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Night for Syria speaker gives look inside war-torn country

Speaker Yisser Bittar, a Syrian-American activist.

By Noor Yussuf–

The Muslim Student Association of the University of Louisville hosted an event on Friday night called “Night for Syria.” The event was aimed at bringing awareness to political and social issues in contemporary Syria. It also had a fundraising component, benefitting internally displaced Syrians in refugee camps.

The Syrian revolution began March 15, 2011, four months after the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions commenced by Tunisia, followed by Egypt and Libya. Syria’s situation has taken two years longer than those of the other countries to throw over their dictators.

The Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad came to power in the year 2000 after succeeding the throne over his father Hafez Al-Assad. Since then, Assad is holding on to the position and isn’t showing any signs of weakness.

The group had an official guest speaker, Yisser Bittar, a Syrian-American activist. Bittar, a Chicago native, graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Bittar went to Syria in Dec. 2012. Because she didn’t have the official documents to land in Syria, she and her group landed in the neighboring countries and smuggled themselves into Syria.

She risked her life, sitting in a room while war planes dropped vacuum bombs less than half a mile away from the building she was in.

“To see your home being destroyed and to see the people that you know their lives been affected and to see woman being raped and to hear children being killed … I don’t understand not doing anything,” she said.

Bittar works for the Syrian-American Council based in Washington D.C. The organization is sponsored Syrian-Americans. Bittar said its task is “empowering the grassroots in order to activate the community to do something.”

Posters display cartoons drawn by a Syrian artist.

Students sample Syrian cuisine.

Among the issues Bittar talked about were legitimizing and recognizing the Free Syrian Army, or FSA.  This is an issue the international community is divided about and they’re not sure if the FSA can be trusted with weapons. However Bittar, believes FSA deserves trust. “The people called (FSA) to be a shield for the peaceful movement” she said.

“A lot of them are civilians that have joined the movement and they are ready for the day after Assad leaves and the chaos calms they are ready to drop their weapons and rebuild their own homes.”

Bittar also brought with her political cartoons on banners made by a Syrian artist at a town called Kafranbel. Bittar described the town as the “icon of the peaceful movement of Syria.” Most of the banners were written in English.

“They purposely wrote these banners in English to appeal to the western culture,” she said.

The speaker expressed the Syrian people’s disappointment with the United States’ very slow response. One banner that hung in the room read, “Obama, how many times do you die before you make a decision? Be honest.”

At the end of her presentation, Bittar told the audience to call their representatives, express their concerns and pressure them to make the Syrian revolution a priority for Washington.

news@louisvillecardinal.com
Photos: Tricia Stern/The Louisville Cardinal

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