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United States Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard: The Syrian people desperately want peace

As much of Washington prepared for the inauguration of President Donald Trump, I spent last week on a fact-finding mission in Syria and Lebanon to see and hear directly from the Syrian people. Their lives have been consumed by a horrific war that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and forced millions to flee their homeland in search of peace. It is clear now more than ever: this regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people. [Candobetter.net Editor: This communication was issued as an email to a list by Ms Gabbard and we reproduce it here in the assumption that it was intended as a kind of press release. More on Tulsi Gabbard, who was a distinguished soldier in Iraq: https://www.votetulsi.com/tulsi-gabbard]

We met these children at a shelter in Aleppo, whose families fled the eastern part of the city. The only thing these kids want, the only thing everyone I came across wants, is peace. Many of these children have only known war. Their families want nothing more than to go home, and get back to the way things were before the war to overthrow the government started. This is all they want.

I traveled throughout Damascus and Aleppo, listening to Syrians from different parts of the country. I met with displaced families from the eastern part of Aleppo, Raqqah, Zabadani, Latakia, and the outskirts of Damascus. I met Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and children of men fighting for the government and widows of those fighting against the government. I met Lebanon’s newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Syrian President Assad, Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, humanitarian workers, academics, college students, small business owners, and more.

Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between “moderate” rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same. This is a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. They cry out for the U.S. and other countries to stop supporting those who are destroying Syria and her people.

I heard this message over and over again from those who have suffered and survived unspeakable horrors. They asked that I share their voice with the world; frustrated voices which have not been heard due to the false, one-sided biased reports pushing a narrative that supports this regime change war at the expense of Syrian lives.

I heard testimony about how peaceful protests against the government that began in 2011 were quickly overtaken by Wahhabi jihadist groups like al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) who were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United States, and others. They exploited the peaceful protesters, occupied their communities, and killed and tortured Syrians who would not cooperate with them in their fight to overthrow the government.

I met a Muslim girl from Zabadani who was kidnapped, beaten repeatedly, and raped in 2012, when she was just 14 years old, by “rebel groups” who were angry that her father, a sheep herder, would not give them his money. She watched in horror as masked men murdered her father in their living room, emptying their entire magazine of bullets into him.

I met a boy who was kidnapped while walking down the street to buy bread for his family. He was tortured, waterboarded, electrocuted, placed on a cross and whipped, all because he refused to help the “rebels” — he told them he just wanted to go to school. This is how the “rebels” are treating the Syrian people who do not cooperate with them, or whose religion is not acceptable to them. Although opposed to the Assad government, the political opposition spoke strongly about their adamant rejection of the use of violence to bring about reforms. They argue that if the Wahhabi jihadists, fueled by foreign governments, are successful in overthrowing the Syrian state, it would destroy Syria and its long history of a secular, pluralist society where people of all religions have lived peacefully side by side. Although this political opposition continues to seek reforms, they are adamant that as long as foreign governments wage a proxy regime change war against Syria using jihadist terrorist groups, they will stand with the Syrian state as they work peacefully toward a stronger Syria for all Syrians.

Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it. I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.

I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists — directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The U.S. must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The U.S. and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war.

Thank you,

Tulsi

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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has been stupidly, unfairly, and cynically criticised for her recent fact-finding and peace-making visit to Syria and meeting with Bashar al-Assad.

Here is a letter signed by Syrians and Syrian Americans thanking her for her efforts on behalf of peace.

We thank you, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, for your courageous trip to Syria

Jan 26, 2017
By Salah Zakkour, Press Release:

We, members of the Syrian American community, wholeheartedly support Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s courageous fact-finding trip to Syria in January. With this trip Rep. Gabbard demonstrated her strong commitment and determination to bringing about an end to all forms of support by the United States Government and its allies to the extremists and terrorists who have been destroying Syria and other countries of the Middle East during the past several years.
Rep. Gabbard’s trip to Syria was only a logical next step toward gathering the necessary first hand information in support of her similarly courageous bi-partisan bill, the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We consider her trip a significant step toward ending the U.S. government’s illegal policy of forced regime change in other countries, including Syria, with the help of extremist and terrorist groups. We urge all other members of Congress to follow Rep. Gabbard’s steps in order to directly see for themselves what is really happening in Syria, instead of relying on dubious information and fake news that is being fabricated by all those who are bent on overthrowing the Syrian government. Those people are blatantly ignoring the wishes of the majority of the Syrian people and closing their eyes to the humanitarian catastrophe it has created.

