Crisis in Syria strikes chord with Benedictine community

Taylor Hoppe


In unrest that has lasted nearly 11 months, the crisis in Syria has been featured in headlines across the nation. The crackdown on Syrians has been harshly criticized internationally and as the intensity rises in Syria, the United Nations (U.N.) searches for resolutions.

Chicago-land Syrians participate in a flashmob in downtown Chicago to raise awareness about the brutal killings of the Syrian Regime. Photos Courtesy of Dina Abdalla.

Although Syria is approximately 6,149 miles away from Chicago, the Syrian conflict hits close to home for many in the BenU community.

“It needs to stop,” comments student Rasheed Riaz. “Too many innocent people are getting killed.”

“Before the uprising, I would visit Syria every year to see my family relatives,” explains junior Amr Kawji. “Unfortunately, I am not able to visit them anymore and it makes me sick to my stomach to see that my family relatives are in a danger zone.”

The New York Times reports hints of Syria’s unrest began in March 2011 with the transfer of power from former President Hafez al-Assad to his son, current President Bashar al-Assad.

Early in Assad’s power, he began sending tanks into cities resisting his power and opened fire on demonstrators. As the assault from Assad continued, Syrians soldiers began defecting from the army, bringing Syria to what the United Nations referred to as “the verge of civil war.”

Syria has been expelled from the Arab League after agreeing to a peace plan only to increase attacks on protestors. In December 2011 and in January, league observers were allowed into Syria, but the violence showed no signs of slowing with their presence.

Determined to bring Syria to a peaceful state, the Arab League offered Assad a proposal in which he would turn over his power to a deputy. Syria rejected the proposal.

Possible solutions to the Syrian crisis can spark controversy and debate in many ways.

Photo Courtesy of Dina Abdalla.

“I believe the Syrian government should be the first to intervene,” says Riaz. “The United States has too many other things on their plate. Before anyone else, the Syrian government should try to find a solution.”

“The U.S. is a member of NATO, a military alliance composed of 28 member states, meaning they should advocate alternative solutions for Syria, not just military intervention, because clearly the uprising has become far more than just a political issue,” comments Kawji.

The U.N. is reported to have stopped keeping track of death tolls in Syria as of January, when the number of deceased surpassed 8,400. They claim it was too difficult to confirm an accurate number, especially since the death toll has risen significantly with recent attacks on Homs.

“I feel like this revolution has been taken to a whole new level,” comments Kawji.

This past week alone, the towns of Baba Amr and Inshaat in Homs have been under constant shelling. Hospitals, churches and mosques have been bombed. Survivors of the attacks are confined to their homes, afraid if they leave they may be killed. Electricity has been cut completely, there is no water and no heat and cell phone and landline services are non-existent.

While the Syrian crisis has been prominent on the news and a  hot topic among many, other students were unaware of the situation.

Photo Courtesy of Dina Abdalla.

“I didn’t know about it,” says junior John Alessi. “But as a member of the human race, what’s going on there isn’t right.”

He says the United States should intervene.

“The United States is known for always helping people when they’re in need.”

“I am not sure whether or not the many students are actually aware of what’s going on in Syria. However, I can say that our school does very little to raise awareness on the issue,” comments Kawji. “Though [BenU] shouldn’t be the ones to take the blame, it still would help if they held panels or forums discussing the uprising.”

Students can learn more about the Syrian crisis by visiting various media outlets that continue to provide updates on the situation, although media outlets are no longer allowed into Syria. Syrian activists have also started uploading videos to social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Courtesy of Dina Abdalla.