Article and Photographs By Erin Valentine
“‘There is no humanity left in Syria,” said Haya Ajjan, as she quoted an article from Al Jazeera.
Elon University hosted a panel today in the McBride Gathering Space in the Numen Lumen Pavilion. The panel, consisting of five professors from Elon and UNC-Chapel Hill, discussed their views of the ongoing crisis in Syria and speculated on possible outcomes.
The panelists included: Brian Digre, a history and international studies professor at Elon, Haya Ajjan, a business-management professor at Elon, Sarah Salwen, a political science and policy studies professor at Elon, Stephen Gent, a political science professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Bojan Savic, a political science professor at Elon.
With the McBride Gathering Space filled all the way back into the Sacred Space, students sat to hear the panelists talk about Syria.
Recent developments in Syria’s crisis have included the use of chemical warfare by the Assad regime on his own people. Since August 21, over 1500 people have been killed by chemical warfare in Syria.
However, over 100,000 people have officially died, and almost double that unofficially, from the use of conventional weapons in the past two and a half years by the Assad regime in Syria.
Ajjan, a Syrian American with family in Syria, spoke about how her family feels they have been ignored by the world.
“For two and a half years, the world was just watching,” said Ajjan. “My family, when I talk to them, say, ‘The world does not care about us. It’s like we belong to a different race. We’re not human. They don’t care.”
Ajjan’s family is displaced. She has friends that have been imprisoned and tortured by the government.
Ajjan recalled her early years of growing up in Syria. She remembers the bodies in the streets and the constant fear of the government. When the Arab Spring happened, she said that she remembered watching and could only think that that would never happen in Syria.
“How could you break the fear of death?” said Ajjan.
Each panelist covered a different aspect of the Syrian crisis. Digre discussed the history of Syria, and how it came to its current state. Ajjan shared her personal connections to and knowledge of her homeland. Salwen talked about the different arguments for and against an intervention in Syria. Gent discussed the issues of commitment and trust between nations. Savic gave the European perspective on the idea of intervention, and also talked about the involvement, or lack thereof, of NATO.
A repeated issue of the panel was the fact that Syria has had issues for years, yet now that the U.S. is deciding to interfere, people are paying attention. Both Ajjan and members of the audience commented about this issue.
As Ajjan said her beginning statement at the panel, her eyes began to have pools of tears.
“When I say 100,000, I want you to think that each of those numbers, there is a person behind that,” said Ajjan. “There is a person that had a life, had family, had a job, had a dream. And this person no longer exists because of a brutal dictator that is killing and slaughtering these people. I want you to think of the Holocaust. Because what’s happening now in Syria is what happened in the Holocaust. This is happening in your time and you have the power to change this.”