23 Aug 2014
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Local Woman's Relatives Survive Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

Inam Bchara, a Syrian-American who owns Elite Salon & Spa in Fredericksburg, told her story to Nuala McGovern of BBC's Newsday.

Local Woman's Relatives Survive Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack Local Woman's Relatives Survive Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack Local Woman's Relatives Survive Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack
Fredericksburg business owner and King George resident Inam Bchara has not been able to visit her family in Syria since 2010. The Syrian-American who owns Elite Salon & Spa worries constantly about their welfare. "I have not been able to celebrate any holidays, even Christmas, I'm so worried," she told Fredericksburg Patch.

On August 21, her worry turned to genuine fear. "Two relatives in Syria awoke vomiting, very ill," Behara said. They were rushed to the hospital, suffering the effects of chemical weapons. 

Three hospitals in Damascus supported by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders reported they received about 3,600 patients in less than three hours displaying neurotoxic symptoms August 21.

Behara's two family members survived, and have been evacuated from the country, she said.

Behara was among six Fredericksburg area residents who met with Nuala McGovern, presenter of BBC's Newsday, in an interview arranged by Fredericksburg Patch on September 12.

President Obama had given his speech on September 10, and the New York Times had published Vladimir Putin's op-ed in response on September 11. 

McGovern had been in DC to cover it all, and now wanted to hear reaction from people "Beyond the Beltway" -- the designation given to those just far enough from D.C. to not be seen as key movers and shakers in the Nation's capitol.

Inam told McGovern she did not support American military action against Syria for the chemical weapons attack. "As a Syrian-American I can say we have no interest in military intervention," Inam said. "It is the wrong time."

She urges humanitarian aid. "The people of Syria are screaming and no one hears," she said.  "[In this interview] I am the voice of those people," she said.  Her family still in Syria tell her of the great needs in the country, especially for medical supplies.  "They do not even have painkiller like Tylenol for the children," she said.

Nabil Al-Tikriti, associate professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of Mary Washington, was also not in favor of military action. "Intervention is highly problematic and likely to expand the conflict instead of constrain it," Al-Tikriti said.

This year he served as Deputy Head of Mission for a Doctors Without Borders/Medecins San Frontieres team operating in Syria.

"I think Obama allowed himself to be outmaneuvered, but I believe it is a good thing that it is happening," Al-Tikriti said. "It’s a way out.”

"The difficult part for us is we don't know who we're helping in Syria," said Nancy Kearney, president of Blue Star Mothers of Fredericksburg, a support group of mothers of U.S. military members who are serving or have served. She has two active duty sons. "I have difficulty trusting what I hear on the news," she said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's has  agreed to surrender a chemical weapons arsenal his government had barely acknowledged until last week. But the time it's taken to broker the agreement and the time it takes to attempt enforcement simply enables al-Assad to hide what he has, Inam said.

"Putin and Assad are not going to give up their chemical weapons," said Inam.

"My family members are all frightened, she said.  "It's so dangerous what is happening in Syria. We fear soon Iran will be taking over."

Editor's Note:  Attorney Bob Barlow, who organized a September 8 anti-intervention rally in Fredericksburg, and
Adam Washington of the Fredericksburg Area Young Republicans, also participated in the BBC interview. 

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