HOUSTON (FOX 26) - There seems to be mixed emotions regarding the U.S. airstrikes on Syria. A group that gathered near the Houston Galleria for a protest are upset about the U.S. military attacks on Syria, saying that America has tried to "overthrow" the Syrian government for decades. However, many in the Houston-area Syrian community say they are grateful someone is "coming to the rescue" for people who can't protect themselves.
"Me, my father and my brother are all wanted because we participated in peaceful protests here in Houston in the Galleria area that we’ve held for a long time and so we can’t ever return to Syria unless this regime is ended," explains Houston Dr. Mahmoud Laham. "There are not thousands but millions of Syrians like that. That’s what we’ve had to endure and I’ve lived there for 14 years of my life and I remember what it was like when we would talk politics or anything, we would close the doors and the windows.”
Dr. Laham says simply conducting a television broadcast news interview in his home country of Syria can be deadly.
"You have no opportunities there, economically you are suffocated, no freedom," adds Dr. Laham. "If anyone says anything, if I'm giving an interview in Syria that is critical of the president or of the government, I get locked away. I get tortured.”
Syria was ruled by the same man from 1970 to 2000. Now the longtime leader's son, Bashar al Assad, is president. An anti-regime uprising in 2011 spiraled into an all-out civil war. President Donald Trump says he ordered the strike in Syria against the air base where a chemical weapons attack on civilians was launched earlier in the week.
"I'm very encouraged by the strike," says Dr. Laham. "It was a very appropriate response to Assad's atrocious crimes. We're hoping for more. We're hoping for further strikes from the U.S.”
"The U.S. strikes in Syria on military targets, I welcome them because that means more people will be spared from the barrel bombs and chemical weapons,” explains Shireen Jasser, president of the Syrian American Council Houston Chapter.
"I like to think of the Assad regime as a cancer," says Laham. "The strikes against him that was a treatment for the cancer.”
Dr. Laham would like to see the U.S. implement a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Syria.
"I've lost three members of my family so far and it's just devastating,” says Jasser.
"These young kids that are desperate, that are being recruited by ISIS, they'll say, 'No, the U.S. protected us. The U.S. gave us a no-fly zone.' That is the ultimate goal,” explains Dr. Laham.
"I hope this is the beginning of the end for the Assad regime," says Jasser. "We really want to see no more bloodshed in Syria,”
Dr. Laham says it isn't enough for him to have escaped Syria.
"For those I left back in Syria, my dream for them is to get the opportunity to enjoy a truly free country."