By Adil James, TMO
Franklin–June 22–Congressman Gary Peters and US Ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford spoke to a rapt audience of about 200, mostly Syrian Americans, at the Beverly Hills Academy Friday.
This event was held in a large auditorium on the campus of a large Muslim Montessori school, the Beverly Hills Academy.
The evening began with a 10 minute video showing the extent of the difficulty faced by the Syrian people.
Congressman Gary Peters spoke, expressing his deep concern for the people of Syria and explaining that he had asked Ambassador Ford to come speak to Michiganâ€™s Syrian community members about the hard stands that he has taken in favor of the Syrian opposition.
â€œAs long as I am a member of the House of Representatives,â€ Mr. Peters said, â€œI will speak out, until Assad goes.â€
The Ambassador spoke as well, after the eventâ€™s MC thanked him for the moves he had already made to stand up for the oppressed people in Syria.
The ambassador explained very simply the USâ€™s aims in Syria. First, to stop the killing: stop the artillery barrages, stop the tank attacks, stop the shabiha.
Second, he said, to start the political transition. Obama, he said, would talk more about that in coming days.
Third, he explained that the US aims for a representative democracy that respects all communities, where all people are save and secure at home.
Fourth, Bashar Assad must leave power.
This last talking point met with spontaneous applause.
He explained that the situation which faces Syria now is catastrophic, with 1.5 million Syrians needing humanitarian assistance, and 1 million having had to leave their homes. 80,000, he said, have left their homes for Turkey, Jordan, even Iraq.
The ambassador explained that the US has spent $53 million in Syria since January, in humanitarian assistance.
The ambassador explained also that the US has worked through humanitarian agencies on the ground in the region, including the Red Crescent in Turkey and the Syrian Red Crescent.
He emphasized the pressure against the Syrian regime, through sanctions which have stopped all relations between American banks and Syrian banks. He explained there is a list of Syrian officials including generals whose bank accounts are frozen, and who are now prohibited from coming to the US because of the actions of the regime they represent.
The US is also providing communications and video equipment to the besieged people so that they can document the war crimes against them. He emphasized that the US is sending non-lethal equipment to the political opposition.
Also the US has used pressure to influence other nations, such as Italy, Germany, and Spain, to stop buying Syrian oil.
In a question and answer session which followed, the Syrian community showed very emotional concern, those present mentioning their family members had been killed. They praised and thanked the ambassador for his personal courage and help, but the theme of their questions was really their incredulity that the US administration is sending, not military equipment to help the rebels, but cameras for them to take pictures of the innocent people killed by the government and radios so they can tell people of the atrocities they experience.