Bloodshed and bombings terrorize Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi’s native country, and the Augusta resident only has limited media reports, photos and videos to try to grasp the horrific civil war in Syria.
“It is painful, very painful looking at those beautiful places I grew up in and seeing those people dying,” said Daoudi, the religious leader of the Islamic Society of Augusta.
Daoudi, who became a U.S. citizen in 2005, said America needs to take a more aggressive role in Syria before more civilians die at the hands of an oppressive regime and a history-rich nation vanishes.
The Syrian conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces has escalated to a bloody conflict since it started more than two years ago.
Millions of refugees have fled to neighboring nations while many live in camps within Syria, according to the United Nations.
Last week, U.S. leaders considered the prospects of a military response after saying the Syrian regime likely used chemical weapons. President Obama is facing growing pressure to arm rebels with weapons and defeat Assad.
“For how long are you waiting?” Daoudi said about Obama’s delay ordering U.S. action. “We are still looking up and looking high for this country (the United States) to do something.”
A no-fly zone over Syria, as suggested by Sen. John McCain and others, and arming rebels are ways the U.S. should help, Daoudi said.
Allan Mouna, a Syrian-American who lives in Evans, also wants more U.S. action, primarily a no-fly zone. Continued delays in intervening will lead to further escalation of the fighting, he said.
“It’s like everyone forgot about Syria,” he said. “The longer this keeps going this is going to get stronger.”
Daoudi browses Facebook for several hours each day, getting news updates from the Syrian Free Press. Photos of children with bullet wounds to the head and mothers holding dead babies make him cringe.
“I believe life has to continue. It causes me to be down, but always my hope is in God that there is one day when the truth will prevail,” he said between browsing photos.
Born in Damascus, Daoudi earned two degrees from Damascus University before leaving Syria in 1995. He later returned to Syria with his wife and children while working for the United Nations and continuing his studies.
As violence escalated, Daoudi left his education program prematurely in July and took a position at the mosque in Evans.
He still has one brother and some extended family in Syria.
“We pray for them every day,” he said.
The conflict also has Augusta area residents from St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church praying for safety. Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, a leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church, was kidnapped from his car two weeks ago near Aleppo, Syria.
“Nobody knows where they are,” said the Rev. Matthew Edathara Corepiscopos, leader of St. Mary’s.
Also abducted was Archbishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Corepiscopos, who is not Syrian, visited Syria several times in the past three years on church business. Hostilities were rising during his last visit in 2011, but the most recent outbreaks have him fearing for the safety of Christians.
“It is very sad because many of our churches have been destroyed,” he said. “They are killing Christians.”