For many American citizens, the seven-year-long civil war raging in Syria seems like a distant reality floating in the background of domestic affairs.
As for myself, I find it difficult to ignore the injustices committed against the people of Syria and America’s frustratingly stale attitude toward them. If it wasn’t apparent that the needs of millions of Syrians have been pushed to the backburner, President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw American troops from the nation has made it so.
The decision to retract forces, and therefore aid, from a territory relentlessly under attack from the Assad regime comes as no surprise to those who have followed Trump’s policies throughout his presidency.
Yet this move could be catastrophic. As explained in Janine di Giovanni’s opinion piece for the New York Times, Syrians were beginning to relinquish their preconceived ideas of anti-American sentiment because of the presence and assistant provided by the U.S.
Despite constantly being met with resistance, Trump continues to stand by his desire to remove any trace of Islam in America. Trump’s only concern seems to be stroking the fire of Islamophobia and ridding our nation of any traces of the religion and its followers.
His sudden and outright idiotic decision to deny essential support to Syrian refugees, ban their entrance and slash the budget for humanitarian aid points a finger to a man indifferent to suffering.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the man underneath the “Make America Great Again” hat, but I feel obligated to point out Trump is attempting, for the third time, to instate his notorious travel ban at the feet of the Supreme Court. If passed, this travel ban combined, with American retreat from the area, will make it increasingly difficult for Syrians seeking asylum and safety to be allowed into America.
Though it may not be Trump’s decision alone that creates a discontinuation in the tentative hope Syrians have expressed toward America, paired with a long, tiresome and complicated history, it carries significant negative connotations. The situation can also be attributed to the long standing reluctance to increase American influence in the Middle East.
This sudden and unexpected decision by Trump has left many Syrians pessimistic and distrusting, as they find themselves once again abandoned by Americans and helpless to improve their situation. Giovanni quoted his Syrian friend Kassem Eid in his article as a first hand source on the issue.
“I was brokenhearted to see how they [America] let Assad massacre 2,000 people in less than two weeks,” Eid said. “There were more chemical attacks, more atrocities. More people displaced from their homes. And no one did anything.”
While Trump has clarified that he is not seeking to immediately withdraw the 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, he is quoted saying, “I want to get out [of Syria] — I want to bring our troops back home.”
The question is what will happen when the measly aid that did exist is snuffed out? Trump’s national security team has warned the president that his decision will leave Syrians struggling for survival.
Unfortunately I can’t say that I know a solution to this perpetual problem. But I do know that rather than push against refugees and make migration to America increasingly difficult for asylum seekers, we should focus on raising funds for relocation programs, rehabilitation centers and family reunification.
In the past year alone, bombings have killed thousands of innocent civilians; according to an article written by CNN, in 2018 alone 342 Syrian children were killed in the first two months of 2018. Without the help provided by the United States, Syria no longer retains any hope of ending the civil war peacefully.
American retreat will allow forces such as Iran and Russia, both of which have no interest in protecting the quality of civilian life in Syria, to be used as utensils by Assad to acquire influence over the area and further lock down his reign of the region.
War-torn Syrians now look to us for support as they are caught in the cusps of war, hoping we will step up the plate when they are in the most dire need. I too hope we’ll step up to the metaphorical plate.