Northeast Ohioans worry about loved ones in embattled Syria, but welcome U.S. air strikes against ISIS.
WESTLAKE, Ohio - Like many Syrian immigrants, Dr. Khaled Issa has watched closely the civil war in his homeland over the last two and half years while dealing with a range of emotions.
"You go through so many ups and downs emotionally between depression to frustration to anger," said Issa. "After a while I said you know I have to have some positive forces to be able inside myself to do something. Otherwise I'd be paralyzed sitting at home listening to news and do nothing."
As president of the Syrian-American Medical Society what he has been doing is going over to Jordan and Turkey to help treat the refugees fleeing Syria, more than a million of them children.
"So many innocent people are dying for no reason," he said. "I saw so many unfortunate, sad, heart wrenching stories from these hospitals… this is a first-hand account witnessing what exactly happened inside the country."
One account came from a 23 -year-old man he met who had been held in a prison that apparently was in danger of being taken over by the opposition.
"They spilled on the cell floor some toxic material that made everybody die immediately. The only survivor to tell the story was this man," he said.
When the prison was liberated by the opposition, the man, barely alive and in a coma, was taken to Jordan in kidney and heart failure.
"Luckilly they were able to revive him and he was able to tell the story otherwise nobody would have known what happened."
Dr. Issa came to the U.S. in the 80s and studied at Case, eventually starting a family with his wife of nearly 20 years and making northeast Ohio home.
As the tensions grew surrounding the civil war, he brought much of his immediate family to Ohio to live with him.
His first cousin, a 30-year-old businessman living in an upscale area of Aleppo, Syria was one of the family members who stayed behind.
Three months ago, Issa said he was on the balcony of his home taking pictures of one of the aerial attacks nearby when a routine patrol going by spotted him from the ground.
"They went up to his house, they dragged him in front of his wife and two little children," he said. "They took him in the intelligence compound and they kept him for two weeks and they called his father two weeks later to claim his body. He was tortured with his nails pulled out."
As it becomes clearer that the U.S. will launch some sort of attack on Syria for the use of chemical weapons, Issa said it will have to send a clear message.
"If the will of the free world is to prevent this from happening again, then they have to do something drastic to prevent this from happening again."
Small air strikes, he said, will not change anything.
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