Candlelight vigil held Wednesday honors civilian deaths in Syria from chemical warfare

Rachael Garner/Staff

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A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday night at Sather Gate in memoriam of recent civilian deaths via chemical warfare in Syria, as part of a week-long movement to promote awareness of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

With candles on the ground spelling out “Syria,” a crowd of approximately 20 shared their feelings about the revolution and observed a moment of silence for civilian victims. This vigil is part of the Syria Solidarity Week — hosted by Students Organized for Syria — a series of events dedicated to raising money and awareness for the crisis.

According to campus senior Zena Dadouch, a member of Students Organized for Syria, the vigil was for both the family of six that died from a chlorine bomb allegedly dropped by a government plane Monday night in a residential area and the total estimated 200,000 Syrian deaths since the start of the war.

“I’m doing this because (Syria) is my home,” said Dadouch, who grew up in Syria, at the vigil. “I want to help, but I’m not there.”

The Syrian civil war began as peaceful protests in early 2011, but exacerbated into violence when the Assad regime issued crackdowns on protests through the military. So far, the Syrian government’s military violence toward civilians has been gradually amplifying with the deployment of heavy weaponry to suppress rebel forces within Syrian borders.

The Syria Solidarity Week began with a Refugee Awareness Flash Mob on Sproul Plaza on Monday with signs that detailed the hardships encountered by Syrian refugees and civilians. The next day, the group hosted a Syrian revolution “teach-in” at Boalt Hall and screened short films produced by Syrians along with a presentation about the revolution.

The week wrapped up with a fundraiser at the Cultural Resistance Night featuring performances and entertainment Thursday evening. The movement was part of a larger national campaign that also took place at other schools including Wellesley College, Columbia University and University of Pennsylvania this week.

Members hope that the events will raise awareness on campus of what the United Nations has called the “biggest humanitarian emergency of our era,” according to UC Berkeley School of Law second-year and co-founder of the national Students Organized for Syria organization Omar Bailony.

Bailony believes the media seems to have gotten “tired of covering (Syria)” and is “only focusing on ISIS and terrorism, and forgets about civilians.”

Senior Omar El-Qoulaq, one of the organizers of the event, said people on campus are “extremely unaware” of the situation in Syria.

“It takes an effort to care about something like this when you are so far away,” he said, “When something happens in the Middle East, people get numbed, dismiss it as just another day in the Middle East. … This is nothing like anything that has ever happened.”




Contact Jessie Qian at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessieq96.