It was a cold weekend day, if you can remember those, and rain threatened central Arkansas. But the clouds parted just long enough, just barely long enough, to get the rally in. And a couple dozen or so good folks from here and there gathered on the Capitol steps, holding signs in support of the people of Syria.
Mouaz Moustafa was there. So was Natalie Larrison. Both have made the news of late. For some reason--call it compassion, call it humanity--they keep bearing witness to the crimes in Syria. And the media, state and national, has begun listening to them.
Mr. Moustafa was photographed taking French Hill through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington a little while back. It was a fitting place to lobby central Arkansas' congressman on the need to help the Syrians, even as their government keeps slaughtering them. (Rep. Hill has voted to impose tougher sanctions on Syria before. But any time you can get the ear of a congressman, especially an effective one, it can advance your cause.)
The Holocaust Museum is working with Syrian Emergency Task Force--an outfit with offices in Washington and Little Rock--because the people there know what genocide looks like. And have vowed to bear witness, too. They refuse the poet's advice to ignore the millions of mouthless dead. As do Mouaz Moustafa and Natalie Larrison and all the others gathered on that cold weekend day.
And when the Arkansas-based Syrian Emergency Task Force is not sending supplies, money and letters of hope to the Syrian border, they're back in Arkansas, raising money to do it all again.
This week, the Atlantic published a story about Syria that painted the Bashar al-Assad regime, emphasis on bash, as desperate--for soldiers. Every man between 18 and middle age is supposed to serve in the military, but increasingly men are fleeing the country instead. And when they can't, they hide behind closed doors, hoping during the next set of raids that the storm troopers looking for enemies of the state will miss them. It would all sound familiar to those working at the Holocaust Museum.
A few years ago, as desertions grew, the Russians and Iranians went to the aid of the regime. Now, as the Atlantic reports, Mr. Assad wants to buck up his defense forces and show the world he can stand on his own. But he cannot. Because too many of his people don't want to fight for him, which means killing their own countrymen.
But there is a more long-term problem for that country: Its system of education is crumbling. Some universities have a student body of about 10 percent of pre-war numbers. After all, would you want to go to a university in the middle of a war zone? College-aged kids--at least those who can bribe their way out of the military or jail--are applying for seats at colleges in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon. One report said that upward of 70 percent of professors in Syria are gone, to other countries or just underground. Underground, figuratively and literally.
And the kids in elementary and high school aren't doing any better. You can imagine a junior or senior in Syria, dodging artillery to get to school, and wondering the whole time: What's in it for me? I'm taking world history, algebra II, biology, Lit and French, but what am I in line for? There's no next level.
Which brings us back to our friends from Arkansas. The Syrian Emergency Task Force supplies money--and hope--to something called the Wisdom House school in Syria. It also funds something called Tomorrow's Dawn women's center. Earlier this month, the group passed some dolls over the border for little girls in dire need of a present.
This proves once again that everything has an Arkansas connection--even an unfolding humanitarian disaster a world away. Thank heavens for those running the task force, and all those Arkansas residents who've been donating to the cause. Bless you.
We're reminded this morning of something a Preacher said about 2,000 years ago. It seems His opinion on these matters has not gone out of style: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Editorial on 05/16/2018
Print Headline: The Witnesses