San Francisco News

Locals worry over unrest in Syria

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The United States joined the growing chorus of nations calling for Syria's president to step down.

There is a lot of fear, both in Syria and the Syrian community, of President Bashar Assad and his murderous efforts to remain in power, and fear of what might replace him if he is forced out.

With the brutal crackdown on anti-government protestors dragging on for months now, the United States has finally issued an ultimatum for the Syrian president.

"The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it's time for Assad to get out of the way," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The United States joins the leaders of France, Germany, Britain and the European Union in calling for Assad to go. Washington had previously resisted, much to the frustration of pro-democracy Syrian-Americans.

"I think it was pretty clear cut that the Assad regime was not going to transition peacefully," said Dr. Rami Bailony. "I think they made that very clear early on."

Bailony, who was raised in a Muslim family, said Syrian-Americans are generally united against Assad, but at a San Francisco Armenian church, Reverend Nerses Balabanian said Christian Syrians are worried.

"What I'm hearing from my brother -- I just called him yesterday -- (is) that there are people with guns also from the people who are interfering," Balabanian said. "But also the regime is (being really brutal) in stopping all this violence that is happening."

Balabanian stresses his condemnation of the Assad regime's violence, but added the Assad protected the Christian-Syrian minority and Christians are worried that if he leaves, Syria could become an Islamic state.

"We don't know who is the opposition," Balabanian said. "Do we see any persons or any demands from the opposition? The only thing they're saying: 'You're out.'"

Bailony dismisses this worry.

"If you look at the protests, they're happening in Syria while only a few have holstered Christian support," said Bailony. "I will agree...that many of the protestors out there (say) that slogan is Kurdish, Muslim, Christians, we are one."

On Saturday, the Free Syria Association is holding a rally in support of a pro-democracy regime change in Syria. The rally is scheduled for 4 p.m. in San Francisco's Union Square.

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middle east, syria, san francisco news, mark matthews
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