I am a Syrian Freedom activist. As an anti-war protestor, I have marched in the streets and shut down the bay bridge and been arrested. I am anti-war and a peacenik to the core. But for over a year, I have been demanding that my government intervene in the situation in Syria. Because we can’t have peace if we don’t stop the killing first.
Being a Syrian Freedom activist is gut wrenching, traumatizing, and frustrating. I watched livestreams from Homs before the massacre at Baba Amr, the last, best hope for a simple intervention. If the world had stood up to Assad’s regime in the last days of the siege in Baba Amr, if it has even pledged to bring him to justice for his crimes, it could have ended there. Instead, the world turned away as regime troops and units of the brutal and sadistic shabiha were allowed to enter Baba Amr after rebel units withdrew from the town and slaughter the civilians remaining there.
The response of my government was to “condemn” the actions of Assad, “urge” him to stop killing the people of Syria, and pledge to take no action to interfere with Assad’s killing spree. Since that time, an additional 70,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, and 4 million people are fleeing for their lives; either refugees in another country, or searching for safety inside Syria. Half Syria’s refugees are children. A fifth of the Syrian population faces starvation.
The United Nations’ Human Rights Commission has written reports documenting the use of rape as a tool of the Assad regime, and the dark labyrinth of Assad’s dungeons and the extent of torture, rape and murder there.
Thanks to the internet, Assad has not been able to hide his crimes. While some of the people who began as protestors have taken up arms against the regime since it met those protests with fatal gunfire, others have chosen to document the crimes of the regime and get them out to an indifferent world at great personal risk. Some of these crimes, I will never forget:
Someone tweeting from a government checkpoint where women were being separated from a group of refugees and taken away.
A photograph of a 2 year-old boy in a makeshift hospital who had survived an attack by Assad’s shabiha; each small pale arm and leg slashed almost to the bone with a razor. There is no medical equipment anymore to treat any of the mounting casualties from daily regime shelling and airial bombardment in hundreds of separate locations around Syria.
A photograph of a gutter filled with charred body parts after another massacre.
A little girl who at first looks alive in her little bedroom, until you see the blood staining her pink nightgown.
I have seen pile after pile of dead bodies of men, women and children, from massacre after massacre after massacre; the videos of wailing wives and mothers and husbands and fathers; and pictures of child martyrs and of living children holding the hope of peace in their eyes as they make the sign for peace with their little fingers.
But from the beginning, I decided not to turn away. I decided to do what I can to raise awareness of the situation in Syria, and advocate for support for the rebel fighters and the refugees. As a Syrian Freedom activist, I send messages of moral support to the on-line activists in Syria, post positive comments for the rebel fighters, monitor the internet for atrocities and let my elected representatives know that I know what is happening. I pray a lot, I cry occasionally, mostly out of frustration.
I seem to be in a constant flame war with people who think the Syrian rebels are Al-Quaeda. These are the same people who think all muslims are Al-Quaeda, and that the President is a Muslim. Al Quaeda only entered Syria after the rest of the world refused to help the rebels, who were facing regime army planes and rockets with small guns and very little ammunition. The Syrians see them as a problem only second to Assad himself.
But I also fight my friends, the peace people. I don’t think it is peaceful to ignore screams for help. I believe the efficacy of doing nothing in Syria has been proven in reverse. To me, peace is a goal, not a strategy. I understand that Americans are war-weary, and that they feel especially skeptical of an intervention based on claims of chemical weapons. I do not want any Amercan service member killed or maimed or separated from their families ever again. But ignoring brutal dictators as they commit atrocities and terrorize the population and bomb the country into oblivion is not the path to peace. At present, diplomacy is only a license to kill, a promise not to intervene until a certain date.
It will take decades for the Syrian people to recover from their wounds and rebuild their country, but that process can not even start if the world does not stand up and demand an immediate end to the killing.