Luna Droubi Guest Post: A Call for Humanitarian Intervention in Syria

by Kevin Jon Heller

The following post was written by Luna Droubi.  Droubi, who is Syrian American, was Editor in Chief of the New York Law School Law Review from 2010-2011 and received her J.D. this month.

As a child, I remember sitting with my grandfather on my grandparent’s balcony in Homs, Syria on hot, sticky summer nights. We’d swat away at mosquitoes as he told me stories about his childhood and the importance of family. He would rarely sit still, and I would close my eyes and hear the shuffle of his slippers sweeping the sand on the hard balcony floor, only opening them when I heard the sound of a man I called the Baghwe-Baghwe man. This was a thin, older, graying man who would slowly push his cart of corn down the streets of Homs. From down the block, I would hear him call out “Baghwe Baghwe!” I never quite knew what that meant, but I would immediately grab a few lira and sprint down the four flights of stairs at my grandparents small apartment. Out of breath, I’d beg for “milh akteer” in my American Arabic. Lots of salt please. He always responded with a big broken smile.

As I watch the news programs showing my fellow Syrians filling the streets in defiance of their government, I am filled with an incredible pride. For the entirety of my 27 years, I never thought I would see the day that so many people would stand up against the regime. Every time I watch, though, I can’t help but also fear for my family, my 80-year-old grandparents and my baby cousins, who I worry are without adequate food and water. Though we have been able to reach them by phone, they aren’t able to speak to us candidly out of fear that our phone calls are being monitored. I can only sit and watch, like so many people around the world, as nothing is being done to help them. Syria is curiously off the global radar and, without any exports of value, I fear the world will not pay attention, that Syria’s revolution will be forgotten. For me, the protests have proved to be totally consuming. I scour the videos and pictures in vain, looking for my family members. I try to recognize the names of stores and streets. It is possible that I may never be able to sit on that balcony, or even see my grandfather, again.

Though it is comprised of a peaceful civilian people, Syria has been ruled by the iron will of dictators instilling fear for as long as I have known. A small religious minority, the Alawi, has ruled the country for years. This fear has even been transferred to Syrian Americans who might talk openly about these atrocities in their homes, but are afraid to utter words of protest in public that might put their family back home in danger.

In February 1982, the father of the Bashar al Assad, Hafez al Assad, ordered the killing of what many believe was 20,000 (and some put as high as 40,000) men in the town of Hama without any international condemnation or intervention. As a child, I was told of women who ran miles in their nightgowns to flee from the brutality. As the years dragged on, nearly every Syrian I know (including me) has had a family member or friend who has been “disappeared,” only to return years later unable to talk about the severity of their detainment and torture. These stories and more are ingrained in the minds of everyday Syrians, who are too frightened to mention anything about their political beliefs lest the Mukhabarat, the thug-like secret police force, find out. The world watches but does nothing.

Humanitarian intervention in Syria, under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine so often mentioned in the halls of the United Nations, would send a powerful message to Syrians and the Middle East. The people would feel validated, their plight recognized. Simply put: it would instill hope in a part of the world in dire need of it.

Back in 2005, I studied Arabic at Damascus University. During my interview for the program, I was asked how I felt about Syria. Like a good Syrian daughter, I talked about how wonderful the country was and how thankful I was for our great leader, Bashar al Assad. I left feeling the disgust of so many Syrians who must answer such questions on a daily basis. After two months there, I only felt hopeful on a typically hot and humid July night. A few friends from University and I went to the first Jazz Festival in the country. It was a refreshing to see the next generation of Syrians celebrating an international music festival on their own soil. There was a buzz of excited youthful energy in the air. The crowd was massive, and I recognized the faces from my day to day interactions: at University, on the streets, at the local cafes. They were the faces of the next generation of Syrians ready for something new, and there was hope that Syria was moving into a new era of change.

