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Syrian Americans On Both Sides Protest In L.A.

Shako Liu |
June 10, 2012 | 12:27 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Assad supporters told the media to stop lying about the regime's handling of the violence. (Shako Liu/Neon Tommy)
Assad supporters told the media to stop lying about the regime's handling of the violence. (Shako Liu/Neon Tommy)
What to do with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—the big question led to a big protest of about 300 Syrian Americans on Saturday at the Los Angeles Federal Building.

But the demonstrators were split. Supporters of Assad and protestors against his regime chanted, sang and danced, and accused the other side of lying. Both sides got into arguments, throwing derogatory terms at the opposition. Police were on hand to occassionally calm tensions.

Many supporters of the Assad regime played patriotic music to dance with during the protest. They said they didn’t want American intervention in the conflict, a move they said would likely be in the interest of profit.

Johnny Achi, 45, is a supporter of Assad and just came back from Syria. Achi said dialogue was the way to peace, and blamed terrorists armed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the massacre.

“Today in Syria, we have 50 Bin Ladens,” Achi said. “The suicide bombers are killing the policemen and minorities. We are all threatened.”

Achi said he thought his president had done well in trying to reach out to the opposition. “We are more democratic than other countries in the region." 

But the other side doesn’t agree. Anti-Assad protestors said the president was responsible for the mass killings. Demonstrator Sue Jalabi said asking after her mother-in-law’s well-being in Syria would jeopardize her safety. Everything is monitored there, she said, including the Internet and phone calls. Neighbors disappear for no reason.

“I couldn’t hint to her, 'Mom, things are gonna get ugly,'” Jalabi said. “That’ll get her killed. We are begging the U.S.A. to get involved.”

Louai Jalabi grew up in Syria. He said he came to the U.S. because of the oppression of the Assad’s regime, which was “worse than communism.” Jalabi said the reform Assad's regime claims to be enacting is a mirage—something you see but doesn’t exist. He said the president played the reform game every now and then, but it didn’t take them anywhere. One example he gave: Assad said people could challenge him in the presidential election, but in fact, he manipulated the election to claim victory for himself.

The ongoing internal conflict in Syria is part of the wider Arab Spring, a wave of upheaval throughout the Arab world. Protesters demanded the resignation of Assad and an end of his regime. The United Nations said the 13-month uprising claimed more than 10,000 lives, a death toll the Syrian government has blamed on “armed gangs."

Fadi Carch, also from Syria, seemed to agree with that accusation. He said if it were the president to blame, the death toll would be way higher.

“The president Bashar is giving them a chance to come back and do good and live in peace in Syria like we used to,” Carch said.

From the other side of Saturday's protest, Hussam Ayloush said it was the president to blame, and the number of those killed was high enough.

“Dictators rule by corruption," he said, "by fear, by killing."

Reach Staff Reporter Shako Liu here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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