Syrian refugee discusses civil war

By Reece Ristau
When Gabrielle Jabbour was forced to flee Syria with his wife in 2012, he brought along $3,000 and not much else.
The pair traveled to Beirut and eventually the United States. Gabrielle Jabbour was the leader of both his orthodox Christian church and his 700-member family in Latakia, a small town on Syria’s western border. When the civil war escalated, so did tensions between Syrian Christians and Muslims.

Gabrielle Jabbour’s daughter, Rula Jabbour, is a doctorate candidate in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s political science department. She spoke Thursday at Seaton Hall about her family’s experiences and the conflict in Syria in a discussion titled “Reflections on the Situation in Syria.”

Rula Jabbour said understanding the conflict and the players involved is complicated.

“In politics, there is no white or black,” Rula Jabbour said. “It’s always grey.”

She discussed the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Citizens of Tunisia and Egypt overthrew their regimes in 2010 and 2011, each in about three weeks. Many consider this the spark that ignited the Arab Spring. Rula Jabbour said other countries believed they could also create power changes as easily as the first two.

When the uprising in Syria began, things didn’t go as planned.

“I’m not saying the uprising in Syria did not have a good cause, but unfortunately, it was hijacked,” Rula Jabbour said. “It was hunted by extremists.”

Muslim Sunnis are the majority in Syria. Initially, Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, didn’t go after minorities, Rula Jabbour said. She said Assad knew he would need support from minority groups – such as orthodox Christians – in order to stay in power. But as the conflict grew, Sunnis began targeting those groups.

Rula Jabbour used the United States invasion of Iraq to explain American actions in Syria. While the U.S. attempted to use power in Iraq to cut ties between countries such as Iran and Syria, too much intervention in the current Syrian crisis wouldn’t work, she said.

Asked about what she would like the U.S. to do, Rula Jabbour said she couldn’t remove herself from the politics of the matter to answer.

“I understand where the U.S. is coming from in its actions – this is politics, the dirtiest game in town,” she said. “I cannot ask the U.S. to be an angel in a forest full of monsters.”