A cri de coeur from a student at Damascus University"
"Mr. Obama, Tear Down These sanctions!"
This observer has learned from time in this region that if one wants to learn what is happening on the ground politically and socially it is fine to speak with government officials, journalists, long tenured academicians, NGO's, and people on the street. But I have learned that one of the best sources of objective information comes from university students. As explained to one official the other day, if ones sit with half a dozen graduate students one is sure to witness and benefit from a spirited, challenging exchange with varying points of view and few expressed without having to justify to the others one's positions or interpretation of events.
It is for this reason that when this observer gets the chance he heads for a college in Damascus.
Today in Syria, from the streets and cafes to the Universities, a main subject of discussion and one that is nearly universally judged immoral and illegal are the US-led sanctions that in effect, are targeting the civilian population.
Partly as result of these brutal sanctions, today four million people in this country need of some type of humanitarian aid and as of today, there are 637,958 registered refugees inside Syria who are in need of emergency help, a 57,000 person increase from last year at this time.
The fighting here has obviously contributed to the continuing crisis faced by the civilian population. For example, the increasingly dangerous situation means that the World Food Program has evacuated its staff from Homs, Aleppo, Tartus Qamisly and other areas. The reason is that the past three months saw a sharp rise in the number of attacks on WFP aid trucks, which have also been hit by fuel shortages. Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency has just reported that the number of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria has leapt by nearly 100,000 in the past month. Both the Syrian Arab Republic Red Crescent Society and other NGO's-foreign and domestic- are stretched beyond their limits and are struggling with approximately 10,000 more people in the areas they are able to assist every month being added to those in desperate need of help.
Virtually all the NGO's here attest to the fact that if the US-led sanctions are lifted or even suspended until the spring, it would be a humanitarian gesture consistent with American claimed values. To continue to allow the dying and suffering under the weight of these sanctions suggests that we in America have learned nothing from the results of similar sanctions imposed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The deeply inhumane US-led sanctions prevent businesses from re opening, investments from being made, financial transactions, re-supply, and other necessary economic activities which means the basic necessities such as mazot fuel to heat homes, is very hard to come by as well as bread in many areas. These shortages are the direct and foreseeable results of the sanctions and rebel sabotage, as to a lesser extent of Lebanese, Turkish and other smugglers buying up the supplies and spiriting them across the borders to cash in on black market price gauging.
As a result of the sanctions, food prices have soared beyond the means of much of the Syrian civilian population. Too many of the young, old, infirm, and impoverished are dying monthly, according to Nizar, an English literature major, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of these sanctions.
The single rational foreigners visiting Damascus hear from Washington, and what the Obama administration is telling EU countries that are becoming concerned, is that the sanctions are vital to achieve regime change in Syria and when the government falls--to be replaced but who knows what or who-- the US will then lift the sanctions and remove its boot from the throats of Syria's students and civilian population.
Nizar takes another view. "If terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians for political goals, then your government, the world's claimed expert on terrorism is very guilty of massive terrorism and doesn't need to lecture anyone on this subject because this is exactly what they are doing with their sanctions in my country."
The fervent wishes of the US-Israel and certain other governments to the contrary, regime change is not likely to happen anytime soon in Syria according to most of the students this observer meet with, and it's the next four months that are critical they insist-starting today.
Syrian students follow local and regional events closely and a common view is that from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan and even some on capitol hill in Washington, are coming multiple signals that all are in consultation via their intelligence services with Syria's government in order to reach a solution because they finally concede that, despite funding and aiding the rebel panoply with guns, money and training, these countries, including Egypt, that the regime will survive and that the al Nusra type salafists would not be satiated by the fall of Syria but would quickly turn on Doha, Riyad, Amman, the UAE and other countries in the region.