On Sept. 26, Joyce Karam ’03, Washington correspondent for major Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, spoke to a group of about 70 people at a presentation and Q-and-A session regarding the recent events in Syria.
“I just want to put everything back into perspective: what is the fight really about and is there a light at the end of the tunnel,” explained Karam before the presentation. “I think many people forgot—given what happened—that 15 school boys wrote graffiti on a wall and got arrested, tortured, and some of them were returned dead to their parents. That just got washed away by the violence that followed.”
In Karam’s opinion the more lofty goals of the opposition, including a more inclusive democratic state, are no longer feasible; instead, the most pressing goals are preventing Syria from splitting into three states and stemming the bloodshed and destruction.
“The level of destruction is massive,” said Karam. “You have cities, areas that have just been wiped out.”
And while Karam said the recent steps taken by the United Nations to remove chemical weapons from Syria are positive, she has been gravely disappointed by the international diplomatic response.
“Killing 150,000 civilians should not be okay in the 21st century,” Karam said. “The international failure to respond to that is appalling. It truly is.”
Karam explained that many in the Middle East look to the United States and admire the principles that many Americans may take for granted: “freedom, human rights, the good in the world…. So when kids get gassed or killed in Syria or somewhere else, people are not going to look to Russia to do something, they’re not going to look to Europe. They were never a force of change or good in the Middle East. The world, the Middle East trusts the U.S. to help on that level.”
Unfortunately, the 2003 graduate of Arcadia’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program believes that the longer the discord continues, the more unattainable a solution may be.
“The longer it drags, the further we are from a political solution,” said Karam, who was a journalist in Beirut, Lebanon before attending Arcadia.
People are becoming even more deeply entrenched in their current positions or radicalized with the Al Qaeda presence in Syria, she explained. In addition, the U.S. government has refused to engage with the Assad regime, a decision Karam finds untenable.
“This aspect that we’re not going to talk to Assad because he is ‘a bad guy’ is not going to get anywhere,” she said, suggesting instead that the U.S. send a high-level diplomatic envoy to talk with both sides. Even so, Karam believes there is still a long way to go before the two sides can work to resolve their issues.
“Nobody is coming for their help,” she said. “It’s a global tragedy.”