WORLD -- March 23, 2012 at 5:34 PM EDT
Syrian-Americans: Assad 'Will Not Be Stopped With Diplomacy'
A year after the start of the Syrian revolution, relatives and supporters of those rising against the regime are still trying to convince lawmakers and the administration to do something to help.
More than 1,000 people -- mostly Syrian-Americans from as far away as Michigan and Arizona -- gathered on Saturday outside the White House, demanding an end to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
They called for a "free Syria" and for the United States to help with the country's humanitarian crisis. Chants of "Assad is a terrorist" and "The people want the fall of the regime" echoed across Lafayette Park.
More than 8,000 people have died in government clampdowns since the beginning of the revolution, according to the United Nations, and many see military intervention as the only escape from what is being called a massacre.
"We're just giving [Assad] time to do what he is doing -- killing and bombing and destroying the country," said Suhir Bitar, a native of Homs. "With one time military intervention, get it over and done with, that's the only way out."
The Syrian Emergency Task Force, one of the group organizers of Saturday's event, said the group supports Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain's statements of intervening in Syria through military strikes. McCain called for air strikes in Syria and to provide assistance to the Free Syrian Army in its fight against the Assad regime.
But Human Rights Watch reported earlier this week on "serious human rights abuses" committed by Syria's rebel forces in an open letter to the Syrian opposition. The letter accused rebel fighters of kidnappings, torture and killing security personnel and civilians.
While many Syrian-Americans at the rally in Washington, D.C., support direct military intervention, some think it's a bad idea.
"I believe military strikes will only serve to strengthen the regime," said Ramah Kudaimi, a Syrian American activist. "Sometimes we think of the big picture [that] the regime needs to go, and so let's just do whatever it takes to let that happen, without thinking ... day to day, what to do to save Syrian peoples."
As the debate continues over U.S. support for rebel groups in Syria, a sense of solidarity remained among the Syrian-American community as evidenced at Saturday's rally.
"As citizens of the U.S., we have a lot more rights here than they do in Syria," said 15-year-old Salma al-Midani. "So I think that we need to speak up and show people in Syria that we still care about them. ... We're all in this together."