News / Middle East

Syrian Refugees Lukewarm About Promise of US Arms

A Syrian refugee carries her sister through a camp set up near the village of Ketermaya in Lebanon in March.
A Syrian refugee carries her sister through a camp set up near the village of Ketermaya in Lebanon in March.
Syrian refugees camped out in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley are expressing mixed reactions to Washington’s decision to send weapons to the rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Some say the U.S. help is welcome, while others say it's too little and too late.
 
Many refugees remain angry with Washington and its European allies for not supplying weapons earlier during the 27 months the rebels have been battling to oust President Assad.
 
Syrian Refugees by Country

Lebanon: 545,795
Jordan: 478,007
Turkey: 386,927
Iraq: 158,663
Egypt: 81,487

Source: UNHCR
Some refugees and rebels have even developed complicated conspiracy theories to explain why the West has held back in Syria, contrasting that stance to NATO'S relatively early military support for the rebellion in Libya that toppled Col. Moammar Gaddafi.
 
The notion that the Libyan rebels established a coherent leadership early on in their struggle while the Syrians have not is dismissed as a reason for the West’s reluctance to intervene. Others say the delay in assistance guaranteed the rise of jihadists to a central role in the rebellion.
 
“They ignored us because of Israel – America and Israel want Syria weak,” said Hussein, a storeowner from Homs. “This is why they have allowed the war to go on for so long. The West betrayed us. Before we wanted the West to help but now they should just leave us alone.”
 
“Too little, too late”
 
Hany Almoleia, a 19-year-old opposition activists from Homs who staying in a refugee camp with 70 Syrian families near the town of Ainjar, says the U.S. policy change announced Friday is “too little, too late.”
 
“I am not sure I will believe it until it happens,” Almoleia said. “For now it is a promise, we take it as a promise, let’s see what happens. I am proud of our rebellion and proud we fought alone so far.”
 
But Mahmoud, a refugee from Damascus, says Washington’s new stance could signal a shift in the prospects for the rebel cause.
 
“I think it is good,” he said. “Maybe this is the beginning of the end. Anyway it is a start.”
 
There is, though, much debate about whether the rebels will get the U.S. and European weapons in time to counter an expected government offensive against rebel-held districts in the northern city of Aleppo.
 
There has been a sharp increase in the pace of fighting around Aleppo in recent days. Over the weekend, a British-based group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said government forces had been attacking Aleppo’s northern suburbs of Achrafiyeh and Bani Zeid using tanks and heavy mortars.
 
Anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons wanted
 
For Syrians in Bekaa Valley, there are also questions about whether U.S.-supplied arms will include the more sophisticated weaponry rebels have been demanding for months – shoulder-launched missiles capable of downing Syrian Air Force planes or rockets that can take out Army tanks.
 
“Light weapons and ammunition will help us, but we need much heavier arms to win this war,” said Mahmoud. “I hope this isn’t just a lifeline that allows the rebellion to survive, but doesn’t give us enough to win.”
 
But Mazen, a 25-year-old father of one from the war-battered Damascus suburb of Jobar, had a very different response to the U.S. change of course.
 
Before the war, Mazen was convinced that the Assad regime had to go. Now he wasn’t so sure. He had heard on the news about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s comment that supplying the rebels with weapons might help get talks started in Geneva to work out a negotiated settlement to the Syria war.
 
“I want a settlement,” Mazen said. “I look at Iraq and Libya and see all the trouble they had after. If one side or another wins this war, the winning side will reap revenge; there will be a lot more killing.”
Syrian war refugees are also causing stress in Lebanon. The refugee camp shown here on January 7, 2013, is near the eastern town of Marj.Syrian war refugees are also causing stress in Lebanon. The refugee camp shown here on January 7, 2013, is near the eastern town of Marj.
x
Syrian war refugees are also causing stress in Lebanon. The refugee camp shown here on January 7, 2013, is near the eastern town of Marj.
Syrian war refugees are also causing stress in Lebanon. The refugee camp shown here on January 7, 2013, is near the eastern town of Marj.

Mazen said he was also worried that the secular rule under the Assad regime might be replaced by a hardline Islamist government if the al-Qaida linked opposition rebel group al-Nusra has its way.
 
“I don’t want Nusra,” Mazen said. “If these weapons help to secure a deal, I will be relieved.” It’s a sentiment shared by many refugees in Lebanon. Tired of living in tents or crowded rooms with other families, anxious about getting their families something to eat or what might have happened to their homes back in Syria, they just want the conflict to end.
 
“We sit and wait, just wait,” said Noha Tawashi, the mother of two small girls. Her husband was killed in an airstrike last fall, shortly before her older sister Roula, a mother of five, was killed by shrapnel while sitting in her kitchen in the Damascus suburb of Al-Qaboun.
 
Noha’s says her four-year-old daughter borrows her phone every night and dials 1111 to talk with her father in paradise and to ask him if he’s well and eating enough.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
June 25, 2013 11:49 AM
The Brits were ready for Syria. Google "Roland Dumas Syria"! Surprising, this was give little news coverage!!!


by: Anonymous
June 17, 2013 5:33 PM
The west could end this whole war in 24-48hrs. They should do so. As a westerner I am disgusted our governments have not already intervened long ago. This would of put us in the good books with the Syrians as well, even though the reasoning would of been on humanitarian grounds. It's a little too late but better late than never... The Russians were the only reason we didn't go in already as they wish to promote the terrorist Bashar al Assad, something that is going to haunt Putin in the future. Once Assad is entirely disabled Putin is going to look like an idiot for backing him in the first place.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid