UCF students championed for “Peace for the Middle East” at an anti-war demonstration on campus Tuesday in response to the United States’ airstrikes in Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Armed Forces on Friday to launch precision strikes on three targets in Syria associated with chemical weapons, a White House press release issued Saturday states. The strikes were supported by Britain and France as an attempt to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop using chemical weapons, according to the release.
An alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7 left a dozen civilians dead and hundreds injured. The attack led to the United States’ decision to carry out the airstrikes, according to a Friday press release issued by the U.S. Department of National Security and Defense.
Erin Favus, a 22-year-old UCF political science major, said she doesn’t want to see fire fought with fire.
“[The demonstration] is just about humanizing [the people being attacked] and helping people realize that war in the Middle East is not the way to go,” said Favus, the soon-to-be president of Knights for Socialism.
Though Favus wasn’t sure how to solve the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, she said members of the U.S. government would have found a more “manageable” way to handle the issue if they cared about Syrians.
“One of the core tenants of socialism has always been opposition to imperialism and war,” said Dylan Tyer, the UCF Knights for Socialism founder.
Tyer, a 21-year-old UCF history major, said he’s skeptical of the evidence the United States has provided to justify the airstrikes.
“[America has] a long legacy of fabricating evidence as an excuse to go to war,” Tyer said.
According to the U.S. Department of National Security and Defense release, photos and videos from the Douma attack show victims with no visible external wounds suffering from asphyxiation and foaming at the mouth. It says “reliable intelligence” indicates the use of chlorine, and “credible medical personnel and organizations” reported the use of chlorine and sarin. The release does not expand on where the government got its information.
Tyer said the demonstration was meant to question and spread awareness of the recent actions by the U.S. government. Tyer said removing Assad from power could lead to more dangerous people or Islamic militant organizations taking control.
“You can say what you want about Assad, but at the current point he’s really the only legitimate form of government that is really open to Syria, and he enjoys popular support,” he said.
UCF aerospace engineering student Lucas Hope, 19, said he supports the airstrikes.
Hope said the attacks send a message to nations such as China and North Korea that threaten to defy international weapon laws, he said.
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an international treaty that prohibits the development, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons, according to the U.S. Chemical Weapons Convention website. The treaty does not prohibit the use of “related chemicals for peaceful purposes,” but it acts to verify uses of chemicals are consistent with the treaty, the website states.
But Trump apparently isn’t communicating with North Korea through airstrikes in Syria. According to The Washington Post, Trump announced Tuesday that he has had “very high level” talks with North Korea. He has also said he supports South Korea and North Korea meeting to see if they can end the Korean War.
Hope said the United States should be a global watchdog in order to preserve worldwide liberties.
UCF student Fredrick Cox signed a “solidarity banner” at the demonstration that read “Hands off Syria” and “Knights against war.” Cox said he’s against the airstrikes, adding that taxpayer money should be used to better America instead.
Cox, a 27-year-old UCF human communications major, also agreed with Tyer and said pushing Assad out of power could be problematic.
Cox said Assad provides stability to the nation. Cox also said removing him could give opportunities to Islamic militant organizations.
“A lot of times [America influences] regime changes, and we don’t think about long-term effects,” Cox said.
Favus said the demonstration aimed to make people aware that Assad and Trump should be taken out of power. About 100 people passed through the event outside the Student Union to stop and sign the banner, Favus said.
Favus said she hopes a “more friendly” environment for democratic systems can be formed in Syria.
“But I don’t think that’s going to be handled overnight, or in a day or even with our protest today,” Favus said.