Apr 022012
Authors: Brooke Lake

Invisible Children provided accounts and footage of human suffering at the hand of injustice, which in turn compelled a horde of young people to action — or something like it.

Despite a headline including the emotional buzz word “genocide,” my February Collegian column, “Syrian genocides require call to action,” did not quite impact readers like the “KONY 2012” video did.

Thus, I decided to oblige readers with the same emotionally driven medium. After all, if the genocide and corruption in Africa compels you to “activism,” surely a current tyrant in Syria committing genocide against his own people will render a similar response.

Recently, I acquired a contact that goes by the name of Nasser Antar willing to share his experience and opinions surrounding the crisis in Syria. Forced to leave due to the dysfunctional situation, Nasser spent 13 years with his family living in Syria under Assad’s oppressive regime. When I asked him to undress the Syrian calamity, he was more than willing to shed light on the filthy practices of the government as well bring honor to friends and family who have and continue to suffer under its rule.

With an uncle recently killed in Homs, scores of friends who spoke out against the government are now missing, and accounts of injustice inflicted upon his former community, Nasser shared with me how Assad’s regime have terrorized the lives of his friends and family.

Even though Nasser and his family have always been against the Assad regime, they were unable to voice their opposition in fear of what might happen to them. To prevent abuse from the government, his grandfather would intentionally invite Syrian officers into their home for lunch to build friendly relations.

Out of the blue, Nasser’s grandfather was arrested and taken to an undisclosed prison.
The family desperately searched for his whereabouts and wondered under what pretense he was detained. Nasser explained to me how the family scoured prisons within Syria, begging for knowledge of his location.

Finally, they found his grandfather was located in an underground prison in Lebanon. One of the aforementioned officers who happened to take a liking to the grandfather managed, through great effort, to get him out of prison. After spending just two months there, his grandfather returned home, malnourished and with his fingernails pulled out and cigarette burns all over his body. He was tortured in a dark and cramped prison all because he asked an officer to come to lunch on a Thursday instead of Wednesday.

What happens to citizens who literally speak or sing songs against Bashar? Your voice box will be cut out.

What happens to Syrians who write or draw in opposition to the government? They will break or cut your fingers off, or slit your throat and then cut your fingers off postmortem.

Such deliberate acts of violence against anyone in opposition to Assad’s regime are used to create a culture of fear. Even though Nasser left Syria, he still lives in fear of undercover Syrian officials terrorizing him for his outspoken resistance. Specifically, within Syria, intelligence officers wearing civilian clothes visit universities and businesses to scope out and eliminate specific opposition. It is through this fear that the Assad regime has suppressed its own people for more than 40 years.

Amazingly, the people of Syria have used Bashar’s tool of fear against their own government. About a year ago, protests arose in Syria, demanding constitutional rights for its citizens. Since then, opposition has formalized into the Free Syrian Army. Despite massive efforts to suppress protesters and FSA, Bashar is slowly being backed into a corner.

Even more, the Assad regime is a master at constructing sectarian violence, all the while blaming the pools of blood and destroyed communities on al Qaeda.

“They will take a Christian man’s body and dump it in a Sunni neighborhood,” Nasser said. And then the reverse will occur. This creates dissent and divide among the people. Why, you may ask? In order to scatter the opposition against the government, create a fictional enemy, and keep the Syrian government in a position of power.

“This conflict is not about Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Druze or Alawite. This is about being able to breathe for the first time. There are Sunnis, Christians and Alawites all fighting side-by-side against Assad, all of them protesting,” Nasser said. “We only want freedom. If you’ve lived your whole life without freedom, the first breath of it is intoxicating.”

Brooke Lake is a junior international studies major.

 Posted by at 3:35 pm

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