Many Syrian-Americans Support a US Military Strike, but not Salah Asfoura

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Pretend for a moment that you are living in a peaceful country on the other side of the world and a civil war broke out here in the US. Your friends and family might be caught in the crossfire, might be killed, might even be gassed. It's hard to imagine, I know. Salah Asfoura is actually living that reality right now. He's a Syrian American living in Worcester, MA, and last year I met him there not long after the shelling of his home city of Homs, Syria. He's in the studio with me here in Boston. Now, last time we met you spoke really eloquently about your daily routine, waking up at 6:00 trying to get a phone connection to Syria, trying to get the news. Has that routine changed at all for you?

Salah Asfoura: It did not change much. Actually, it has gotten a little bit worse just because you're eager to get the connection, to get to speak with someone there, but you're always scared of the news that you're gonna get.

Werman: Homs last time we spoke, which was a year ago, wasn't long after the shelling of the city, seemed at the time like it was practically entirely destroyed, but your family has stayed. Who's still there?

Asfoura: I do have a brother and a sister with their families. The fact is they have to stay there, they have to because they work there and you know, they still have to go to school and their kids.

Werman: They still have work to do? There are still schools to go to?

Asfoura: Actually, they did not stop a day going to work and to school.

Werman: It's bizarre, you make it sound like life goes on at normal, which surely it can't be normal. I mean when was the last time you spoke with your family and what are they saying right now?

Asfoura: Actually, my father passed away last week.

Werman: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.

Asfoura: Thank you, because of that fact, I speak every day multiple times. It seems like it's normal. For them it became a reality. You know, I will be with them on the phone and I will hear some shelling. And I asked what is that? Oh, just like some shelling, it's far, it's not hear. You know, to me it's very strange that they can still sit on the balcony or even in the living room and listen to the shells and not scared for life.

Werman: Let me ask you about your father. How did he die?

Asfoura: He died of natural cause. He was 80 years old. He needed some medical attention and unfortunately, you know, medical hospitals are not as operational as they used to be. So but anyway, it was natural cause.

Werman: Not killed by the war, but killed during the war, which means you can't attend his funeral, I would guess.

Asfoura: I could not. We have a tradition – they do a memorial service at 40 days of the death and it's gonna be by the end of September. I'm trying to arrange to go there, but it's a long shot for me. Also, in the wake of we're still waiting to see what's going to, you know, whether

Werman: Whether there's a military strike or not.

Asfoura: military strike or not, that makes a difference too.

Werman: So I'm really curious to know what you thought when you read the news of the chemical attacks, which at this point, many people, the majority of people seem to attribute to Bashar al-Assad.

Asfoura: Well, I mean I personally like to wait. Of course, an act like this is not acceptable by any means. Doesn't matter who does it. At the same time, you know, because I have access to other media from the Middle East, including Arabic Syrians, I read a lot about it. So I would say personally, I will wait to see what's the result of the UN search group because there is some news also saying the weapons came from the other side. No matter who used it, something has to be done.

Werman: What are you thinking or feeling as you follow the debate in Washington over whether to attack targets in Syria? I mean it's kind of what I evoked at the beginning of this interview, it's just like you're here, everything is happening over there and these lawmakers in Washington are just discussing it–whether to launch missiles at your country.

Asfoura: It's a very strange feeling. I think it's not easy for me to think about. You know, I live in this country who gave me freedom, who gave me many things, who gave me a chance to have a better life. You know, I have people who actually I voted for, like you know, our foreign minister right now. At the same time he's leading the pack to do this strike against Syria,

Werman: You're talking about John Kerry.

Asfoura: Yeah, John Kerry. Yeah, I just talked to my mother this morning and she said are they coming, what are they going to do? I said, Mom, I don't know. If they're coming, I hope not. She said life is coming to complete stop and everybody is scared. Everybody is panicking. So it's uneasy for me. I don't know how to feel, but my opinion is that America should not involve in that manner. American strike is going to make devastating for everyone and I think it's gonna make the country a much bigger mess than it is right now.

Werman: Salah Asfoura, thank you very much for coming in and again, my condolences to you for the loss of your father, as well as the people killed in the war.

Asfoura: Thank you very much, Marco, I appreciate it.