Western students stood together in a circle of solidarity—among them, arranged candles waiting to be lit read “save Syria, Ghouta”—to honour the children and civilians suffering in Eastern Ghouta
Eastern Ghouta: What is happening and why?
Eastern Ghouta was once a place where civilians could live without the fear of being targeted, as Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed it was a de-escalation zone that Syrian and Russian fighter jets were to not fly over. That was the agreement up until February 19 when Syrian forces, backed by Russian warplanes, attacked Eastern Ghouta with relentless bombings that killed hundreds of people within days.
The bombings have destroyed six hospitals and medical centres across the city, leaving more than 500 people dead, but the numbers are going up every day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. No one has been spared the violence including women and children, especially considering half of the 400,000 civilians there are children.
Eastern Ghouta was hit because it is about 10 kilometres east of central Damascus, the capital of Syria, and it is important the Syria government reclaim the area from the rebels. This March marks the civil war’s eighth year, far more than 465,000 Syrians have been killed and over 12 million have fled the country.
Western student, Waseem Kazzah, is from Damascus, Syria. He immigrated to Canada in 2014 with his immediate family, most of his extended family still lives in Syria, but others now live all across the world in order to escape the life-threatening conditions and lack of basic needs.
“When I was growing up in Syria, I never thought this could happen to us and it happened. I had a normal life. I had a car; my dad had a business. We were an upper-class family that had everything. Suddenly, we lost everything. It’s like a dream, actually a dream, to this moment I still feel there’s no way it could be true.”
What can we do?
1. Get to know local refugees
Kazzah wants students to know that you do not need to be Syrian to feel for what is happening—and more importantly—to do something about it.
“It’s as simple as getting to know the Syrian refugees living in London. There are 1200 Syrians that have come here within the last four years, so you could help those people by getting to know them and making them feel like they are home. It isn’t easy to live in a country for 35-40 years to then have to leave. Just listen to them to hear the suffering and to help their mental well-being because of what they have faced in Syria.”
2. Push officials for calls to action
Kazzah believes there is a lot more that government officials can d, but they need to be pushed; for example, as a student he sees the value in granting refugees with more opportunities for education.
“Western and Fanshawe should offer more scholarships to Syrian refugees—actually, not just Syrians but all refugees living in London—so they can go to school. They offer some, but I feel it is not enough. Syrian youth are all over the place. This is the easiest way to recruit people from Syria, where there is again no food, no anything. Offering them education is offering them a better life. I think this is a reactive way to help them.”
3. Knowledge is power
Syria has a complicated history that needs to be studied. Kazzah believes students need to work harder to raise awareness because people do not know enough about country’s conflict.
“They only know about ISIS. They think Syrians are barbarians killing each other, they don’t know that the root issue is that people protested to have more rights in Syria then the government replied harshly with them. Then tourists come from different countries and want to control different parts of Syrian, and it’s now like proxy war with Russia and the US, as it conflicts all their interests.”