Syrian activist refugees are starting to step up and speak out to share their experiences with their Israeli neighbors as well as with the rest of the world.
This week a Syrian refugee actually managed to come all the way into Jerusalem, where he related the same details I have heard before, from a different Syrian refugee. Neither of these two men had any reason to lie. Both were brought to my attention by other Israelis, Syrians who by a bizarre twist of fate had become intimately involved with Israel.
On Wednesday, Amin’s tale was shared with students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where it was heard by the American-born Israeli blogger of Wizard of .il.
Much that was said by Amin, who spoke under a false name for his own safety, I and others have heard from Aboud Dandachi, a Syrian activist and refugee from Homs who has since become a blogger himself. ‘The Doctor, The Eye Doctor and Me,’ a book about his experiences as a refugee.
Nothing can come close to matching the offensiveness of hearing a murderous dictator who made refugees out of millions of Syrians, be described and pitied as a ‘victim of Zionist / Wahabi / CIA Imperialist Empire Building Neo-Con conspiracies…” Aboud, like Amin, is in contact with Israelis.
Both men told the same tale – identical details – of how children in the southern town of Dera’a had spray-painted anti-regime graffiti on a wall. The children were arrested, both men said – Amin this past Wednesday in Jerusalem, and Aboud in a conversation with JewishPress.com earlier this year. Both said the children were taken into custody, and tortured – and when their parents approached the man in charge of security in the region to seek their release, they were rebuffed. “Go home to your wives, sleep with them and make new children,” the security chief told them, according to both Syrians, who have related it to the Israeli audiences with whom they have spoken. “If you don’t, my own men will go home to your wives, sleep with them and make new children.”
Amin told a packed room how demonstrators who were shot by government troops were unable to seek treatment in hospitals because they could not risk the chance of arrest, which would lead to their “disappearance” forever. Medical staff and aid workers were the first to be targeted by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Amin said, as a means of crushing resistance.
Both describe the anti-Israel propaganda that warns Syrians from early childhood that Israel wants to destroy their country and expand into their lands. Syrians are taught they must attack the Jewish State if possible, and if not, they must be prepared to defend the homeland. A Syrian cannot ever fraternize with an Israeli, the enemy: such an offense would mean a permanent state of arrest.
Both men speak of the Israel’s generosity, its willingness to help its neighbors, the caring of its army and soldiers who help Syrians to reach medical care when they are hurt.
According to Amin – who is himself a member of the medical community – approximately half of Syria’s 23 million citizens are now displaced. More than 200,000 have been killed and more are wounded. Hundreds of those have received treatment in Israel.
Eventually both men were forced to flee. Aboud realized the window of safety was closing too fast for him to procrastinate any longer. Amin woke up overnight while already abroad when he found out his underground network had suddenly been discovered.
Each has discovered that the “truths” they were told all their lives about Israel were lies.
The Syrian regime was killing their people, and the Israelis were helping to save them.
Both men are still activists trying to help their people: Aboud continues his activity as a blogger, Amin continues as a medical person. Israelis are working with Syrians quietly to help however and whenever possible.
The civil war in Syria has killed and displaced more people in four years than all of Israel’s wars combined, in more than 67 years.
Their efforts might be seen as drops of water in a massive desert, but even the tiniest flicker of candlelight can chase away the darkness.
Let’s hope that when this is all over, the new era also brings with it a new understanding that Israel is not the enemy, either.
Hana Levi Julian