Syria Crisis: The Untold Story

Caitlin Meehan, Reporter

It seems like every day the news features another report about ISIS fighting in Syria, but an area doctor said it rarely covers the Syrian government’s damaging response.

Dr. Raymond Khoudary M.D. explained the ravages of his home country during his Oct. 21 presentation “Syria: How the Civil War and Extremists have effected the Christian Community.”

Khoudary, a native of Aleppo, Syria and a local immunologist, talked about how the Syrian people are being affected by the extremist ISIS group, the Syrian government, and specifically how  terrorist’s attacks in the region impact the lives of Christians.

Khoudary said people learn from news coverage about terrorism committed by ISIS, a violent Muslim extremist military group. They are well armed, but Khoudary said that includes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S.-supplied artillery and armored vehicles captured from fleeing Iraqi forces.

He said the attacks are grounded in the Christian vs. Islam Crusades in the first century. Christians had grown tired of being forced out of their land by Islamic invasions so men went on raids across Europe attacking and killing people, especially Muslims, and regained control by force.

“Muslim extremists view Christians as infidels and remnants of the Crusades. Any act against them is considered legitimate,” said Khoudary. The Crusades of the Middle Ages “gives” ISIS reason to justify holy war on Christians.

The presentation was eye-opening, said Connor Swagler, a sophomore communications major. “I thought it [the presentation] was really interesting. All you hear on the news is about ISIS. You never hear about the religious prosecution,” he said.

Khoudary told a story about how on May 13, 1983, a Turkish man by name Mehemt Ali Agen tried to shoot Pope John Paul II. “I decided to kill the Pope, the supreme commander of the Crusades,” Ali Agen said in a letter.

The Pope later met him in prison and forgave him for his act.

Khoudary is a Byzantine Catholic born into a Christian family. He said the Christian people are being  persecuted. “Many Priests are killed execution style.  I can count 51 that I know personally,” said Khoudary.

“Christians have to pay extra taxes to practice their faith, and if they can’t pay they have to convert, leave, or die. Their houses are being marked with a letter N in Arabic to identify Christians like the Germans did to the Jews. The N is a warning to convert or die. The biggest stress is put on the Christians and there is discrimination, but I am proud to be one,” said Dr. Khoudary.

Twelve nuns were kidnapped and released after the extremists received $26 million, he said.  Between 60 to 70 Churches or monasteries were damaged or destroyed. More than 20 Christian towns were attacked and evacuated. Many Christians were killed, some crucified, and some women were stoned in public, he said.

The fighting of Syrian forces and ISIS has seriously impacted the Syrian economy. “Before the war, each U.S. $1 was worth $50 in Syria and now $1 is worth almost $200 [in Syria]. That’s more than four times as much,” Khoudary said.

Economic inflation is not the only problem that has been caused because of the Syrian government. Bombings and attacks have weakened infrastructure. “People are limited to the basic essentials of food, water, medicine and electricity. Having to ration water, and food because it is not easy to find. Sometimes going as much as two weeks without electricity,” Khoudary explained.

Not all Muslims follow ISIS, he said, and many reject ISIS ideology. They believe  the extremists are giving Islam a bad name.

Khoudary’s hometown of Aleppo has been affected by the violence. The government bombs and street battles have caused citywide destruction. It has damaged public and private buildings such as hospitals, schools, mosques, and churches. It is estimated that more than 50,000 Christians left the city.

The people who left the city but still stayed in the country moved to safer areas. People who lost their homes occupied empty houses and many people moved to refugee camps in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland, and Germany.  “Five years ago no one thought this would happen,” Khoudary said.

Khoudary still has family in Syria but they have decided to stay despite he pleading for them to come to America. “Leaving is not easy. You need a to get a visa. It is hard to move anywhere. It is an issue of money and dignity. Leaving is not as easy as crossing from here to New Jersey.”

“It was really interesting and really sad that he grew up there and has to watch everything that is happening there now,” said Ashley Klein, an undeclared sophomore with a focus on medical imaging.

Many organizations are sending assistance to the people in Syria, including The Red Cross, non-government organizations, and the United Nations, which spends $30 million a month to help the people in Syria.

“As long as people are fighting, there will be no end,” Khoudary said.


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