Syrian-Americans, supporters rally on Common to protest possible US strike

More than a hundred people, including Syrian-Americans and pro-peace supporters, gathered on the Boston Common today to protest a possible US missile strike against Syria.

Speakers standing in front of Syrian flags bearing portraits of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad decried US plans to launch a “limited” attack against the country in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians last week. The ideologically diverse crowd included members of the Green-Rainbow Party and other anti-war protesters.

Syrian-Americans at the event almost universally supported Assad, whom they praised as a secular leader capable of holding together Syria’s many ethnic and religious factions. They also said the majority of rebel fighters in the country were foreign-backed terrorists, not Syrian dissidents.

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“Obama promised there would be no unjust war under his administration,” said Dr. Elias Zavaro, 52 of Wellesley. “Sending our boys, our missiles, our fighter planes to protect al-Qaeda—is that just?”

Zavaro, who moved to the U.S from Syria in 1986 and studied dentistry at Boston University, said a US strike against his home country would harm civilians while doing little to end the conflict.

And like others at the rally, Zavaro believes the chemical weapons attack was perpetrated by Saudi Arabia, not Assad’s forces, as a way to provoke Western intervention.

“Obama said using chemical weapons was a red line, and the Saudis took advantage of that to give an excuse for a missile strike,” Zavaro said.

Others, like 20-year-old Ramy Al-Taweel of Methuen, said they feared US intervention would spark a broader conflict.

“We don’t want intervention. Allies of Syria will go in to help and I think it will escalate into World War III,” Al-Taweel said.

Born in the US to Syrian parents, Al-Taweel admits the prospect of armed conflict between the two countries is “strange.”

“I was brought up by two cultures,” he said. “My heart is Syrian, but I love America... . I pray every night for Syria to be united once again.”

After rallying at the Boston Common, protesters marched to Faneuil Hall before dispersing.