Fawaz Entabi and his wife, Laila Chaouva, stress that President Bashar Assad, despite his claims to the contrary, has little support from the overwhelming majority of Syrian people and needs to be pushed from power.
In recent weeks, they thought American missile strikes on Syrian army facilities would help the rebel cause, but now they support other ways for the U.S. to back what is known as the Free Syrian Army. They have not heard from relatives in Syria in recent days but expect to this weekend.
“Very few in Syria imagined the fighting would escalate to its present level,” Entabi reported. “The military dictatorship is tearing our country apart.”
Both Entabi and Chaouva are living in Tracy with their son, Dr. Khaled Entabi, a Tracy dentist, and his wife, Mila, and two children. The couple has another son, a surgeon who lives in Visalia.
Both the husband and wife from Syria are civil engineers who had a successful heating and air-conditioning business in Damascus before the fighting began. They have seen their lives turned upside down by the fighting that has erupted in Syria in the past two years.
They have two homes, one in Syrian capital of Damascus and another on a farm near the smaller town of Zabadani in the mountains 30 miles from Damascus near the border with Lebanon.
“Both of our homes have been heavily damaged in the fighting in and near Damascus,” Chaouva said. “No one lives in the ruined home in Zabadani.”
The center of Zabadani, site of the first major battle of the civil war in January and February 2011, has been almost completely destroyed, they reported.
Entabi, 67, said he once operated a farm in the mountain valley, growing a variety of tree fruits and nuts, including apples, apricots, peaches and walnuts. Now all farming of the land has stopped.
“Because of the fighting, food prices have shot up,” said his 60-year-old wife. “Wheat now costs 10 times what it did before.”
Entabi and Chaouva want the war to end, but they also want Assad and his government, whose leaders are mostly from the Alawis minority, to be driven from power.
“The Alawis represent only 11 percent of Syria’s population, but they control the government and have 80 percent of the military officers,” Entabi explained.
Sunni Muslims make up 75 percent of the population.
Military help from the U.S. would be important in swinging the tide of war in favor of the rebels, who are mostly from Syria, with only a small minority from al-Qaida affiliates, they said. They had hoped that American cruise missiles would be used to destroy military facilities, concentrating on those that could be used to launch chemical attacks. That seems less likely now that a Russian proposal is being discussed to turn over Syria’s chemical stockpile to the United Nations.
Another possibility would be the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, Entabi and Chaouva said.
“A great deal of the damage has come from aerial bombing by government planes,” Entabi said. “A no-fly zone would stop that and should be considered.”
The new Tracy residents left Syria in July 2012. They secured visas from the U.S. Embassy in Jordan and returned to Syria a day later, flying out just a few days before the Damascus airport was closed.
“We are fortunate to have our sons in the U.S. and places to go. So many have left for camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey,” said Chaouva, who had been a volunteer with Syrian people-serving agencies, including the Red Cross. “We just want justice and peace, but who knows what the future will bring and when we can return to our home country.”
•Contact Sam Matthews at 830-4234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.