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'T&T missing the real story on Syria'

By Carla Bridglal carla.bridglal@trinidadexpress.com

Syrian Honorary Consul Marwan Youseph believes Trinidad and Tobago is not getting the real story behind the Syrian civil war currently ravaging the Arab state.
“The general public in Trinidad and Tobago is exposed to Western (broadcast) media. Even the local papers get their information from Western media outlets. Don’t believe what Western media is saying,” Youseph said yesterday at a function at his Bayshore residence in celebration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s re-election as president on June 3.
Assad won a landslide victory, capturing 88.7 per cent of the vote over his other challengers; the election—occurring while the country is in the midst of a savage civil war that began almost three years ago—was widely criticised by the international community as being rigged, undemocratic and unfair.
“The general public is not getting the real picture. Syria was exposed three years ago to conspirators and mercenaries who wanted to oust Assad because of his stance against the United States and Israel. Syria is the only country standing up to the US and Israel, and that is why we have this war,” he said.
The Syrian uprising was part of a wider North African/Middle Eastern protest movement known as the “Arab Spring” in 2011.
Israel is bordered by Syria in the north east and the lands have been the subject of territorial disputes.
Youseph and hundreds of Trinidadians of Syrian origin braved the rains yesterday to celebrate with traditional songs and dances, wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with Assad’s visage.
The Syrian mission, which had organised the event, had put an advertisement in the press last week, inviting all Syrian and Arab nationals and descendants, as well as Lebanese friends, to the event.
Most of those present were born in Syria and migrated here because of family and commercial connections, Youseph said, noting there were two distinct Syrian communities—families here for the last 100 years and more recent immigrants.
Asked if any of them would want to return to Syria, he said Trinidad was their home now, and they loved it as much.
Standing in his courtyard, which was decorated with Syrian flags and pictures of Assad, Youseph said the celebration was a way of showing support to Syria and sending a message to the world.
Noting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has voiced its concern about the “escalating security and humanitarian crisis” in Syria, Youseph said he understands the ministry does not support what is going on in Syria.
“Nobody approves what is going in on Syria. But (the US) is supporting the mercenaries and terrorists and extremists,” he said.
He said the Syrians in Trinidad and Tobago obey the law and they all want peace and harmony.
Displaying opposite sentiments, however, was Youseph’s brother, former Arima mayor Ghassan.
G Youseph has been very outspoken against the civil war in his home country. In a Facebook post yesterday, he said, “People keep asking me if I’m going to the celebrations.
“Here is my answer: go to celebrate the killings of 250,000. Two hundred and fifty thousands Syrians. Go and celebrate the status of millions of Syrians as refugees. Go and celebrate the fact that thousands of Syrian children crossed the Syrian borders to other countries without any parents or guar­dians.
“Go to celebrate the becoming of Syria as the next Somalia. Go to celebrate the becoming of Syria as the next Afghanistan. No, thank you very much, left (sic) me to watch football. To all fathers Happy Father’s Day.”
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