The fondest memories Noelle Cozbar, senior political science major, has of her childhood in Syria are swimming in public pools, participating in youth groups and co-existing with Muslims, Christians and Jews – a Syria much different to the one currently engulfed in a civil war that has affected Cozbar’s family and Syrian citizens.
As a native Syrian, Cozbar recently wrote a letter to Councilwoman Judy Nelson in hopes to bring her perspective to light as her country is ravaged by sectarianism.
“What is happening with Syria right now has completely eroded that beautiful sense of coexistence that we had as a nation,” Cozbar said.
Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, said that the harmony Cozbar experienced in Syria was the result of a strong authoritative government.
Once a strong leadership is toppled, coexistence falls and old sectarian issues emerge, Neidleman said.
“It is a multi-ethnic state with a minority sect in power,” Neidleman said about Syria.
Bashar al-Assad, current president of Syria, is an Alawite, which is a branch of the Shia, associate professor of political science Gitty Amini said.
“The majority of Syrians are Sunni so it would benefit them if they had a Sunni government,” Cozbar said.
Cozbar said that the media is not explaining the deep roots of the Shia and Sunni conflict and how it affects the civil war.
In addition, the media is not being thorough enough in airing the motives behind other countries supporting the Assad regime.
Russia, Iran and China support Assad mostly for Syria’s regional influence, specifically its influence in Lebanese politics, Amini said.
“If Syria goes away tomorrow, then you get less of a voice on that side of the argument with various different issues in the Middle East,” Amini said.
Amini added that Iran is a Shia nation, which is why they support the Assad regime and fear the Sunni would come into power.
“It’s about influence, it’s about power in a broader sense. It’s not the space that Syria occupies,” Amini said.
There is also not much being said about the rebels’ perspective, Cozbar said.
Each rebel force has a different agenda, but there are three main forces, Neidleman said.
The first one are the secular democrats who want a representative democracy. The second is the Muslim Brotherhood force, who wants an Islamist regime. And the third, the pre-Assad aristocratic families that want to regain power.
“They have totally different motivations,” Amini said.
“They are just against the Assad regime, that’s the only thing they have in common.”
Cozbar said that at the beginning of the revolution her family in Syria was not affected by conflict because they lived in the government centered city of Demascus.
What began as a democratic movement soon became hijacked by outside forces such as Al-Qaeda, Neidleman said.
“As the revolution progressed we had rebels coming in from the outside destabilizing the country,” she said.
“Then the government forces would have to attack.”
This put her family in danger and even cost the life of her cousin.
“He was walking with his friends to buy a mother’s day gift for his mom and the excess from the shellings affected him and his friends and he lost his life because of it,” Cozbar said.
In regards to Assad’s supposed chemical weapons attack against civilians, Cozbar said that a U.S. air strike should be the last option.
“It will cost innocent lives to be shed. This is not questionable, it will happen,” she said.
At the age of 8, Cozbar migrated to America from Syria with her family.
Her father fled an unfair political system in hopes of a better life after he was falsely accused of stealing from his father’s jewelry store.
“Him as a citizen that loved his country–for him to experience such hatred and injustice really made him want to flee,” Cozbar said.
“Your family name, your reputation, these things are highly valued and so when this big story happened it was all over the news and newspapers. Everybody would point fingers on my dad and his family,” she said.
After graduating, Cozbar hopes to go to law school and become an attorney. She hopes Syria will be stabilized by the time she is successful.
“I would love to give back to any country that is under injustice and experiencing corruption,” Cozbar said.
Mariela Patron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.