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America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection

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Forty-six volunteers went on a medical mission to Jordan to help the disadvantaged Syrian refugees and to restore their faith in humanity. The mission drew together an amazing group of people who validate the existence of those who are suffering — through medical care, psychosocial support, food, clothing and most importantly, human empathy.

Many of us spent days in the Syrian American Medical Society clinic in Zatari camp, the second-largest refugee camp in the world. There were always many beautiful and playful children outside our clinic. These children have suffered and witnessed a tremendous amount in their short lives. Their happy childhoods have been stolen from them and replaced with a bleak present and future. Many of them came with a single parent and some were even born in Zatari.

In 2011, a group of Syrians started a nonviolent, democratic uprising against the injustice and lack of political liberty imposed upon them by the Assad regime. They were met with brutal, violent force. Unfortunately, some started carrying weapons to defend themselves. Many neighboring countries with blessing from major world powers added fuel to fire by allowing foreign fighters to enter Syria unchecked. ISIL was, therefore, formed. It is crucial to know that, to the majority of Syrians, both the Assad regime and ISIL are the enemy. Many see them as two sides of the same token.

Since then, more than 10 million Syrians are internally or externally displaced, and more than 50 percent of them are children. They are fleeing the violence inflicted upon them by the regime and ISIL. Since the beginning of the uprising more than 250,000 people were killed, mostly by the Syrian regime. Every day, civilians are victims of both indiscriminate and targeted aerial attacks. In addition, hundreds of thousands of civilians live in areas that have been besieged by the Syrian government since 2012.

Syrian people did not choose to be refugees. They are not trying to take away anyone’s job nor live on welfare. They are not coming to steal our freedom. They are pursuing freedom and safety themselves. They do not seek to impose Islam or sharia law on anyone. They are simply looking for a pursuit of happiness, and an opportunity to earn a living and have their kids go to decent schools without discrimination, away from bombs, arrests and siege. If you ask many of them, they would rather the world help them end the war so that they can go back to their towns and homes.

These people have suffered enough for almost five years in the worst humanitarian disaster since WWII. American people who were generous enough to accept about 760,000 Vietnamese refugees, and many Bosnian refugees are surely able to extend a welcoming hand to less than 0.01 percent of the displaced Syrians.

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Majd Isreb M.D., Vancouver, Washington, is an immigrant from Syria and a nephrologist.

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