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From The U.S., Watching Syria's Slow And Brutal Spiral


Not every Syrian American can go to the lengths that Abu Ahmed did, but here in the United States, they are watching the conflict closely. Muna Jondy was born in this country, but her father's family is from Daraa where the first protest back in 2011 began. She's an immigration lawyer in Flint, Michigan and president of a group called United for a Free Syria. She joins us from Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor. Thanks for being with us.

MUNA JONDY: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Ms. Jondy, has your family in Syria been touched by violence?

JONDY: I'm not exaggerating when I say that of all the Syrian-American families that I know, I don't know one family that hasn't been touched by this violence. So, yes, our family is one of many. My uncle was killed in the first few months of the uprising in his home. He was beat by the security forces. One of my cousins, second cousins, died yesterday. He was in his 20s.

I don't know any family that hasn't been touched by this.

SIMON: I'm sorry.

JONDY: Thank you.

SIMON: Are you able to communicate with family in Syria well?

JONDY: I wouldn't say well. I would say we are able to communicate. We use obviously alternate methods than telephones, but, you know, Internet connections and so on, they're not always the best and people are afraid that some people that are around might be informants, and so it's difficult to have full honest conversations.

SIMON: There are thousands of people who live in Michigan who have some kind of family ties to Syria, like your family. Are there differences in opinion about the conflict?

JONDY: It's an interesting point. You know, we just had a meeting in the Detroit area about two or three weeks ago and, you know, there are a group of Syrians, I think mostly physicians, that were wanting to get involved and how can we help the revolution? And here we are, almost two years into it. And of course that's always a welcome position, but I think it reflects the reality of the Syrian revolution, in that it's sort of slowly spiraled.

It wasn't, you know, a million in Tahrir Square. It was one town popping up here and there, you know, with protests, and the Syrian-Americans here in the U.S. I don't think are any different either, in that some people initially were like really, we know that he's brutal. Give him some chance to reform. Or is this really the time right now? You know, it's a stable country, why bring this on?

And I think just the extent of his brutality has made it very difficult, I think, for people at this point in time, not to be at least condemning the killings of the regime, if not supporting the revolution.

SIMON: Are there differences in Michigan between Christians and Alawites?

JONDY: I think that there are differences in terms of minorities. Bashar al-Assad likes to portray himself as a protector of minorities, when in reality he doesn't protect anybody that stands up and speaks against him. So I have an Alawi friend who's been in the U.S. for years, pre-revolution, who had to escape because of reasons of him being vocal against the regime. So in that sense, nobody has been protected.

But ultimately, when the revolution began, Assad decided to make this clearly sectarian and try to move in that direction. But on the other hand, we, as Sunnis recognize that without the Sunni support, and without continued Sunni support, he would not have been able to stand. So although there is, I think, a portrayal to show that the minorities are less involved, which I do think is true, but I also think there's still a very large number of Sunnis that are still on his side.

SIMON: And what might you say, Ms. Jondy, to those Americans who might be listening who don't feel your personal sense of involvement in the conflict to say, look, my heart breaks for the people who are suffering, but in the end it's none of our business?

JONDY: I would say two points: One, is I think it would be very naive for us to act like the situation that's unfolding in Syria is not going to have an impact on us. Hezbollah is physically in the city of Homs fighting with the regime. Iran is a strong supporter of this regime. There are consequences to us as a nation and our security by empowering these entities.

Secondly, I would say that in terms of the human element, and it has nothing to do with us, I think that as a superpower and as the strongest nation, there is a responsibility that comes with that, and I don't think that at this point we are fulfilling that responsibility.

SIMON: Muna Jondy's an immigration lawyer in Flint, Michigan and she's president of United for a Free Syria. She joins us from the studios of Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor. Thanks very much for being with us.

JONDY: Thank you for having me, Scott.


SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.