all Americans to fly overseas and get physically involved in humanitarian aids, but here is the good news: you can do that through lots of locally run and recognized agencies in the US. My Favorite organization is called NuDay Syria. 

A Danish-American Lady founded it: Nadia Alawwa! She is not even Syrian but she cared enough to start working on her own to help Syria. She got very successful to the point where she established a US recognized org to do that. And did I mention she is a mother of EIGHT kids!

During one of my medical missions to Syria, I saw her projects on the ground in Syria, and it’s just AMAZING work!

She is a very approachable person and if you get in touch with her, she will tell you how you can help on your city level. She collects clothes, tools and what not throughout the US and then ships to Syria on a regular basis. You can do a lot of good through her

 Medical missions:
The Syrian refugee camps are spread throughout the Middle East region. Despite all the great efforts done by the local governments in those hosting countries, the situation is still bad. Most of those refugees lack very basic medical and daily life needs.

If you have some vacation time to spare, you can do A LOT!!! Trust me! Even non-medically trained person can save lives there! That’s how bad the situation is!

If you are interested in participating in any medical mission, contact the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). 

They run very well organized missions to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. And hey, you can squeeze a quick vacation on the side while being the area. Turkey is sooooooo beautiful and attractive! Ask Wendi J

Thanks for taking the time to read this! God Bless America! And remember the blessing you all are in by living as a free human being! Not everyone has that bless nowadays.

Baraa Zuhaili

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