Yesterday Shireen asked me, “What drives you to work for Syria?”. We were on a conference call to go over the details for George Sabra and Mirna Barq’s visit next weekend. We were both also exhausted: In January, SAC Houston hosted a government relations training, took Syrian American constituents to meet with their representative’s office, spoke at UH Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Palestinian Culture Night” on the latest human rights report on Yarmouk, and this upcoming weekend we’re hosting SAC National President Mirna Barq for an open town hall with Syrian Americans and George Sabra, president of the Syrian National Council, for a public conversation at Rice University. We’re a small, dedicated, volunteer group. I’m incredibly proud of how our team has remained dedicated through a waterfall of emails and a blur of conference calls.
She asked me this simple question, and I realized I assumed that everyone who works for Syria works for the same reason. I never asked my team what drives them to push forward. Many more people are heartbroken at what is happening in Syria than there are people organizing for Syria.
We talked about what motivates the both of us, why we believe in Syria and in organizing. And from now on, the first item at every SAC Houston meeting will be a “Why I’m Here” segment.
For myself, I am haunted by the stories I do not know. Ecologists can study the health of a forest by taking a sample of one tree. The stories and images coming out of Syria pushed me into a deep depression — I don’t know exactly how long because I do not like to think about this period. I knew that if this was the sample of stories coming out of Syria, then the whole forest, so to speak, must be the same if not worse.
I work to honor my family. I work to honor my friends and Syrian activists who have lost much and fought hard and keep fighting. But I am also largely driven by the stories I do not know, and will probably never know.