While many people read through the seemingly endless stories or watch in dismay at the nearly 24-hour television coverage of the civil war raging in Syria, some Cal State Fullerton students are living through the experience.
Ronnie, a junior electrical engineering major, who declined to give his last name out of concerns of potential retribution to his family overseas in the Middle East, said his extended family living in Syria had to relocate after the violence escalated.
“My family lived in the capital, so for a long time they didn’t (experience any violence), but recently they’ve been experiencing a lot of violence from the side of the government. It was kind of an eye opener for them, (to have) that kind of thing happen in Damascus,” Ronnie said. “It’s like bombs going off in Washington DC.”
Ronnie said some of his family in Syria, including his grandmother, have fled to the United States to escape the war.
Similar to Ronnie’s family, sophomore biology major Bayanne Kanawati said her family left the country before the fighting escalated.
She said her family was able to relocate to neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, because they originally lived in the capital of Syria, Damascus and had more warning time to get out.
Although Kanawati’s family was able to escape, she said some of her friends were not as fortunate.
“A lot of families, like my friends’, that aren’t able to contact (their families) because the electricity is not working,” Kanawati said. “It’s very difficult. Imagine yourself not knowing what your family is going through at the moment.”
For some Syrians living in smaller cities around the capital, the fighting began before they could flee to safety.
Although the talks of U.S. intervention in Syria are still fresh, the conflict in Syria has been brewing for decades, Ronnie said.
“The kidnappings, the torturing, stuff like that has been going on for a very long time. So it’s nothing new,” Ronnie said. “People have just gotten tired of it, now they want their freedom, just like us.”
Ronnie said he believes arming the Syrian rebels earlier on in the conflict would have been more effective.
Farrah, a senior psychology major, who also declined to give her last name due to concerns for her family affected by the Syrian crisis, said her relatives were able to leave before any fighting took place.
Farrah is not against U.S. intervention, but she questions whether an intervention would have a positive outcome at this stage of the conflict.
“How would they know who the rebels are? I feel like they say they’re arming rebels, but they’re really arming the government,” Farrah said.
Farrah’s comments and concerns echo that of many policy makers in Washington.
They have acknowledged that unruly elements have joined the cause of the Syrian rebels, further complicating efforts to resolve the civil war.
With the threat of potential missile strikes from the U.S., Farrah said she fears the strikes could cause harm to Syrian civilians caught in the middle of the conflict.
The U.S., Great Britain and France have tried repeatedly to pass a resolution at the United Nations Security Council, which would allow member states to take action against the Syrian government for using violence against opposition groups.
Both Russia and China, however, have vetoed any measures that would allow the use of force, citing uncertainty that the Syrian government had been behind the use of chemical weapons.
In response Russia’s proposed solution, in which the Syrian government would surrender their chemical weapons, potentially avoiding U.S. military intervention, Ronnie expressed his dismay.
“For me, it’s kind of ironic because killing (Syrians) with knives is OK, killing them with weapons is OK, bombing them with mortars is OK, but chemical weapons, we draw the line,” Ronnie said. “I just feel that’s kind of ironic.”
Despite the agreement reached earlier this month between the U.S. and Russia, the civil war in Syria remains ongoing.
All three of the Syrian-American CSUF students expressed their hope that Bashar al-Assad and his government would step down.
Their perspectives overall reveal an across the board repudiation of the Syrian government headed by Assad and their recent actions.
“I definitely think that (Assad) and the rest of the Ba’ath party, they have to come down,” Ronnie said. “For anything to change in Syria … there has to be a new government that the people want.”