From the May-June 2017 issue of News & Letters
Chicago—On April 13, the Women’s March movement came together with supporters of the Syrian people in a Day of Action for Syria. Candlelight vigils across the U.S. were held “to let the people of Syria know they are not alone.” They demanded the Trump administration accept at least 75,000 refugees—as “the least we can do.”
It was a deeply moving evening of Syrian, Syrian-American, and U.S. women’s voices. Hard as it was to keep our candles lit on a windy downtown plaza, the flame that counted burned brightly in the speakers’ words.
Suzanne Akhras, Syrian Community Network: Last year, we took refugees to Washington, D.C., and stood in front of the White House to advocate increasing the number of refugees accepted. In 2015, there were only 2,000. Now in 2017, we only have 18,000. Isn’t that shameful? Only 18,000 in the entire U.S. Let us embrace refugees. Let us embrace all the undocumented brothers and sisters who are here.
Noor: My husband was killed in the war. He died in one of the bombings along with other civilians. I have two children. I came here a few months ago and everyone welcomed us. There was a time when no one wanted us. When I saw all the people who were at the airports rallying and chanting, “Let them in!” I wanted to go to the airport and hug everyone. Everyone has welcomed me and my children.
Becky Carroll, Stand With Aleppo: Last year, Wendy Widom and I founded Stand With Aleppo out of frustration, anger, and disbelief over the deafening silence of our world and national leaders, as well as the media, who did so little while innocent women, children and families in Aleppo were living under the daily threat of death and terror. We didn’t know if anyone would listen or join us but our organization has grown globally.
Michelle Taylor, Stand With Aleppo: I remember where I was sitting when I first saw Omran, the child who was bombed in Aleppo. I looked in his face and I saw my son’s face. It isn’t lost on me that this image, which has become a symbol of Syrian suffering, was only seen five years into the crisis. There have been thousands of Omrans, who’ve lost their homes and families. Thousands have become casualties of war. I gave birth to my second child three weeks ago in a state of the art hospital. For that I am thankful. Yet I can’t stop thinking about Syrian mothers who have their children under unimaginable circumstances. These children are all our children. These women are our sisters.
Lina Sergie, Karam Foundation: I was born in New York City. I’ve lived half my life here and half in Aleppo. All that separates any of us from the 60 million refugees that are roaming this world are our passports. A passport can’t be allowed to define who belongs and who is shunned, who lives and who dies.
I work with Syrian children and teenagers in camps in Turkey. We see kids who want to become animators and coders, architects and doctors. They want to rebuild their lives and to rebuild the world in a way that is kinder and more compassionate. I teach a workshop in how to draw floor plans and plans for cities. The children draw amazing cities with wide boulevards, gardens, homes, schools, and hospitals. Then on the edges they draw many little triangles. I asked them, what are these? They told me, that’s the refugee camp. Even in a perfect world they can’t imagine a city without a refugee camp.
Noura al-Masri, Amnesty International: I was born and raised in Damascus. As we were growing up, we weren’t allowed to say anything against the president or the government. On March 15, 2011, Syrians made history. We took to the streets saying, “We want freedom!” So the regime started killing people. We tried to keep it peaceful. In Daraya, an activist named Ghaith Matar was known as Little Gandhi. There is a film about him. How the revolution started is important to know. A lot of people say “civil war,” but in Syria there is no civil war. It’s a revolution. They are trying to end it with genocide. We need your help to keep the revolution alive.