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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/14/14

Syrian Students Restore Our Global Cultural Heritage

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Message Franklin P. Lamb
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A : Like most of the world, and I believe like just about everyone in Syria, certainly among my friends and fellow students, we are horrified by what is happening. Especially by groups such as ISIS and Jabhat al Nursa, in eastern Syria. This has never happened in our country and it certainly is not and never has been any part of our secular culture. But what can we do about it ? Our army is making big sacrifices to stop it so we can return to a normal life. Yes, i am afraid and so are most of our friends. We take care and we go to classes and return to our homes before dark. Our restoration work is done in the center of Damascus which so far has been mainly safe although last year 17 students were killed or wounded by a rebel martor at Damascus University School of Architecture. We usually stay home at night but here in Damascus security is better than in the villages and countryside so if it has been quiet for a few days we might go to a cafe and meet with friends. It is true that there are many kidnappings but usually those held for payment or ransom are known to be from rich families or an important political personalty. I am not part of these groups. Unfortunately, like more than half of the Syrian people who used to work, my father and uncles have no job.

Q : "How does it make you feel knowing that the US has begun arming Syrian rebels with anti-tank weapons and other heavy weaponry? Does that increase your level of fear?"

Abed, who is studying engineering at Baath University in Homs offered his view.

A : Its very scary because when will this end ? Most of my friends beleive that outsiders are keeping the war going because they beleive that they can win it. Does the USA really know or understand who they are arming and what the fighters will do after you give them training ? Do you think these jihadists love you becuase you helped them against a nationalist Arab regime which rejects the Zionist occupation of Palestine ? We worry about when will it end. Who can stop it if other countries keep feeding the killing. You know very well what has happened to us. More than one half of our families have been displaced. How can we ever rebuild our country that we love ? When will the war end ? What will be left ? Sure we are scared. My mother is sick from worrying. She cries everyday. We have no idea what became of many of our relatives across Syria. And what about DAASH ? They control Raqqa Governorate and now parts of Iraq and they plan to create a proto caliphate of some kind with part of Syria included. We have relatives in Raqqa. Will Syria become like Iraq or Somalia ? Or worse ? This is what me and all my friends worry about and we feel powerless to stop or even influence what is happening out there. Like all Syrians we are exhausted from these years of war. We are so tired and just want it all to end. Are we mistaken ? What do you think ?

Q : The media speculates a lot these days about ISIS or DAASH type groups because they appear to be the most extreme off-shoot of Al Qeada and are killing Shia Muslims and Christians more or less where they find them. How do you and your friends view DAASH ?

Zeina, whose family in Yarmouk camp lost their home and business to jihadist militia in 2012, isa Palestinien business student at Yarmouk Private University. She offered her view of militia groups that have invaded her country :

A : Ok, this is what happened. Most of these groups we never heard of but a few years ago there were a few reports about extremist jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. We just assumed they were crasy or joking. I never dreamed they could get support and operate here because Syria is and has historically been very secular, and we have always respetecd others political opinion, ethnic backgrounds and religions. We have never experienced this kind of hatred. It is true that in Syria we share festivities with all religions and traditions and we like to do so because we learn from them and we all enjoy other peoples backgrounds and culture. We are not religous fanatics in Syria and never have been. Hopefully we never will be. This is natural and normal isn't it to share our neighbors traditions ? You do it in your country i am sure. I know you do because we have family in America and also in Europe.

So we in Syria were as surprised as anyone when DAASH came here and started imposing crasy rules on us--especially on women Women are being treaed like slaves. What is wrong with these gangs ?. They are not Muslims at all in my opinon. They are perverted in my opinion. I am religous. I am Muslim. I am Sunni like they claim to be and i have studied the Holy Koran all my life. I try to follow its teachings but i have never found the kind of nonsense they claim to be true Islam.Have they ever studied the Koran ? For sure some Sheiks incite them.

Q : With all that is happening outside of Syria's Ancient Citadel located here in the Old City of Damascus how do you feel about being here and doing this work nearly every day ?

Jilan, who is studying English Literature at Damascus University quickly answered:

A : Oh my God ! Are you a psychatirist ? (laughing). I need one for sure and i sometimes wonder myself. My mother asked me this same question not long ago. Some of the many reasons you might find strange but please allow me to give you a couple.

With Allah as my witness, i feel secure somehow being deep inside these ancient walls and wish I wish my family was here with me. I worry about them all the time. I feel safe here also because many people have told me that these walls can withstand mortars, which is what we usually recieve randomly from rebels based in East Gouta and areas south of Damascus. Even artillery shells or many bombs cannot reach us. As you see it is so quiet and peaceful in here. You hear no shelling or rockets or jet planes in the sky.

Another thing i like about working on restoring antiquities is that its as though I am honoring those who came before me in our history and culture.I like to think about what there lives must have been like compared to ours. I feel that i am doing something useful during this terrible time and that i am showing confidence in my beloved country that we will somehow get through this and eventually rebuild what has been damaged. What we are doing here in our simple restoration laboratory Plus i love the friends i have made here. As we work we have plenty of time to talk and get to know one another. Finally, we sometimes, but not very often these days, meet foreigners who come to see our work and express support for what we are doing here. Thank you for visiting us. I wish American and other international students could come and join us. They would like this work i am sure.

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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