- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2015

Qusai Zarkarya, a Syrian who led a monthlong hunger strike to protest the brutality of the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus and who survived a sarin gas attack where his heart stopped beating, fled to the U.S. where he has become an activist raising awareness and help for his country.

“I can tell you things that can make you lose sleep for days and days and days,” Mr. Zarkarya said, speaking at a rally on the grounds of the Capitol Monday pressing the U.S. government to take in more refugees from his country’s brutal four-year civil war.

International refugee agencies say that some 49 percent of Syrians are displaced, 6.5 million out of their homes within Syria, and 4.1 million refugees abroad, fleeing mainly to neighboring countries Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

To date, Lebanon has received 1 million refugees, and Turkey 2 million. Huge numbers which have swelled the populations of both countries enormously in just a few years.

The crisis has spilled over into Europe, where European Union officials have struggled to handle a crush of refugees as nations around the world are being pressed to offer aid.

“We are facing the largest displacement crisis of our time,” said Bishop Minerva Carcano, a Methodist pastor from Los Angeles.

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To date, the U.S. has resettled 1,500 Syrian refugees. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has projected resettling 85,000 refugees next year, 10,000 of whom will be Syrians. But in the face of such staggering numbers of Syrians refugees pouring into other countries, many at Monday’s rally were demanding the U.S. government do more.

Religious and service leaders, along with Rep. David N. Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat and Mr. Zarkarya, called for the U.S. to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees.

Mr. Cicilline, who recently led 70 fellow lawmakers to entreat President Obama to accept more Syrian refugees, said the U.S. is capable of doing more to help in this “humanitarian crisis.”

In response to fears about the cost and the pressure on social services, Mr. Cicilline said resettling 100,000 refugees would increase the U.S. population by only .0003 percent, adding that 69 percent of refugees in 2013 were self-sufficient after just 180 days in the country.

“This country has a history of doing this important work,” Bishop Carcano said.

Mr. Zarkarya proposed that accepting refugees is only a short-term answer, and that only a lasting political solution in his native land will ultimately solve the problem.

“The people of Syria didn’t rebel to leave Syria,” he said.


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