WASHINGTON – Members of the Syrian community living in the D.C. region are watching from thousands of miles away while their homeland is in chaos.
Julie, of Homs, Syria, now calls Reston, Va. her home, but many of her and her husband’s relatives still live in Syria. She asked that her last name not be used for fear of retaliation.
In recent days, she says, all communication has been shut off. She hasn’t been able to speak to her family in Homs for about a week now.
Julie says her relatives have been forced to bunker down in shelters.
“They’ve been there for days, running out of food and medical aids. It’s been really bad,” she says.
Last week, Julie lost a cousin to the violence in Syria. She says he was trying to get medical aid for a group of people, when he was killed in a car bomb. He leaves behind three small children, ages 2 through 7. Fortunately, she’s learned his children are safe.
WTOP also sat down with Syrian-born Mohammad in his home in Fairfax County, who also asked that his last name be withheld. He was raised in Damascus and immigrated to the U.S. in 1974. He also sits in horror every day, hearing what his relatives are going through.
He says his relatives have been forced to leave their jobs and schools to hide from the brutal regime.
“They circle the city, they cut off water, electricity, all the communications and start bombing,” he says. The losses are unimaginable.
“The way they kill people is just beyond belief,” he says.
Jomana, an attorney in D.C., is keeping a close eye on her homeland, and also asked her last name be withheld. She moved to the U.S. when she was 3 but has gone back and forth to Syria over the years. She currently lives in Arlington.
She says she is glued to YouTube, watching what is going on.
“I feel like I need to see these images to understand what’s happening and I feel it’s an obligation,” she says.
She also knows the bloodshed personally. She says her 11-year-old cousin died recently from a stray bullet that bounced off a building in Syria. Another family member was killed while protesting.
Jomana says burying the dead is a challenge. She says family members couldn’t mourn for her grandmother when she passed away last month.
“They couldn’t even bury her properly, they had to search her coffin to make sure there weren’t any guns. They couldn’t stay there for any type of service afterwards,” she says.
Mohammad calls the bloodshed among the worst in recent times.
“Syrians are being killed and massacred. Where is the world?” he asks.
He says the U.N. and the international community needs to stand up against the violence and for the dignity and safety of his people.
“I hope that the world community will come together to support the Syrian people and stop the bloodshed,” he says.
Julie, who lost her cousin to the violence, also has one hope: “Do anything that will just help the violence. I mean that’s more what it’s about it,” she says.
WTOP’s Maria Hallas contributed to this report. Follow Darci Marchese and WTOP on Twitter.