“My uncle, he was shot at in his house through his window by a sniper, it barely missed his head,” Yousef Alghothani said.
Alghothani, a third-year in biology and a Syrian-American, said in his father’s and uncle’s home town of Inkhil in the Daraa province in Syria, the village is surrounded by Syrian forces army tanks. Alghothani also said three of his male cousins were killed during a peaceful demonstration in Inkhil.
“Some of my second and third cousins were shot and killed while protesting,” Alghothani said. “There’s also some YouTube videos of my cousins after they were martyred.”
Kamal Haykal, a recent Ohio State graduate, said his close friend was kidnapped by the Syrian “secret police” during a recent visit to Syria.
Haykal’s friend left for Syria last month to take part in the Syrian revolution, and upon his arrival at the Syrian airport, Haykal said his friend was kidnapped and his whereabouts are yet to be determined.
“He decided to go back. I wished him well, I tried to convince him to stay. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do so, and he’s recently subdued in the airport by the secret police,” Haykal said.
Haykal and Alghothani said they are unable to freely communicate with their families in Syria, given that the Syrian government censors all forms of communication going in and out of the troubled country.
“They’re not very free to speak what they want because of surveillance constantly over the phone, so it’s quite difficult to get the story from them via those means,” Haykal said. “The furthest we can get with them in terms of communication is ‘Hi, how are you doing? Are you OK?’ anything beyond that is dangerous for them.”
Alam Payind, director of Middle Eastern Studies at OSU, called the ongoing struggles in Syria “difficult.” He said the monitors and observers sent to Syria by the Arab League have done a poor job of preventing Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, from killing hundreds of innocent civilians.
“Bashar al-Assad agrees with the Arab League, (saying) that he will bring reforms, but he’s not bringing reform, the next day he’s killing more people,” Payind said.
Payind said social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter played a major role in sparking the Arab Spring across the Middle East and in helping Syrians share their stories with the rest of the world.
It has now been 11 months since the start of the Syrian revolution and various media outlets have reported that the total number of deaths in Syria now exceeds 7,000.
Alghothani said he wishes he could do more for his people.
“I feel a lot of anger towards the government. There’s also a sense of helplessness because we’re all the way over here,” Alghothani said.
Haykal said he tries to raise awareness of the hardships endured by the Syrian people by making use of social network sites to reach out to the Syrian people and ask them what they really need.
“We’ve become quite intricate in our methods. We’ve created websites, we’ve created twitter campaigns, coordinated Facebook statuses. (Syrians) have become real good at creating YouTube videos on the subject,” Haykal said.
Zoubaida Benzegala, a second-year in exploration, said the Assad regime and the constant killing of innocent people needs to come to an end.
“It’s wrong regardless if Assad rightfully has ownership to his power,” Benzegala said. “You just can’t kill innocent people especially like, they’re not differentiating between women, children or anything like that.”