The conflict in Syrian hits home for many in the Balkans as the diaspora and locals start to mobilise support.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 09/07/12
Aliaa Noha, a Syrian living in Albania, also plans to hold protests in Kosovo. [Aliaa Noha]
Like many Syrians living in exile, Aliaa Noha, a 27-year-old woman living in Albania, watches with dread and anxiety as her country descends into war.
"My friends in Syria tell me they live amidst explosions and bullets," the native of Aleppo who has been living in Albania for eight years explained. "I just want to tell my people that we are far away, but we are with them."
Although small in numbers, Syrians in the Balkans are getting the word out in their adopted countries about what's happening in Syria, while providing moral and material support to those back home.
Since the revolution in Syria began nearly 16 months ago, Noha, a mother of two, has become an activist advocating on behalf of Syrians. On June 8th she organised a small protest of more than 200 people in Tirana to draw attention to her people's plight.
"I am reacting with words, not with weapons. I am just saying let's raise our voice," she told SETimes.
Professor Khaldoun Alnabwani, an independent member of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), says the Syrian diaspora is trying to help its people within Syria by all means.
"They are becoming their voice in the West and all over the world; mobilising international public and official opinion, organising meetings to unify the Syrian opponents against Assad's regime," he told SETimes, adding that they are also sending various forms of aid.
"They took on themselves to help their compatriots inside Syria for whom this support is crucial. I think that it is the case of the Syrians in all the countries around the world," he said.
Events unfolding in Syria have led diplomats and analysts -- rightly or wrongly -- to draw parallels with Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, which brings the point home to many living in the Balkans.
In Kosovo, the Kosovo Islamic Community started to collect donations Friday (July 6th) at mosques to help the nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey.
In a statement, the Kosovo Islamic Community said "The people of Kosovo know best the importance of help because only a decade ago, we were the ones who were helped by the free people and now, thanks to God, thanks to our war and the help of our international friends, we are free and able to help the others in their way towards freedom."
Engjell Berisha, who lost his family members in a massacre by Serbian forces during the war in Kosovo, said he commiserates with Syrians.
"It feels terrible to hear about massacres again. It reminds me of our suffering, of what we were forced to go through. What happened to us should have served as a lesson not to let it happen again," Berisha told SETimes.
Mohammad al-Abdallah, a researcher at the Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and member of the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees that organises protests in Syria against Assad, said that the case of Syria is almost the same as Bosnia. "The international community kept watching and doing nothing for almost three years, without acting or doing any concrete thing, going through diplomacy and the Security Council."
"People got killed and injured. I think there is a similar situation now in Syria, going through the Security Council and diplomacy, which produces nothing. What happened in Bosnia is exactly what is happening in Syria," Abdallah told SETimes.