Human rights in Syria strike at home

Posted: 11/15/2021 09:07:42 AM It was 11:15 a.m. September 30. I was one of the six heads on the Zoom screen. Michael Kane, Micky...

Posted: 11/15/2021 09:07:42 AM

It was 11:15 a.m. September 30. I was one of the six heads on the Zoom screen. Michael Kane, Micky McKinley, Debbie Shriver and I watched in silence. The four of us formed the Syrian Valley Relief Committee.

Sharing the screen were two members of Congressman Jim McGovern’s staff. We had asked the meeting to give the congressman an update on the war in Syria, now in his 11th year, and ask him to speak up in Congress to save Syrian lives.

What we didn’t know was that McGovern had spent the morning trying to pass an interim bill on the last day of the fiscal year to prevent a government shutdown. Not a great day for our reunion, I thought, imagining a preoccupied McGovern politely listening to our presentation, while his mind was elsewhere. Apologizing for his late arrival, he left his morning seizure at the door and, for the next hour, listened intently, asked questions and showed us that the purpose of our visit really mattered.

In 2011, the Syrians, inspired by our democratic form of government, demonstrated against the authoritarian regime of the brutal dictator of Syria, Bashar Al Assad. They have since paid for it with their lives and livelihoods, along with a whole generation of traumatized children who have lost loved ones, taken refuge from the barrel bombs and tried to keep hope in a place that many consider to be. a hell. on earth. Yet, with our own country’s democracy in peril, sparking interest in the longstanding wars halfway around the world can be a challenge.

This was not the case in our own community, where several hundred McGovern voters have faithfully demonstrated their commitment and concern for the well-being of Syrians since 2014. In September 2015, they filled the Shrine of the First Churches for our first big event, “Songs for Syria” to raise funds for the Syrian American Medical Society. We reminded McGovern of the hundreds of people who accepted our invitations to educate members of interfaith organizations in his district, who broke bread with us, shared soup, and purchased copies of the “Soup for Syria” cookbook. », Produced by local publisher Michel Moushabeck.

Residents of Franklin and Hampshire counties shipped a container full of everything from diapers and winter clothes, to shoes and boots, to allow refugees and displaced people living in tents to survive the long haul. Syrian winter. The actions led to more action: Groups came together to write personal letters of hope to assure Syrian children and their families that they are not alone.

Rebecca Leopold’s students at Amherst Regional High School formed the Refugees in Distress Club, developing a program to educate young students about the situation in Syria. With the help of our partners from the Washington, DC-based Syrian Emergency Task Force, Mazen Al-Hamuda, spent a day at ARHS and openly shared his traumatic story of the physical and emotional scars of brutal torture. that he endured in a Syrian prison.

The above stories only scratch the surface of the many actions taken by residents of Congress District 2 on behalf of the Syrian people. Their efforts have enabled the Valley Syrian Relief Committee to raise more than $ 200,000 for humanitarian aid and bring in internationally renowned experts to educate and engage people in efforts to ensure that the Syrian people are not. not forgotten.

Pivoting towards Zoom in 2020, our supporters generously donated funds to purchase two school buses that will serve as an evacuation vehicle when the bombs start to fall, an ambulance to get medical help for injured children and of course. , to transport young children to their loved one. School of the House of Wisdom.

There was also sorrow. The news of Mazen Al Hamouda’s disappearance in Syria broke all of our hearts, especially those of the students who fell in love with the gangly man with dark shadows under their eyes. Mazen’s legacy will live on with some of these students, who went to college to major in human rights and international relations. They will be the future peacemakers, replacing dictatorships with civil societies in Syria and beyond.

McGovern has been an ally for the Syrian people. He organized programs for his congressional colleagues and others through the Lantos Human Rights Commission, to feature Syrian heroes such as Caesar, who smuggled thousands of photographs of brutalized bodies of imprisoned Syrians, to expose the war crimes of the Assad regime to the world. We were moved by the heartfelt sentiments expressed at the end of our meeting, when McGovern reminded his congressional colleagues that they need to recommit to ending the carnage.

Our own country is on the brink with democracy hanging by a thread. Recently, I realized that what happened in Syria could one day envelop our own country. Fascism rears its ugly head on every continent. Aligning ourselves to support those who suffer can grow an international human rights movement. It starts in communities like those in western Massachusetts, with those who actively advocate for the humanity of our brothers and sisters, no matter where they live.

For more information, contact:

Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is Emeritus Professor of Social Work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at

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Newsrust - US Top News: Human rights in Syria strike at home
Human rights in Syria strike at home
Newsrust - US Top News
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