“It is now your turn Doctor…”, read the graffiti on the outer wall of a school in the southern city of Dara’a.
That graffiti sparked the Syrian revolution.
The phrase that had been written, in reference to Syrian President Dr. Bashar Al-Assad, was spray-painted by schoolboys in early 2011 in protest of the roughing up of their school principal by the Mukhabarat secret police for the principal’s stand against corruption. The kids were then unlawfully detained and tortured. When the parents protested and requested their release, the president’s cousin told the parents to forget about their children.
Two-and-a-half years later, one of those children has yet to return home.
In response to the incident, Syrians protested peacefully throughout the country for six months.
But their protests were met only with a brutal campaign of killing, torture, arbitrary detentions and the denial of basic human rights. As the regime’s crackdown reached unprecedented levels of brutality, soldiers who refused to carry out the orders to shoot at demonstrators started defecting and eventually took up arms to protect their families. This led to the rise of the Free Syrian Army, a moderate force that is fighting to protect the people of Syria in the struggle to build a democratic and pluralistic society under the rule of law.
However, the continued lack of international condemnation and the continued support given to the Assad regime by Russia, China, Iran and the terrorist organization Hezbollah eventually led to the militarization of the entire process and the introduction of some extremist forces.
Unlike how it is being portrayed in the media, this is not a civil war. This is a corrupt regime intent on killing its people and silencing any and all opposition.
In just over 30 months, there are over 120,000 documented civilian deaths — of whom 11,000 were children — hundreds of thousands of wounded and maimed, over 6 million displaced refugees and the destruction of 80 percent of the major cities. There is not a single family in Syria that has not been directly impacted by this revolution and no one is more war-weary than the Syrian people.
To allow the regime to massacre the civilians with impunity and without any international intervention will only lead to more death, more destruction and eventually an increased threat to the U.S. and its allies. This is evidenced by the latest brazen use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government, which occurred on Aug. 21 in the suburbs of Damascus, where more than 1,400 unarmed civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in one day in a chemical attack. The only true “anti-war” strategy is holding the Assad regime accountable for its crimes and putting an end to this cycle of violence.
It is only with the leadership of the United States that the world will act to stop this injustice, and so the U.S. must send the message to Assad and all other dictators, tyrants and terrorists around the world that they must obey international laws or face the consequences. Syrians have risen against a brutal dictatorship and have thus far paid a grave price for their fight for democracy and freedom.
I ask that you support Mr. Obama’s call for a limited strike on Syria and to not forget about the innocent children who are dying every day on our watch.
Akil is a psychology senior from Damascus, Syria and the Director of the Watan Organization, a non-profit that seeks to help Syrian children. If you are interested in the organization, you can contact Akil at firstname.lastname@example.org.