Can we help the people of Syria?
Remember how exciting it was to hear news of the Arab Spring in early 2011? I recall watching videos of people demonstrating in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on my February birthday, and being so happy for them. Now Egypt’s ruled by a military dictatorship, but I believe – I hope – that once having felt the exhilaration of self-taken freedom, those involved will be ready to insist on it again when they can.
People in other Arab countries were also insisting on freedom and respect in 2011, but I don’t remember being aware that Syria, which has suffered so much since, was one of them. Now, however, I’ve read about the struggle of the Syrian people in Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War (2016) by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami, and have found some new heroes, apparently unknown to most of the rest of the world. I feel guilty that this book sat on my shelf unopened for at least a year, when all I knew about Syria was that its people were being cruelly bombed and gassed by the Bashar Assad regime and that no one, apparently, was helping them. Few were helping the refugees streaming out of the country either, and I got tired of feeling their pain and not being able to do anything about it.
I still need long breaks of doing things that bring me peace and happiness, but I’m back to trying to understand the history and current status of the conflict, and I hope to try to share what I find out with you. I don’t believe petitioning my government, the UN, or any other official body will improve things, but maybe there’s some way we can organize as ordinary people and reach out to the people of Syria, those still inside the country and refugees, to ask what they think would help.