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Syrians fear for families as they question UK response to unrest
SYRIANS in Oxford have questioned the wisdom of a military intervention in the country and raised concerns for their relatives.
Following attempts by UN weapons inspectors to find out whether chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian government, Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled Parliament to discuss potential military intervention today.
Syrian-born author and academic Bassam Saeh, 71, moved to Summertown in Oxford more than 30 years ago, but three of his brothers and his sister still live in the port city Latakia, three hours’ drive from Damascus, with their children.
He said the violence in his home country was “appalling” and he was growing concerned for his family. He said the UN had two options, adding: “You either leave it alone and create thousands of extremists or you do the Syrian people a favour and enslave them forever.
“If you do nothing, every one of those people who lose their parents will turn into a ticking time bomb, with nothing to do in this life but seek revenge.
“The other choice is to overthrow Assad, and you will enslave the Syrian people forever.”
The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 with demonstrations stemming from the Arab Spring movement.
Protesters called for the end of five decades of Ba’ath party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian army was deployed in spring 2011 to quell the uprising, followed soon afterwards by civilian opposition and army defectors starting to unify under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.
A Syrian woman living in Oxford, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said all her relatives in the country wanted to see Assad overthrown.
She said: “Without him we wouldn’t have all these troubles.
“People don’t want you any more (Assad), why don’t you stop?”
Dr Hojjat Ramzy, representative of the Muslim Community in Oxford and Director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, said that military action by the US and Britain would be “totally wrong” without UN approval.
“According to the UN Charter of 1945 this action is illegal.”
In Oxford’s Cornmarket Street yesterday, Dr Ramzy joined former director of the UK prisons service, Julian Levay, in a protest.
Mr Levay and his wife, who live in West Oxford, were urging people to demand their MPs vote against military intervention.
Call for Government to give legal advice on intervention
OXFORDSHIRE’S six MPs will return to Parliament today to vote on possible military action against Syria.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has openly accused President Assad’s regime of carrying out a chemical weapons attack which killed more than 350 civilians.
Parliament will be recalled today so MPs can have their say on the conflict and vote on how they want the UK to respond.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “I haven’t heard evidence or arguments to persuade me that UK military action against Syria is justified or sensible. As the Government is clearly considering action, it’s right that Parliament has been recalled.
“We haven’t yet seen proof that the Syrian government launched a chemical attack. The Government will need to publish clear legal advice on the status of any UK action.”
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “We shall all have to see what the UN weapons inspectors have to report, but the hundreds of men, women and children who died in the recent attacks were clearly murdered. It is obviously right for the Prime Minister to recall Parliament and I am sure that the whole House will listen carefully to what he has to say.”
Henley MP John Howell said he had not made his mind up on military action.
Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said: “It is absolutely right for the Prime Minister to recall Parliament to debate how we should respond and I will listen carefully to all sides of the argument before making a decision on how to vote.”
Ed Vaizey, MP for Didcot and Wantage, did not respond.
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