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Syrian-Americans Live With Pain, Worry for Family and Homeland

September 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Syrian-Americans have watched the harrowing effects of the civil war from far away, and grappled with feelings of heartbreak and futility for their families and their homeland. Three Syrian-Americans share their experiences.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now another perspective on the conflict in Syria.

The PBS NewsHour online team recently visited with three Syrian-Americans living in the Washington, D.C., area. They talked about the challenges of witnessing their homeland’s civil war from abroad and how they think the conflict should be resolved.

Here are some excerpts from those conversations.

JOMANA QADDOUR, Syrian-American: I was born in Homs, Syria. My father is from Homs and my mother is from Damascus.

I spoke to my mother’s family in Damascus. And they for a long time were sort of insulated from some of the events. They still have — until today have not left, and that’s mostly, you know, my grandmother’s decision, who sort of held the family instead.

We spent a lot of our lives building this home. And I’m not about to become a refugee in some country for an unforeseeable amount of time, depending on foreign organizations, you know, for my bread and butter. It hurts me that there’s only — there’s very little we can do, except send money.

And at times, you just want to be able to remove them from that situation. So, you sort of have to put up with the reality as it is, and just talk to each other and share photos and try to distract yourself from the fact that, God forbid, it may be the last time you speak to them again.

RAMAH KUDAIMI, Syrian-American: It’s hard because you are removed in one sense, in that you’re not living through it at all.

But knowing that you have family who is being affected by it, knowing that there’s places that you went to when you were younger and you might not be able to go to ever again, or if you do go to them, they’re going to be destroyed, that takes a certain toll on you.

And I think it’s something that a lot of Syrian-Americans are probably going through. I go back and forth a lot. I’m — I personally am very against U.S. military strikes. I don’t think that will — I think that will inflame the situation.

Once we get to a point when the regime is gone, the regime is going to fall. There’s just no way they’re going to hold on. It just depends on how much longer and how many more people are going to have to die, that these people who continued amongst all odds to come out and protest, that they are going to be able to be the ones who take control of the country, because those people continue to go out, despite all the horror.

They could easily just sit at home and say, no, we’re not going to take any risks. But they don’t. That gives me the most hope.

ABDULMONAM ALIKAJ, Syrian-American: I was born in Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria at that time.

If direct military intervention is crippling the regime and taking it out, completely out of the picture, then I am for it. But if it’s going to take a few missiles here and there and destroy some assets in the country, and the regime survives, then I’m against it.

A couple of weeks ago, in the neighborhood where one of my sisters lives, the area was shelled, and five buildings crumbled down, and at least 50 people died in that area. And I thought maybe my sister was one of them.

So, I called, and fortunately she was alive. But her heart was broken because it was close by. It was people she knew. It was people I knew, and there’s nothing we could do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Can you imagine how wrenching it is for these people thousands of miles away, and there’s nothing they can do but watch?

GWEN IFILL: So important for us to talk to the voices of the people. We lose sight of who is actually affected by it, not just people in the line of fire, but people miles and miles away.

It’s very important to hear the voices, as well as the lawmakers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Absolutely.