Former Syrian fears for the nation
BY MYLES FISH
The protests of the Arab Spring caused great upheaval across the Arab world, with disgruntled citizens causing the removal of entrenched rulers in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
But for the Syrian people who first engaged in nationwide protests against the rule of Bashar al-Assad on March 15, 2011, there has been no resolution, no upheaval, but a lot of bloodshed and an unclear future.
For some in Red Deer, the daily stories of death, destruction, and mass exodus coming from the Middle Eastern nation reflect more than just another example of trouble in a region synonymous with it.
Addy Yazigi fears for the future of his country.
Born and raised in Syria, and with two brothers, a mother, and many more friends back in the country, he hopes for a resolution to the conflict.
The restaurateur who studied and worked in the Syrian capital Damascus before coming to Canada in 2003 is sad to see the centuries-old city devastated by fighting.
But he is fearful of political upheaval.
“For me, I used to live a very nice life like so many people there . . . For me, for the people I know, they always say if the president is gone, we’ll be in trouble,” said Yazigi.
The examples of other Arab Spring revolutions, where elections have brought in Islamist parties and greater conservatism, are examples Yazigi hopes Syria does not follow. A Christian, Yazigi does not want Syria to go “backwards.”
He supports the current government of Bashar Al-Assad, who comes from the Alawite sect of Islam.
“The majority of Christians are supporting the government,” he said, “because we have no issue.”
Still, he hopes the opposition will accept the president’s call to come to the table to work out their issues.
Yazigi believes a free election could still be held in Syria, where the people can decide whether to continue the 42-year Assad family rule, or go in a new direction.
“If you go to buy something, you look at it, you buy it or not. Nobody will force you to do that.
“If you have an election, you say yes or no.”
Raad Al-Sammarrie and Ayam Al-Dulaimi also hope for a diplomatic resolution. They believe Assad must leave, but that direct foreign military intervention will only cause more problems.
As Iraqis, the couple has seen the devastating impact such intervention can have. They left their home country in the midst of war, heading to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia as refugees.
They moved to Syria then for safety, and it was only towards the end of their four years in the country that the unrest began.
“At that time, we were worried because the same in Iraq happened at the beginning. It was scary,” recalled Al-Dulaimi.
The Red Deer couple, with their young sons, were able to come to Canada in June 2011, but they know other refugees whose immigration processes were not complete, and have now been postponed as the Syrian crisis has intensified.
They keep up with the news and are able to contact some friends still in Syria, some of them who speak openly about the conflict, others who are afraid to speak about it.
“Because Syria opened her door to the Iraqi refugees, they believe the government gave them support and a safer place. They didn’t say anything. But now, the people don’t say anything because the situation is very serious.
“You cannot imagine what will happen to you if you speak something against the government or against the other people,” said Al-Sammarrie.
The couple believes finding a resolution will be a long process, but they believe change is a must.
And they are very happy they now call Canada home.
An estimated 70,000 people have been killed as a result of the conflict.
Over one million Syrians have been internally displaced, and a further million have become refugees, crossing into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested the UK is considering arming the Syrian rebels.