Syrian business owner in Springfield laments the state of his native land

Published: Apr. 10, 2018 at 9:44 PM CDT
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Watching the latest atrocity in Syria is difficult for Springfield restauranteur Riad Matar.

“[It’s a] struggle anywhere in the world to see kids getting killed and dying and starving, and people being forced to leave their housing and being bombarded with no way to defend themselves is really sad anywhere,” he said.

He came to the United States as a 17-year-old, and met his wife while attending the University of Tennessee. She was a Springfield native, and they settled in the Queen City.

But he’s kept an eye on foreign affairs, and says he’s been frustrated watching the Syrian civil war fade in and out of international consciousness since it erupted in 2011.

“I don't have no idea why everyone in the world is upset by 42 people being poisoned but for the last seven years they've massacred, and burned kids in their homes with their families,” he said. “This is a worse thing, and nobody really talks about it.”

Now Matar is watching as western powers like the United States, Britain and France decide what to do in response to Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons against his own people. Matar is not optimistic. “It's lie after lie after lie, and I really don't think anything's going to happen,” he said.

Dr. David Romano, a Middle East expert at Missouri State, says it’s a difficult puzzle to solve. “Unless the US is willing to make a bigger commitment to stand up to the chemical weapons usage, to having a say in the settlement of the civil war in Syria, there's not that much it can do,” he said.

One nation did take action. Reports say that Israel was likely behind a strike that hit the T-4 Airbase in Syria, not far from Damascus. Israel has not confirmed this, but Matar says he was happy to see something done to stop Assad.

“Israel is the only one who has the guts in the world to do something about it,” Matar said. “I'm glad they did it.”

The long term solution is tougher to tackle.

“There are no good options,” Dr. Romano said. “We want Assad to behave, and not violate the 1925 banning of chemical weapons, but we have no idea what to do in the future instead of him.”

“I wish they could divide Syria and give everyone rights who want to live there,” Matar says. “But, that's not going to happen.”