Syrians In San Diego Plead For U.S. Military Action
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Photo by Susan Murphy / KPBS
SAN DIEGO As the world waits to find out whether the U.S. will strike Syria, some Syrian Americans in San Diego are pleading for U.S. military strikes on their homeland.
As the world waits to find out whether the U.S. will strike Syria, protesters across San Diego County have been taking to the streets and social media to get their voices heard.
"One, two, three, four, kick Bashar out the door," they chanted outside San Diego Congresswoman Susan Davis' office. They're urging an air strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime to punish the leader for alleged use of chemical weapons and to save their families, who are struggling to survive in the war-torn country.
I don’t ask for war," said Anthony Khiralla, a Syrian American. "If they could solve it with diplomacy, fine by me. Kick Assad out the door and let the people live. But if this is the only avenue . . "
Khiralla has lived in the United States for 30 years, but his mother, sister and other family members live in Aleppo, Syria. He said he hasn’t been able to talk to them in nearly two weeks and he’s extremely worried.
"I don’t know if my family is alright, if they’re OK, if they have enough to eat, if they’ve been hostage in their home, if they fleed somewhere," Khiralla said. "With no communication, I’m just cut off from the world over there."
Rim Alahmad has a similiar story with aunts, uncles and cousins living in Aleppo.
"We lost many family members and we hope it’s going to end soon because the Syrian people cannot take it anymore," said Alahmad.
Alahmad has lived in America for 23 years. Her daughter, Zina, was born and raised in the U.S. The two went to the Turkey-Syria border in March to help care for refugee children.
Zina said she can’t get the haunting images out of her mind.
"Some were shot, some were paralyzed for life, and these are young innocent children," said Alahmad.
Obaada Elhomsy was born in America, but raised in Syria.
"I’m an American and I’m a Syrian American," explained Elhomsy. "America means a big thing to me – the same as Syria."
Elhomsy returned from Damascus to San Diego two years ago, just after the Syrian uprising began. He said he joined protests there and escaped bullets from al-Assad’s regime. He said his friends were kidnapped during a later protest and found tortured and killed.
“They were 19 years old, 20 years old, peaceful civilians, they didn’t do anything," he said.
Elhomsy said he’s desperate for the U.S. to strike so that the killing of innocent civilians will stop.
But polls show most Americans are reluctant to support military involvement, worried about the U.S. entering another conflict after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rob Baldwin is one of them.
"We should never get involved in any kind of a civil war in any country for any reason," said Baldwin. "It’s none of our business."
Baldwin said chemical weapons don’t justify a strike.
“We’ve used chemical weapons so many times," Baldwin said. "We’ve used white phrosphorus, we’ve used the atomic weapons in Hiroshima in Nagasaki, we’ve used agent orange that killed tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese -- on and on and on and on."
Erma Collins fears retaliation if the U.S gets involved militarily.
“I think Russia and Iran will make good on their threats," said Collins. "I think it could be the start of something like World War III."
Collins’ sister Barbara Wright worries about the safety of her family here in the U.S.
"If we start getting in a war over there, what about North Korea?" asked Wright. "They’re just waiting for stuff to happen and they’ll bomb us."
But Mazen Akkae worries his family members in Aleppo won’t survive much longer in the conditions they're living in.
“I have a brother and sister there," said Akkae. "And I can honestly say, they are sitting there without food, without water to drink because they are surrounded by the Assad regime."
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