- Title: BRAZIL: Syrian uprising splits expatriate community
- Date: 26th May 2011
- Summary: BOOK ABOUT CHOFE'S GREAT GRANDFATHER, ASSAD ABDALLA VARIOUS OF CHOFE LOOKING THROUGH BOOK (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) SYRIAN DESCENDANT AND HEAD OF A SYRIAN HEALTH INSTITUTE FOR CHILDREN IN BRAZIL, SERGIO CHOFE, SAYING: "Our community supports the people (of Syria), we support peace and support democracy and freedom of speech for the people. There is a long path ahead to evolve and improve. That is what we want. At the same time, we want this to happen without interference, in a way that does not harm the state the country is in at this time, which is a state of peace without foreign interference. We had true peace in Syria." VARIOUS OF PROTEST HELD BY SYRIAN AND LEBANESE IMMIGRANTS AND DESCENDANTS IN SUPPORT OF DEMOCRACY AND AGAINST VIOLENCE IN SYRIA
- Embargoed: 9th June 2011 20:54
- Location: Brazil, Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: War / Fighting,International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVABD4567B7GR9Z1VZNQCCT6B1ND
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: The news of growing violence back home in Syria has been haunting expatriates in Brazil for the past two months, sometimes even splitting the community in two.
Of Brazil's 12 million immigrants of Arab descent, roughly five million are from Syria, and while all of them are praying for peace, they are divided over what the future of their country of origin should be.
According to Syrian-Brazilian journalist Tammam Daaboul, part of the community wants to see the down fall of President Bashar al-Assad. Others want more freedoms and reform of the autocratic system, while a third group prefers things as they were before.
"I think that all of us who have relatives living in Syria today are concerned about their lives. But I believe that both we and they are much more concerned about the future of the country and how much it will be able to preserve of its culture and of its civilisation. Hopefully it will be a process without foreign interference, without the intensification of the ethnic, religious and civil conflicts that could lead the country into a long process of destabilisation and war which could end up destroying what is left of the culture, of a civilisation that I believe is essential to the history of humanity," he said.
At Sao Paulo's Syrian Cultural Centre, a portrait of President Assad hangs on the wall. While employees there spoke out against pro-democracy activists and the international media for supporting them, they refused to appear on camera. Like most immigrants, they fear for the safety of their families back home.
But Fadih Kaled, a Syrian doctor who attends weekly community meetings at the centre, was openly critical of the international media, accusing them of working to serve their own interests.
"I'm worried about this political movement that the media is helping promote to bring down the Syrian government in order for it to agree to new conditions that respond to the interests of the United States, Europe and Israel," he said.
After President Assad's visit to Brazil in 2010, the young and fairly charismatic leader won many hearts and minds in the South American country -- especially among Syrian descendants.
One such case is Brazilian businessman Sergio Chofe, whose Syrian great-grandparents founded a couple of successful businesses in Sao Paulo in the late 1800s.
Chofe said he believed in the Syrian president's ability to rule the country, but above all wanted what was best for the people.
"Our community supports the people (of Syria), we support peace and support democracy and freedom of speech for the people. There is a long path ahead to evolve and improve. That is what we want. At the same time, we want this to happen without interference, in a way that does not harm the state the country is in at this time, which is a state of peace without foreign interference," he said.
Despite being thousands of miles away, recent events in Syria have been troubling enough to bring expatriates out onto the streets of Brazil in protest.
Their strong sense of being South American citizens has done little to dampen their connection to their country of origin - particularly at a time of crisis.
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