x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Syrians in the UAE fear for their homeland

As the US and its allies prepares to attack the Assad regime, expatriates in the UAE have mixed views on the benefits of foreign intervention.

ABU DHABI // Syrian expatriates are watching closely - some with new hope, others with fear and dread - as the world considers its role in the fate of their war-racked nation.

For ON, a Dubai resident from Aleppo who like so many others did not want to be identified, international military intervention would be a long overdue chance to even up the odds for the Free Syrian Army.

"Assad used chemical weapons, what will he use later?" he asked. "At the start of the conflict we would hear 10 to 20 people died, then 60 to 100, now in the thousands.

"I did not want the US to intervene in my country but if it will help us defeat him, then so be it.

"The strikes will hit his weapons supply and extremists on the ground. The FSA will then have a chance to finish the job, similar to what happened in Libya."

"Dania", who lives in Abu Dhabi, feared the human cost would be heavy and that the regime would use civilians as human shields.

"Either way, Bashar Al Assad will guarantee that innocent Syrian civilians will be killed," she said. "It took more than 120,000 Syrian deaths for the West to finally find their moral compass. Assad will never find his.

"For the past two years, Russia and Iran have been supporting Assad with monetary aid and arms. It has not been a fair fight between Assad's military and the Syrian rebels.

"I am from Homs and Assad has destroyed my entire city, leaving two neighbourhoods standing. There is nothing left to destroy that Bashar Al Assad hasn't destroyed. Our homes, plantations, mosques, churches and Unesco-protected historical sites."

The outlook for "Nagham", a mother, was also bleak.

"A US strike would not differentiate between anti-Assad or pro-Assad people on the ground," she said. "It will hurt all Syrians, whether they support or are against the regime."

Nagham feared the Syrian civil war had been an excuse for a US strike on her country.

"This is a repeat of the Libyan and Iraq scenarios," she said. "Look at Iraq now. The problem will keep growing after the strike and become even bigger."

Khalid Sameer, 30, a creative director from Damascus who lives in Abu Dhabi, said: "We expect the worst from this planned attack.

"I am not happy that such a thing is being planned because the effect of such an attack will make the people's condition worse in Syria.

"I have family in Syria and some are here. My worry is not only for them because this will affect everyone. It's not a joke - this will be a disaster and it will become a much larger war, I expect."

"Elias" said he faced a quandary over foreign intervention.

"All I can really say is that I am angry at myself for not being angry about seeing my country bombed by a foreign power," he said.

"This is what Assad has done to us. He's made us beg and pray for the world to bomb our nation, if only to stop his forces from killing our family, friends and neighbours."

Razan Tayyar, who is from Latakia but lives in Dubai, said she was against the strikes "100 per cent", even though she was against the regime.

"War is not a solution, it is a death sentence on Syria," she said. "What happened in Iraq could happen in Syria, the scenario repeating itself. We all want change but it must be real change, change from inside.

"People in power see death only as numbers and infrastructure destroyed as future investment opportunities."

osalem@thenational.ae

amustafa@thenational.ae