Protest Against Killing of Syrians

David Conley/New University

Amidst the usual setup of sorority, fraternity and club booths along the Ring Mall during Welcome Week, a group of concerned citizens decided to add something else to the mix on Friday, Sept. 23: a silent protest against the Syrian government and its recent practices.

Nuha Abusamra, a third-year political science major, stood near the campus flag poles at about noon on Friday with a sign that read: “5,000 people (including children) murdered in Syria for nonviolent protests against the government.”

Nearby, another participant named Britney Brown donned a sign that read the words, “Boycott Arab Festival: Ahmed Alam Supports Syrian government.”

This event was the precursor to a much larger protest that Abusamra hopes will take place on campus next week.

“In Syria right now, there have been 5,000 murders (including children) and about 17,000 people detained in prisons for nonviolent protests against their government,” said Abusamra when asked why she was protesting.

The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, has been “committing these horrible crimes on people,” said Abusamra. She and other protest participants simply wanted to spread the word and inform students of world affairs.

“We’re out here today to protest and to let people know what’s going on,” Abusamra said. “Even though it doesn’t directly affect America, it affects us as human beings.”

Britney Brown wanted to participate in the protest because she feels that these events are relatively unknown to students at UC Irvine.

“This is something that is not being represented on this campus very well,” said Brown when asked about her main motivations.

Another aspect of this protest was to prevent students from attending the “Arab American Festival” that took place from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25 in Garden Grove.

Although the main purpose of the fair was to promote awareness between the two different cultures, festival founder Ahmed Alam is suspected to be a supporter of the Syrian government.

Alam is a Lebanese-American who is also the owner of the Anaheim-based newspaper, “The Arab World.”

Alam denies that he or his newspaper support the Syrian government and its murders. Boycotters of the festival have alleged that money from the event will go to fund the Syrian regime, but Alam simply says that it is “funny” and “stupid,” and is simply a “big lie.”

However, Abusamra and other community members think otherwise.

“He supports Bashar al-Assad,” said Abusamra when asked why she thinks Alam agrees with Syrian practices. “He definitely denies it and says it’s not political, but people have tagged him as one who supports the government. I just found that he is the face here for the Syrian regime in Orange County.”

Abusamra and Brown spent the majority of the campus protest encouraging students to not attend the festival and participate in the large protest against Alam and his newspaper that took place in Garden Grove instead.

“I just hope Arab students and American students protest outside this festival with the 200 people that are going to be there, and just not attend something like this because it’s supporting murder of children, women and innocent men,” she said on Friday before the festival.

Although the campus protest was small, silent, and only had about four to five participants, this was exactly the way Abusamra desired it to be. She wanted it to just be something that students could read on their way to class in order to spark their interest.

“Know that Irvine is not the world,” said Abusamra when asked what she hoped students would learn from reading her signs.

“We’ve got Syria, we’ve got Palestine, and we’ve got a lot of problems in the Middle East that surprisingly do affect you because as an American, you’re the world police. Your tax dollars are being affected, your economy, everything … so look more into that.”

In the end, Abusamra and participants made it clear to passerby that this protest was “not about politics — it’s about all of humanity.”