Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 7th 2013 Contents A11
Saturday, September 7, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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SKYON POLYCARBONATE AWNINGS
The Syrian consul to T&T has
given full backing to Syrian pres-
ident Bashar al-Assad and decried
the possibility of US military inter-
vention under the banner of
democracy as a sham, saying the
security of Israel was the US only
concern in the conflict.
Marwan Yousef claimed the west-
ern media had given a distorted view
of the civil war in Syria and its caus-
es.He said life in large areas of Syria
away from the fighting zones con-
tinued as normal and claimed rebel
fighters in the country comprised
mostly foreign-paid Islamist mer-
cenaries from Tunisia, Lebanon, Jor-
dan, Libya, Egypt, Chechnya and
In an interview with the T&T
Guardian at the Syrian Consulate in
Arima, Yousef, who has lived here
for 30 years and last visited Syria in
November 2011, was joined by
another member of the consulate,
Ramzi Atteih, and Syrian national
Thaer Horani, who has lived in T&T
for 15 years and spent July and August
with family in Talkalakh, Syria, about
an hour s drive from Homs, the epi-
centre of fighting that has claimed
over 100,000 lives.
All three, like most of the Syrian
community based in T&T, are Chris-
tians hailing from the area west of
Homs, made up of 43 Christian vil-
lages. All have families living in the
war-torn country with whom they
are in communication, through
WhatsApp Messenger and texting
on an hourly basis. All have begged
their families to come and live in
T&T but they have refused to leave,
saying they would rather stay and
die instead of fleeing.
Of the 14 regions of Syria, Yousef
said, only three were "hot zones"
where fighting was occurring. The
"whole length of the Syrian coast,
Latakia, Tartus, Baniyas... life is nor-
mal, they don t even think about the
Asked how the current impasse
was affecting the Syrian T&T com-
munity, Yousef responded:
"We have strong family ties. We
cannot expect to be unaffected by
this human tragedy. Two weeks ago,
20 Syrians from our villages were
slaughtered by Islamic terrorists,
including an 18-year-old girl from
Amar who went to a restaurant to
celebrate a Christian festival.
"We, the Syrians of the Caribbean,
are caught up in this human tragedy,
and we long for the day peace will
return to our homeland."
On the military intervention advo-
cated by US President Barack
Obama, the whole world was against
it, Yousef said.
"You can t solve a crisis by more
deaths and more bombing. Tell me
what s the logic? Obama said he
wants to strike Assad and degrade
him, yet he doesn t want to remove
him from power, so what does that
mean? What does it achieve?"
He claimed that while the Syrian
community in T&T were not all unit-
ed on their view of the ongoing con-
flict, 90 per cent of the community
supported Assad. He based this esti-
mate on conversations with individ-
uals and at community meetings.
Within Syria, he said, Assad
retained the support of over 70 per
cent of the population.
Horani returned from Syria ten
days ago after visiting his family in
Talkalakh in the Homs region. Asked
what it was like there, Horani said,
"It was very bad, the fighting. The
army tries to help the people, but
the rebels are trying to kill the people
and the army. The rebels control
some of the areas, it s not safe.
They ve killed about 13 per cent of
the population of my town. My first
cousin was killed by a sniper."
He said the majority of the rebels
fighting in the area were not Syrians
but external fighters being smuggled
across the Turkish border.
Atteih, who has lived in T&T since
1990, said, "Those who are killing
Syrians are not from Syria. There
are some Syrians involved with the
rebels but mostly outsiders. From
day one the Syrian army was trying
to defend itself. Why are outsiders
coming to Syria to kill innocent peo-
All three made gruesome claims
about the rebels, saying they were
"cutting heads off, eating hearts,
eating livers. All kinds of nonsense.
Everybody has seen it, everybody
knows about it."
Before the war began, Yousef said,
30 T&T Syrians a year applied for
visas to visit family. This figure had
dropped to one or two a year, since
visas to travel through Europe had
become difficult to obtain and air
routes from T&T to Syria were
restricted. Horani flew to London,
then Beirut, then took a taxi across
the border. Other routes involve
flights via Cuba, Russia and Pana-
Atteih said, "Whatever the people
asked of Assad, political reform, press
freedom---he delivered. Everything
has changed completely."
Asked what he saw as the solution
to the crisis, Yousef said US strikes
would simply escalate the problem.
He said Saudi Arabia and Qatar must
stop assisting the rebel movement
financially and supplying them with
weapons and Turkey must protect
its border with Syria, where, he
claimed, foreign rebel fighters were
entering the country.
"Being a mercenary is a paid job,
like hiring a painter or driver. When
you pay him he doesn t care who he
is killing. He doesn t care if it s a
woman, child, old people," the consul
Syrian consul for T&T Marwan Yousef stands in front of a portrait of president Bashar Al-Assad and points to a
wall of notable members of the Syrian community in T&T at his office in Arima, on Wednesday.
PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
Syria crisis a human tragedy
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