As they have done so after every fact-finding trip to Syria by concerned citizens of a number of countries, including those from the U.S., Australia and Britain, the same pro-regime-change people in the U.S. are once again repeating the same worn out and baseless argument that such fact finding trips to Syria, especially the one made by a member of U.S. Congress, “legitimizes” Assad government. They further argue that Rep. Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” will result in sacrificing the “moderate” opposition to Assad under the cover of fighting terrorism.

But neither of these arguments bears any relationship with reality.

As to the claim of “legitimization” of Assad government, it should be understood that the legitimacy of any government, Syrian government included, is derived from the support of its own citizens, not from a trip by a member of Congress of another country. Without taking sides about merits and demerits of the Assad government, we have to acknowledge that report after report by impartial observers has shown that the Assad government, and the Syrian Arab Army, has the support of the majority of Syrian people. These repeated reports were further confirmed by the last presidential election of June of 2014 in Syria, carried out in the presence of international observers, in which 73.4 percent of legitimate voters participated and 88 percent of them voted for President Assad. Moreover, the legitimacy of Assad government is officially recognized by the international community and the United Nations — a fact that nobody can deny. It is, therefore, upon the deniers of these facts to back up their claims to the contrary.

As to the claim of distinction between the so-called “moderate” opposition and the terrorist organizations, one does not have to look far to disprove it. First, it should be noted that these armed fighters are not the same people who were peacefully marching on the streets of Syria five years ago. In fact the peaceful opposition movement has been silenced and hijacked by the violent acts of extremist and terrorist groups like al-Nusra, Jebhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, and the like. The so-called “moderate” fighters have been fighting shoulder to shoulder in the past five years, and have refused to separate themselves from these terrorist groups, even when U.S. government asked them to for the sake of establishing a ceasefire. And their leaders have conceded that their members have joined these terrorist groups in droves and have turned the weapons they have received from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar, over to these terrorists. Even the U.S. government has conceded that a significant part of the arms delivered to these “moderate” groups has ended up in the hands of the terrorists. Moreover, the numerous testimonies of liberated citizens in Aleppo have clearly shown that the so-called “moderates” have been committing the same crimes against innocent people, as did the terrorists.

Such arguments are aimed at putting obstacles on the path of a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the Syrian crisis. They are aimed at making a forced regime change in Syria a precondition for achieving a political resolution. And this can only be achieved through continued arming of terrorists in order to bring the Syrian government down before any negotiations can start.
It is in light of these facts that we consider Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s fact-finding trip and her Stop Arming Terrorists Act as a courageous move toward bringing a just peace to Syria. The Syrian people will be able to freely exercise their political and national rights only when these external terrorist attacks on their country have stopped.

We will be more than happy to do everything we can to help Congresswoman Gabbard in her courageous efforts to bring a just peace to Syria and the whole Middle East by putting an end to all forms of support for terrorists, especially by the United States and its allies.

Salah Zakkour

Co-signed by fellow Syrians and Syrian Americans: Rami Muamar • Micheile Muamar • Immanuel Kaplo • Hannah Youssef • Nabil Kaplo • Bairt Alkass • Malk Kouki • Ghazoah Hanna • Zane Alabdine Zakkour • Fahed Zakkour • Nahla Zakkour • Saleh Zakkour • Khaled Baram • Afif Ghalwanji • Nadeem Habbal • Simon Khoury • Shawqia Adboudan •Mamoun Alabbassi • Amen Tomeh • Rana Kouki • Mario Tomeh • Georgio Tomeh • Emanuel Wasouf • Tigram Hanonick • Lena Obied • Jamil Ibrahim • Talal Bitar • Mike Matook • Basal Rahal • Silva Barsoum