Staff and students speak out on Syria

As the conflict in Syria drags on staff and students express their concerns.


Courtesy of Freedom House [Creative Commons]

Katie Nelson, Writer

As civil conflict reaches a fever pitch in Syria, President Obama has asked Congress to delay a decision on whether to initiate air strikes in retaliation to alleged chemical warfare, according to a presidential address given Tuesday. Fraught with controversy, the impending decision is causing many to debate what action should be taken.


Judith Rood, a Biola professor of history and Middle Eastern studies, believes the option of striking Syria is too little, too late.

“The only reason that Bashar al-Assad would have the nerve to do what he did and for things to have gone this far is because we have been standing by, letting this war unravel over the past two and a half years,” Rood said. “The Russians now have a presence in Syria, in Lebanon … Iran is present there. It’s very late in the game. We are in true trouble.”

One of the most complicated aspects of the Syrian conflict is the lack of true opposing sides, according to Tania Abouezzeddine, associate professor of psychology. Abouezzeddine grew up in the United Arab Emirates and is ethnically Lebanese. She explained that the incorporation of al-Qaeda and Hezbollah into the conflict has led to even more confusing divisions.

“What people are really afraid of in the Arab world is if Assad gets taken down, what’s going to replace him is going to be something horrible, which is a very fundamental Islamic regime,” Abouezzeddine explained. “There are many moderate Muslims in that area of the world, and they don’t want this Islamic regime. What they’re afraid of is that their rights are going to be taken away.”

Abouezzeddine is a Christian, but the rest of her family is Druze, an amalgamate of different religious faiths, including Islam and Christianity. Druze is one of the minority groups in Lebanon, whose own country has been affected by spillover conflict from Syria due to permeable boundaries.

“The perspective of the Arabs of that region is they don’t like Assad, and they’ve never really liked the regime, and they’ve always wanted the regime to change, and that includes many Lebanese, because there’s a lot of negative outcomes that happens in our country as a result of Syrian policy against us,” she said.


Rachel Emenaker, a junior fine arts major, has extended family currently living in the small Armenian-Syrian village of Kesab, near the border between Syria and Turkey. She said her family supports the Assad regime, but the strife has taken an immense toll on their work and home lives.

“My family has businesses. They have an olive business. And there’s no exports or imports [due to the conflict],” Emenaker said. “My cousin is over here right now and he can’t go back to visit his family.”

As the conflict drags on and Obama speaks of a possible diplomacy with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Rood said she believes the best choice is to remove the Syrian dictator from power, rather than cast down punishment using air strikes.

“I think the first thing is for the entire international community to insist that Bashar al-Assad step down. I think that’s the easiest and most symbolic of all things,” she said.


Rood expressed her disappointment in Biola students’ and faculty’s apparent lack of concern about the carnage in Syria.

“Generally speaking, most people [at Biola] aren’t really that interested in international affairs and politics because they think of it as very worldly, they feel powerless and they feel, on some level, some sort of disgust about it all,” she said. “But I don’t think that is the appropriate response: That is the selfish response.” 

Regardless of what the president and Congress decide to do, Rood believes that Biola has a responsibility to, at the very least, pray for Syria.

“No man is an island in this dispensation,” she said. “We’re all connected together. We need to stand up for the weak and the powerless.”

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