US airstrike in Syria inspires dissent among community members

By Olivia Welshans, Staff Writer

Although chemical weapon attacks by the Syrian government have led to backlash from the international community, some members of the Champaign-Urbana community have disagreed with the United States’ mode of retribution.

On April 13, The New York Times reported the United States, along with Britain and France, launched airstrikes against Syrian research and military targets to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack the previous weekend on the Syrian people.

Entrenched in civil war since 2011, the Syrian government’s attack left more than 42 people dead in a rebel-held suburb east of the capital Damascus, according to the Times.

For Alexandra van Doren, the conflict in Syria has been an inspiration for intervention. Van Doren is president of Three Spinners, a non-profit aiding immigrants and refugees in Champaign-Urbana, and a University doctoral candidate.

Speaking as an individual, not as president of Three Spinners, Van Doren said she found the chemical weapons attacks upon Syrians and the United States’ decision to use bombs to discourage the country’s actions equally abhorrent.

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“I think (the airstrike) is privilege and political conquest over human lives, and I am very disturbed by how these things are carried out without consulting hundreds, without consulting the American people,” van Doren said. “…not to say people in Syria who are being gassed by their own political leaders are not deserving of help or some sort of intervention, but the fact that intervention came in the form of bombs does not solve anything.”

Allia Sunbulli, sophomore in LAS, said she finds these attacks inhumane and disgusting, and she does not understand how they can continue to occur when the attacks harm not only rebels opposing Assad but also civilians.

“Those who have been killed are not just numbers,” Sunbulli said. “They are human beings who had their future ahead of them; we cannot be desensitized to this injustice.”

However, Sunbulli said she doesn’t think the airstrikes will discourage the Assad regime from using chemical weapons, because they have not responded to similar discouragements from the previous presidency.

Under Obama, Assad was warned there was a “red line” he should not cross after using chemical weapons against his people multiple times, Sunbulli said. However, the government once again used chemical weapons against its people in 2013, causing a massacre, and did not face retribution.

“Since that massacre, there has still been multiple chemical attacks. For this reason, I don’t think this airstrike will affect future attacks,” Sunbulli said.

Saloni Nagarkar, freshman in Engineering, said she did not know much about the conflict in Syria but wanted to learn more after hearing the recent airstrikes.

“I feel really bad for the people,” Nagarkar said. “Living in a country, you have pride and nationality for the place you come from. But if the leader of your country is hurting you, it makes you not want to live there anymore and fear for your own safety.”

Van Doren said to see change, people need to elect “officials that want to interfere in a meaningful and peaceful way and provide aid instead of sending bombs.”



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