Boushra Daghestani of Meadville hopes both international aid and international pressure will put an end to violence in her native Syria.
The United Nations estimates 8,000 people or more have died in violence in Syria in the past 12 months with fresh fighting Monday in the capital of Damascus. Daghestani estimates that the total number of deaths may be 12,000 or more based on her contacts within Syria through social media sites like Facebook.
“There are innocent people getting killed in Syria, but no action is being taken,” said Daghestani. “We need to expose what’s going on to Meadville.”
Daghestani left Syria to come to the U.S. in 1981 to pursue better opportunities for her family. She remains in Meadville because her children are attached to the schools in the region and she remains in contact with friends in Syria through Facebook.
“Social media has played a big role,” she said of reports of events. “I’ve shared a lot of stories and videos from the U.S. to friends. I’m their CNN.”
Syria has restrictions on journalists within that country, making it difficult for the Syrian people to get accurate accounts of what’s happening.
Daghestani and her four children — Bayan, 21, a college student at Chatham College in Pittsburgh; Esra, 16, a junior at Meadville Area Senior High School; Islam, 11, and Salam, 5 — were among more than 3,000 people attending a rally Saturday in Washington, D.C., in support of opposition forces in Syria.
Saturday’s rally in Washington and in other major cities around the U.S. marked the one-year anniversary of the start of an uprising by rebels against President Bashar Assad of Syria. Assad’s regime has referred to its opponents as terrorists and insisted the revolt is driven by a foreign conspiracy, not popular will.
The uprising began with mostly peaceful protests against the government, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings across the region. But the regime has cracked down violently, opening fire on demonstrations and rounding up thousands of protesters.
The U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed in the yearlong uprising, which has deeply polarized a country where the Assad family has ruled for more than 40 years.
Russia, a key Assad ally, said the Syrian government and rebels should halt their fighting once a day to give the Red Cross access to the wounded. The call came after Russian officials met with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had urged Moscow to take such a stand.
Russia had previously backed the ICRC’s call for a cease-fire, but Monday’s statement from the Foreign Ministry was worded more strongly than previous ones in an apparent signal that Moscow is raising the pressure on Syria.
Daghestani said that pressure must be kept on the Syrian government for humanitarian reasons.
“People are short of food and medical supplies,” Daghestani said. “There needs to be a safety corridor to get the wounded and injured out. There needs to be a ‘no-fly zone’ over the country.”
To increase that pressure, Daghestani hopes people will contact Pennsylvania’s two Senators — Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey, as well as Republican Congressman Mike Kelly, whose district includes almost all of Crawford County.
“We need to do more to support the people of Syria,” Daghestani said. “We need it to stop the killing, stop the dictator.”
Daghestani said consideration should be given to targeted military operations into Syria against the Syrian military
“But not just bombing without knowing what you’re bombing,” Daghestani said.
Nations also should supply Syria’s rebels openly, she said. “They don’t need men, they need weapons.”
However, the Associated Press said few countries are even considering arming the opposition out of fear that it would make the conflict worse. Syria has a web of regional allegiances that extend to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, raising concern that violence could spread beyond its borders if other nations directly army the rebels or send in their own troops.
There also are fears of civil war, as the conflict has fed sectarian tensions.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have so far brought no result.
A team sent by the U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is in Syria this week to discuss ways of implementing proposals to end the crisis.
During a recent visit to Damascus, Annan pushed for an immediate cease-fire to allow all parties to hold a dialogue on a political solution. The government responded in a letter to Annan that it is “keen to end violence” but insisted that rebels give up their weapons first.
You can help
You can help donate aid to Syrian refugees through the International Committee of the Red Cross website at icrc.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.