My home country of Syria is being destroyed.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are killing hundreds of people every day. Western nations, meanwhile, have been reluctant to support the rebels more than two years after the dawn of the Arab Spring.
Dare I ask what world leaders see as an alternative? How about the complete destruction of Syria’s infrastructure, instability in surrounding regions due to the rise in the number of refugees in neighboring countries, or maybe a new safe haven for al-Qaida and other extremist groups?
Over the past two years, more than 80,000 people have been killed, including women and children. I am pained to think how many more will die before we staunch the blood. The United Nations counts nearly 2 million children in need of humanitarian aid while tens of thousands of refugees spill into Jordan and Turkey every month.
The use of heavy weapons in residential areas has destroyed entire neighborhoods. Five of my cousins lost their homes and jobs and now, like many families in Syria, stay with relatives and borrow money to purchase food and basic needs.
They are the “lucky” ones. Detainees suffer every day. Confined to small spaces with hundreds of their countrymen, with no room to sit and little room to stand, many innocent men and women die from exhaustion. That doesn’t begin to account for the brutal torture that they are subject to using methods banned by the United Nations and other human rights organizations.
The fighting in Syria is destroying its physical underpinning, including roads, water lines and power grids.
Nearly half of all public hospitals are rubble and 20 percent of schools damaged. Assad’s regime is targeting medical centers, field clinics, schools, gas stations and more to pressure local communities that have revolted against his regime.
Syrians confront daily violence, food and medicine shortages, sexual violence and arbitrary detentions. Residents in Damascus, including my uncle, have received kidnap and death threats. Some families have seen members disappear without a word, never to return.
World leaders must act now to save my people and in the name of humanity stop the violence.
The Assad regime’s strategy has been to test the limits of the international community. At first it killed 10 people a day, and the world didn’t react. The number increased to 50. Then 100. Then 200. In the latest massacre in Jdeydet al-Fadel, some reports cited 566 fatalities. One of my relatives in Damascus said that the regime acquired large burners to incinerate the bodies.
Countless Syrians feel that when world leaders warn the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons, they are giving a green light to use any other weapon. It doesn’t matter. New evidence has emerged that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in Aleppo, Saraqeb, Homs and outside Damascus. The nerve agent sarin quickly leads victims to uncontrolled spasms, loss of bodily functions and suffocation.
And still nothing from world leaders, specifically President Obama. Isn’t this the “red line” he said would change his “calculus”?
The Supreme Military Council operating under the Syrian Coalition controls nearly 60,000 of the Free Syrian Army troops on the ground. Unfortunately, due to the delay in intervention from world leaders and policies of leading from behind, chaos in the country has led to the entry of about 7,000 foreign fighters. Some have affiliated with al-Qaida, a true threat to the Syrian people and their revolution for freedom and dignity.
An international intervention in Syria that supports a “no fly zone” and provides the Supreme Military Council with heavy weapons will help level the playing field and allow the rebels a better chance to win their fight against the regime and against extremists.
America doesn’t need “boots on the ground,” but is it too much to ask for the same thing Obama provided to Libyan rebels?
In this time of war, my countrymen unite regardless of loyalties. Residents of Damascus have opened their homes to all displaced Syrians and welcome them into their homes. Most people know that the falling of the Assad regime is only a matter of time.
For those caught in the crossfire, it’s simply a race against the clock to see what happens first — peace, or death.
Haya Ajjan is an assistant professor of management information systems at Elon University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.