Syrian Community In San Diego Bears Heavy Toll From Civil War At Home
Friday, March 14, 2014
This weekend marks the third anniversary of the Syrian uprising. Since March 2011, more than 140,000 people have died and 9 million have been displaced -– half are children.
The ongoing crisis is taking a toll on the 2,500 Syrian Americans who call San Diego home. Many have family members who still live in the war-torn region and face dire conditions of very little food and no running water, nor electricity.
During the past three years, San Diego's Syrian community has been rallying for peace, sending supplies to refugee camps and pleading for U.S. intervention.
"It's so unstable in their own homes, it's almost unimaginable of how they're even still living there," Heidi Alagha said.
The 20-year-old San Diego State University student was born and raised in San Diego. But some of her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins still live in Syria. She said her grandfather refuses to leave his home in Aleppo, Syria.
"There is that big attachment that’s happening with a lot of the elderly people who just don’t want to leave," Alagha said. "They’re like, 'If I’m just going to die, I’d rather die in my house, in my country, in my homeland.'"
Alagha said some of her other relatives already fled Syria and have moved in with family in San Diego on temporary visas.
"Our families are tied together," she said. "So everybody helps everybody. It’s family. And if this is not a time for help and for people to take others in, then I don’t know when is an appropriate time to give back to your family."
Alagha said the crisis has taken a heavy toll on her family members.
"My grandma has become a lot more quiet," she said. "She used to be fun and talk, and I feel her now, you know, you’re just constantly worried."
Human rights groups in 40 countries across the world this weekend are holding candlelight vigils, marches and rallies to call for an end to the bloodshed. They've launched a worldwide campaign called #WithSyria.