Some Syrians in US welcome, others condemn, missile strikes
By KATE MORRISSEY | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: April 8, 2017
Some Syrians in San Diego on Friday applauded a U.S. missile strike on a Syrian government airbase, while others condemned the action by President Donald Trump.
Those who approved of the strike appreciated the rebuke of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties. Some critics thought the strike was a useless show of power. Others didn't want to see any more violence in their home country, regardless of the reason for it. Syria has been fighting a civil war for years with rebels trying to topple Assad’s regime.
Trump ordered the missile strike Thursday evening in response to a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians earlier this week that was credited to Assad’s regime.
"We don't need any bombs anymore,” said Eman Zarour, 22, of El Cajon, who came to the U.S. in September 2016 as a refugee with her family. “Already our country is destroyed.”
The Zarours fled their home in Homs in 2012 as bombs were being dropped on their street. For Zarour, the reason for Thursday’s missile attack didn’t matter. She wants to see Assad ousted because of what he’s done to the people of Syria, but she doesn’t think missiles are the way to do it.
“I hope they can find a way to remove Assad without bombs, without more war,” Zarour said.
Zarour also said Trump’s action was “confusing” because of his previous actions cutting off the flow of Syrian refugees to the U.S.
Trump’s first executive order relating to refugees, signed in late January, singled out Syrian refugees and banned them from entering the U.S. for an indeterminate period of time. That order was blocked in court, and he issued a new version of the executive order in early March. While that order no longer contained a specific block on Syrian refugees, it still included Syria on a list of countries whose citizens would be barred from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days. That order has now also been blocked in court.
“He doesn't want to let Syrians come inside this country, and also he tried to help us by bomb,” Zarour said. “How you will help us and you don't want to let the people come in here?”
Wael Sawah, chief editor of the Syrian Observer, came to the U.S. from Syria about five years ago, he said. The Rancho Peñasquitos resident called Trump’s missile strike “smart” because he targeted a military base and avoided places where civilians might be hurt. He said Assad had committed many atrocities against his own people.
“I believe that such horrible crime, war crime, cannot go without punishment,” Sawah said over the phone. “The U.S. administration should have taken stronger action against Assad a long time ago.”
The Trump administration, Sawah said, should follow up the strike with intense diplomatic pressure on both Syria and Syria’s allies — including Russia.
Such pressure could lead to changes “that will lead to real political transition in Syria that will shift Syria from a totalitarian, corrupted state into a secular democracy where rule of law, equality and justice prevail, where men and women work and live equally and where all the communities of the Syrian nation enjoy 100 percent equal status,” Sawah said.
Sawah didn’t take the missile strike as a sign that Trump might change his stance on Syrian refugees, but he called on the administration to reconsider its position.
“I hope this will be only the beginning to make the U.S. administration have a better understanding of the reality of the Syrian crisis and the Syrian cause,” Sawah said.
San Diego County has a growing Syrian refugee community. About 1,140 have arrived since 2014. Most settle in El Cajon or City Heights.
The civil war between government forces and opponents to Assad’s regime began in 2011.
Syrian families who fled the war have shared stories of bombings, kidnappings and robberies on their journey from their home to eventual resettlement in the U.S. Some Americans have “adopted” newly arrived Syrian families in an effort to help them feel welcome and adjust to life in the U.S.
Mustafa Dib arrived with his family as a refugee about two years ago. He’s now a community organizer at Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans in City Heights. He called Trump’s missile strike “useless.”
“With Russia’s and Iran’s support, [Assad] will stay killing people, and these few missiles will not solve any problem in Syria,” Dib said in an interview at his office.
American leaders have been noncommittal about their stances on Assad, he said. They shift between wanting to see him removed from power and not wanting to focus resources on him because they want to fight the Islamic State, he said.
“That gives Assad time to do what he wants to do,” Dib said. “Nobody really wants to solve the problem in Syria.”
He doesn’t want to see the U.S. take military action in Syria, he said, especially if it’s going to end up like the situation in Iraq.
“We don’t want this kind of resolution,” he said.
Dib doesn’t think that Trump actually cares about Syrians.
“If he really cares about Syrian children and Syrian people, why did he close the door?” Dib said. “This American action, it’s a message, but not for Assad. Trump sent a message, ‘I am here. I am strong,’ and that’s it, nothing helpful for the Syrian people.”
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