Virginians weigh in on Syrian crisis

The United Nation has announced that Syria’s government and the opposition will hold meetings in January to discuss negotiations to end the Syrian civil war. The Syrian civil war is causing international political and public interest.  After the confirmation that Syria used chemical weapons, the question on the minds of the American government was whether or not to intervene using military force. President Obama has said that if the government fails to act, then Syria will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.  The president decided to use military strike to deter the usage of chemical weapons, but decided to take the debate to Congress before acting.

National polls reveal that a majority of American citizens are opposed to the idea of the United States becoming involved with the Syrian conflict. Virginia Military Institute international studies and political science major Cadet Keslie Carrión, 22, thinks otherwise.

“It is the duty of the United Nations to do something when so many people are being cruelly treated and murdered,” Carrión said. “If we could find a way to unite and train Syrian rebel forces then we could possibly put the fighting back into the hands of the people that it matters to the most.”

The United Nations Security Council voted to require Syria to get rid of its arsenal. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was charged with the task of destroying Syria’s chemical weapon destruction facilities.

VCU nursing major Monica Doreste, 19, disagrees with U.S. involvement in the war.

“We don’t necessarily need a government to fight against Syria,” Doreste said.

Doreste thinks that instead of government interference, relief organizations should hold the responsibility to provide aid to countries that are in need. As a member of United 2 Heal at VCU, a non-profit organization that ships medical supplies to countries across the world, Doreste has already attempted to help aid the rebel soldiers in Syria. Doreste said the Syrian government would not allow the refugees to access the medical supplies the organization sent to the refugee camps.

“We have a contact in Syria who had to cross the border out of Syria, collect the supplies and then cross the border again,” Doreste said. “He traveled by foot and was under a great risk to his life.”

Numerous organizations are currently helping the Syrian refugees. One of these organizations is Islamic Relief USA, which is a Syrian humanitarian relief program. The Organization donates necessities including food parcels, blankets, and medical equipment to over 42 health facilities in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children are a few more organizations that provide aid to Syria through similar methods.

“It’s ludicrous that most people’s opinions on the Syrian Civil War revolve around American intervention when the conflict in Syria is far more complex,” said Irene Bowers, 21, a VCU film major who thinks the focus should remain on the Syrian people, rather than making a decision as to whether or not to intervene.

“I find myself conflicted between a desire to try to help a group of people struggling to end their oppression and a reluctance to engage in any kind of foreign conflict,” Bowers said.

The Syrian civil war is a complicated and complex issue. The war began in 2011, starting off as minor protests against the government, as a part of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East. The protests escalated to a larger scale when the Syrian government began to kidnap, shoot, and kill the protestors.

Protestors are demanding the resignation of their president, Bashar al-Assad. The Assad family has been in power since 1971. Religious and political tensions, among a list of problems that have continued to pile up since the development of Syria, have contributed to the reasons why Syrian citizens are upset with their government.

The protestors consist of various groups of people, including rebel fighters, political parties and those living in exile.

During the unrest, digital photos and footage posted to social media websites alerted that chemical weapons were being used. Syria initially denied the use of any chemical weapons and blamed the rebels for the attack. However, in September 2013, United Nations inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons were used in Syria and thousands of citizens were killed as a result. It is also a known fact that Assad had a stockpile of chemical weapons.

Photos posted by Syrian citizens reveal the reality that dead bodies and debris fills the streets. Footage shows the chaos and countless acts of the ongoing violence in Syria.

Families are living in constant fear and danger. Some have been forced to leave their homes and flee to neighboring countries. It is estimated that over one million people have been displaced as a cause of the unrest.

Syria’s usage of chemical weapons has attracted international interest because of the fact that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited. In a speech addressing the nation regarding Syrian issues, President Barack Obama said Syria’s usage of chemical weapons is a violation of international law and has created a “danger to our security.”

The United Nations Security Council’s planned to issue an appeal for immediate access to locations in Syria to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians. In addition to this, a team of international disbarment experts arrived in Syria to rid the country of its stockpile of chemical weapons. Assad has agreed to comply with the disbarment deal.


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