The conflict in Syria through the eyes of a young poet

January 20, 2014 at 7:00 PM EST
Instead of weapons, Amal Kassir uses words to fight. An 18-year-old Syrian-American activist, Kassir grew up in Syria, but now lives in the United States, where she performs slam poetry to bring attention to the suffering in the Middle East.
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TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a very different look at conflict in Syria through the eyes of a young poet.

AMAL KASSIR, Syrian-American Poet: My name is Amal Kassir. I’m a college student. I’m a Syrian-America poet. And I use my words to inspire people.

I was born and raised in Denver. We moved to Syria in June of 2002.

My grandmother had a farm in Syria. And it is where the whole family grew up. And that’s where we collaborated during the summertime.

My 60-something cousins, we would all be running around and eating the fruit. And she had pomegranate. She had so many plum trees. And the peaches, she knew when they would be ripe.

When I came back to America and came to the realization that I would never, ever again see my grandmother’s farm, it was painful. The farm got taken over by regime soldiers. They cut down all of the trees and occupied it. And it didn’t belong to grandma anymore.

They cut down all of the trees in her farm. They ripped the pomegranate bushes from the earth, and the lemons don’t grow anymore. And the Syrian people wonder, does the tyrant not remember who fed him?

Momma is from Iowa. She’s a little white girl, you know, and born in a Lutheran family. And my father is Syrian. He was born in Damascus.

MAN: We have family in Turkey. We have in Lebanon, in Jordan.

AMAL KASSIR: He came 1979. And Nebraska was where he landed.

His best friend dated my mom’s sister. And so he ended up being introduced to my mom. You know, he would pay her to do his English homework, and they fell in love.

My father, he just took the path of feeding people, the way his momma fed him. This Damascus girl, my father’s restaurant was the first stage I ever took, first stage. It was where I was asked about my grandmother’s recipes, because that’s where all of this comes from.

My grandmother always had dinner on the table. Even when the tyrant put checkpoints outside her door, her defiance made mealtime the battle her family would always win.

In the last few years, he’s been responsible for killing more Palestinians.

The political message that is kind of hidden underneath the farming references, it’s the fact that tyrants, at the end of the day, are going to be buried, just like everyone else. And their political establishment will crumble.

My grandmother has promised, she has sworn to write down every single recipe when this war is over. Yes, she knows what Syria will need. They know what Syria will need. They will rebuild this country with a prayer, with a meal, blistered hands and enough food to feed all of the neighbors.

And the tyrant, the dirt is waiting for him. He will learn his country, feel the weight of all of it on his chest. He will struggle against the dirt that fed him.

Thank you.