The slaughter of thousands of unarmed civilians, and the use of detainment and disappearance as a method of fear mongering in the last few weeks has changed all of that. Attacking unarmed civilians is a crime against humanity. Such a crime has long been recognized and litigated in international tribunals and the ICC. It’s time that the international community stands up against this brutality. It’s time for the UN to demand harsher penalties. It’s time for the Security Council to refer the issue to the ICC, thereby authorizing the ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo to issue warrants for the arrest of Bashar al Assad and his cronies. It’s time for Syrians to feel hope for the future of their country.

14 Responses

  1. Brilliantly written and very validly argued; let’s hope this call is answered sooner rather than later.

  2. Response…iam so proud of you luna for speaking out the truth,we all should not fear the tyrant crimes,justice will prevail at the end,regardless of the sacrefise 

  3. Response…I am so proud of u Luna.I had to wait a long time for my tears to stop before I could write, I hope that your words will help somehow those brave Syrians who are dying while we speake and have been for the last 9 weeks .

  4. What a thoughtful and personal account, thank you for sharing. It is a travesty that the plight of the Syrian people is going unnoticed and unreported. You are proof that the Syrian revolution is spirited, energized and vocal. Its supporters are brave and willing to fight for change, peacefully and intelligently. I hope your call is answered and will support you in any way I can.

  5. I agree with Nada that it’s brilliantly written! Having people like you, who show such courage, patriotism, knowledge, and so much love, I believe Syria will be in good hands in the future.

  6. Important, thoughtful, and timely. My parents and I are thinking about Syria today and always- it’s not even a year ago that we had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country. Thank you so much for sharing, Luna. Our thoughts are with your family and our new friends in Syria.

  7. Beautifully written!  I’m so proud of you.

  8. Response…  i agree with you Luna.   this regime cannot be reformed.

  9. When the events happened in Libya, I heard the deputy Ambassador at the UN for Libya call for Security Council intervention to avoid massacres.  So I called the US State Department and asked for the Libya desk and said I am an American Citizen and I think the deputy Ambassador’s idea was a good idea. 

    In addition to expressing oneself here, I encourage everyone to call the US State Department and ask for the Syria desk seeking intervention.  I also suggest you contact your Congresspeople and friends abroad who can contact permanent members. 

    I recognize that the “sophisticated types” will think this is unrealistic, but there is a famous slogan from Paris 1968 “Be realistic, Demand the Impossible.”

    I dream of visiting Aleppo some day – the name rings to me as I have told Syrian-American friends.

    Stay strong and keep the faith.  The whole world IS watching.


  10. Response…
    The Syrian people have reached to a conclusion, and this time it looks like they will not return home with any thing less than that: freedom. They are only asking for the world’s recognition of their peaceful movement, and they are united in that, in the face of a brutality they are facing every day.
    Thank you Roula for bringing this cause to surface, and Congratulations to Basem and Maha for doing such a good job in keeping you so close to your roots.

  11. Response…Congratulation Luna for the this valid very important article.,,Syrian people want freedom in peaceful movement. But the regime choose to kill his owen people. So as we are in freedom country, and we have the right to talk and open our mouths.Is our deputy to call the US Department and ask for Syria desk Intervention to stop massacres in Syria.
    Keep the good work. The whole world is watching.
    Best wishes.

  12. I hear and sympathize with your words, Ms. Droubi. Unfortunately, I just don’t know if such an intervention is possible. At the very least, such an undertaking would require the support of both the Arab League and the United Nations. It’s also an open question if the forces for such an operation would be available, what with the United States and NATO still currently engaged in Libya. I’m sorry, but I just don’t know if and how it could be done.

  13. Luna, your post reminds me of Azir Nafisi’s book “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. It made me want to be there, just like so many places in the Middle East at the moment I honor, and can not wait to visit.
    I wish I could feel, breath and be what is there…
    I hope the world will do the right thing sooner rather than later…
    Thanks Luna

  14. Response… Great job, Luna. The portrayal of the Syrian people’s pride and determination during a time of lackluster efforts by the world to provide aid was truly inspiring.

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