PLIA team interacts with Syrian Refugees

Joshua Meribole and Brad Weber—Staff Writers

The Syrian civil war has been going on since roughly 2011, but recently allegations have been leveled at the Assad regime, accusing them of deploying chemical weapons against civilians.

President Trump, along with the UK and France, launched a missile strike targeting believed chemical weapon stockpiles of the regime on April 14. At the same time, the Trump administration continues to implement the refugee ban as much as allowed by the judicial system, putting barriers in the way of Syrian refugees attempting to find sanctuary in the United States. Before speaking to current events, it may be useful to recap the Syrian crisis.

In 2011, a protests arose against the Assad Regime. The protests were initially peaceful; however, the government responded in a heavy handed manner, using live ammunitions against protesters and generally attempting to crush political dissent. This, of course, only served to further incite the uprising.

The free Syrian Army emerged as the protests, and government response, grew more violent. The deep divisions within the country became even more apparent as members of the Syrian military defected to join the Free Syrian Army.

Jihadist from all over the world flocked in to join the rebellion. This made it difficult for western powers to join a side because they did not whom to support. The Kurds, an ethnic minority in the North of Syria, took this opportunity to begin their own rebellion in 2012. There are around 20 million Kurds in the Middle East, and they have played an active role in numerous Middle Eastern conflicts. Many Kurdish factions have advocated for autonomy within their countries, or the creation of a Kurdish state.

The Free Syrian Army was initially created with the sole purpose of removing Assad from power, but large factions, such as Al Qaeda, have gained more influence. The conflict was further complicated by the Syrian Kurds seceding from Syria, Iran sending troops to support the Assad regime, and both Turkey and Saudi Arabia supplying the rebels with weapons.

In 2013, Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on a rebel held section of the capital Damascus. In 2012, then President Barak Obama had declared chemical weapons use a “red line,” but he did not respond militarily to the chemical weapons use. Instead, he pressured Assad to surrender his chemical weapons stockpile, and began arming the Free Syrian Army and other rebel factions.

During 2014, ISIS grew from Al Qaeda and later split to form their own terrorist group with the goal of creating an Islamic State between in Syria and Iraq.

As civil war raged in Syria, Turkey began attacking Kurdish separatists in both Turkey and Syria, fearing that the conflict in Syria would spur Turkish Kurds to split from Turkey. In 2015, Russia began military action in support of the Assad regime, coordinating with both Assad’s forces and Iranian groups.

After Trump won the election, he said that the US would not join in the Syria conflict. However, when Assad allegedly used chemical weapons again in 2017, Trump, torn by the images of dying children, attacked a Syrian government air base. Now, Trump again has responded to alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government by launching missiles against strategic Syrian government targets.. Still, despite the continued conflict, Trump has not eased the travel ban.

Trump has argued that the Ban is to protect America’s national security; however, he does not acknowledge the endless war, bombing and trauma that many Syrian people face. He is quick to send bombs and to react to the bitterness of the situation; it seems much harder to find a way to respond in love.

During PLIA, I had the opportunity to interact with refugees as they try to live their new lives in the United States. The friendliness that they showed was incredible. As we helped moved furniture into their houses, they wanted us to stay and talk. They offered us food and even asked that we stay in their house, since the organization we were working with was a few miles away. They were supremely hospitable. The people that where in St. Louis had once been lawyers and doctors, but now they were just people trying to live out their life in a new environment.

The question becomes this: What we can do with a problem too big and complicated to solve? Mark Akers, the leader of Oasis—an organization that helps refugees get settled and learn English—gave this answer: Tell their story and love.

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