Regional
1:00 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Milwaukee Doctor from Syria Hopeful for Diplomatic End to Civil War

 A Syrian refugee family from the Deir el Zour, Syria pauses in their doorway in a neighborhood with a high concentration of Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon.
A Syrian refugee family from the Deir el Zour, Syria pauses in their doorway in a neighborhood with a high concentration of Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon.
Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A Syrian expatriate in Milwaukee is optimistic about a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in his native country, after President Obama agreed to consider a plan by Russia.

The plan would require Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to the international community. WUWM spoke with a physician in Milwaukee who says he’s hoping for a peaceful end to the conflict for his family, and the Syrian people. Mohammad works at his medical clinic downtown. He said he doesn’t want to use his full name, fearing there could be retaliation against his family in Syria.

Mohammad came to the U.S. in 1992 to do his medical residency, and hopefully build a better life. His parents, two sisters, and their children still live in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

“My sister had to leave her home and she had to move to a house inside the city of Damascus, she was in a suburb of Damascus, because her area was under attack and they had to leave and she had to leave everything in the house. There are millions of people who had to be moved from their homes. My cousin has been missing since last November. He went to check his house in one of the areas also that’s been taken by some bad people and he never came back.”

Mohammad says after three years of war, his family has gotten used to the noise of daily shelling. He says people there are desperate. There are no jobs, and prices for food and other necessities have shot up tremendously. Despite the hardships, Mohammad he says his family has no plans to leave Syria.

“Every person is attached to other people. So my mom will not leave my sisters, my sisters will not leave their husbands, and their husbands will not leave their families. It’s hard to leave the rest of the family and just get out of the country and you feel that you know what, your fate is like their fate and whatever happen to them will happen to you.”

We asked Mohammad how his family is getting what they need, such as food and water.

“There’s certain areas that’s controlled by the government, they’re still able to provide them certain necessary stuff, but it’s very expensive. And some areas controlled by the rebels also can get some stuff, but it’s not always available. Long, long lines, you have to wait hours to be able to get the necessary needs.”

Mohammad says electricity is also scarce. So is gas for cooking and heating.

“When this started, people were looking for freedom, were looking for more rights. They were expecting things to get better and unfortunately things have been getting worse over the last three years. It’s out of control. People don’t want that. People want peace. People want to go back to their lives. People want to go back to work.”

Mohammad says he’s encouraged by news that the Syrian regime may be considering giving up its stockpile of chemical weapons as a way to avert a U.S. strike.

“You can see, with just the threat of a bombing, something happened. If we actually about to bomb them, maybe it will shake things up a little bit. To get both parties sit on the table and let’s get some deal done.”

Though he says, an agreement on chemical weapons would not end the war, and Mohammad hopes the U.S. and other countries stay committed to finding a permanent, diplomatic solution.

For his part, Mohammad says he and others in the Milwaukee area have been raising money to help victims of the civil war. The group collected $200,000, and found people in the region who promised to funnel 100 percent of the money to Syrian refugees.

“To find housing for some of the refugees, to pay their medical expenses. That’s the best we can do. We’re planning to make another fundraising. When we did it, we did it neutrally. We were not saying that we are with the rebels, we are with the government. We are just with the Syrian people. We just want to help the Syrian people.”

The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, and millions of have been displaced.