What I Learned On The Ground In Syria

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Atmeh Camp, Syria, 2013 (author’s photo)

September 9, 2013 by Ming Holden

I am anti-war. That’s precisely why I support a US strike in Syria.

I took the above photo in Syria’s Atmeh refugee camp, but my encounters with Syrians began before I crossed the border earlier this summer. After flying into Istanbul in late June, I asked an Egyptian girl I met to give my information to any Syrians at her youth hostel. An email arrived in my inbox the next day from a man I’ll call Mohamed.  ”I’m happy to chat,” he wrote, “but I’m not sure whether it will be helpful because I am not an activist.”

Something told me this young man had a lot to say, but wasn’t going to say it in emails. We met at Starbucks in Taksim, and I was late. Mohamed stood there, a thin, gentle, quiet young man of 20 years. He was with his friend, a portly Syrian who wore spectacles too. I apologized for keeping them waiting, and we climbed to a quiet table away from other people on the third floor, where there was some semblance of silence. It was only after I expressed grave concern over the human rights violations in Syria, including the chemical weapons attack earlier in June, and deep sadness that America hadn’t stepped in more forcefully, that Mohamed began to speak.

"If the world thought Syrians were humans," he said quietly, "something would have happened, someone would have helped. Yes, over a hundred people died from chemical weapons. But for months, in Syria, that many people have died every day. Someone needs to help the opposition, because Assad will kill us all before he stops.”

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