More than 250 people turned out in La Mirada, Calif., Sunday for the second town hall meeting hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the Syrian American Council (SAC-LA) to discuss the role Americans can play in ending the ongoing repression and human rights abuses in Syria. (Click here for photos)
Speakers included a specialist on Syria from Amnesty International, psychology and sociology experts, and SAC’s national chairman. The event was endorsed by the Los Angeles chapters of the Syrian Emergency Task Force and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Mahsa Maleki, Syria country specialist for Amnesty International, presented her organization’s work documenting the atrocities being committed by the Syrian regime, which include brutal torture, targeting of children and women, and shooting at peaceful protesters and at people taking cover. Amnesty International is calling for Bashar Assad and his regime to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Psychology professor Dr. Mais Jasser spoke about the psychological trauma suffered by people, especially children, living in the current conditions in Syria, including exposure to torture. Answering a question from the audience, he emphasized the need to address post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by admitting it exists and providing human and financial resources to help alleviate this type of suffering.
Dr. Louay Safi, SAC's national chairman, presented an overview of what has been happening in Syria, describing how the regime’s policy of killing unarmed protesters has caused it to lose all international legitimacy and face economic and regional isolations. He said it is no longer a question of if, but when the Syrian dictatorship will collapse. Dr. Safi highlighted the increasing organization of Syrian Americans, who are seeking support from their elected officials to expose the crimes of Assad’s regime and further its isolation.
Dr. Mazen Hashem, a sociology professor, described how revolutionary movements are sparked and carried out by the people. He encouraged Syrian Americans to maintain their interest and concern after the fall of the regime to continue the work of rebuilding Syria post-Assad.
Hussam Ayloush moderated the meeting and presented an overview of the mission of the Syrian American Council and its role in mobilizing and organizing Syrian Americans to promote civil society and human rights in Syria.
Ammar Kahf, a representative of the Syrian Emergency Task Force in LA, described the work done by Syrian American activists and organizations including sponsoring a half-page ad in the Washington Post and local Arabic newspapers to educate the public on the human rights crisis in Syria. In another public awareness campaign, the local SAC chapter printed two fliers that are distributed at community centers, shops and at protests educating the public on the situation in Syria.
Protests have been held weekly in southern California, and speakers urged the audience to participate and spread the word. In addition, there have been email and Facebook campaigns to out reach to the media and contact the ambassadors of Russia and China at the UN Security Council.
In the final presentation, activist Malath Aumran with the Local Coordination Committee of Syria, joined the meeting by Skype to give updates on coordination efforts between different cities and provinces. He also highlighted the need for Syrians outside the country to put further pressure on the international community and provide expertise on how to better move Syria to be a safe, free and prosperous country.
The audience participated with poems, questions, and suggestions to the panel and chanted "The people demand the fall of the regime," and "Syria is for Syrians, not for the Assad family."
The meeting was seen as another successful accomplishment in a series of programs aiming at mobilizing and organizing Syrian Americans to promote human rights and democracy among themselves as well as back in Syria. The organizers will continue to update the attendees with action items that everyone can take join to mobilize further action.
The Syrian American Council (SAC) is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) grassroots educational organization devoted to the empowerment of Syrian Americans to promote educational, civic, economic, and human development, as well as supporting civil liberties and human dignity in Syria.