PORTLAND, Ore. – For Victor Atiyeh, taking part in Saturday’s anti-war demonstration in Portland was personal.
Protesters, many from the local Syrian community, marched and rallied downtown against U.S. military action in Syria.
“We care so much because we live far away from our country,” Atiyeh said.
The cousin of Oregon’s former governor with the same name, Atiyeh was born in Syria. He’s now an American citizen who owns a local business. His brother still lives in Syria.
“It’s very hard because I have too much memories over there, too much good things over there,” said Atiyeh. “I hope Syria will be back how it was two years ago.”
It was two years ago that the Arab Spring led to ousters of leaders in Libya and Egypt.
Steven Whabey is the president of the Syrian American Club of Portland. He says the unrest in Syria is a symptom of regional conflict.
“In Syria, the majority of the people support the government, support President Bashar,” he said. “But these continued, just the rush of terrorists that come in to the country every day, it makes it difficult for the Syrians.”
President Barack Obama on Saturday asked Congress to support a strike punishing Bashar Assad's regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons. Congress is scheduled to return from a summer vacation on Sept. 9.
Whabey and Atiyeh said they don’t want war because they believe the Syrian president is being blamed for the chemical weapons attacks that they said may have come from the opposition.
“He's been fighting for two and a half years against terrorists that have been fleeing into Syria trying to cause chaos and trying to overthrow the government,” said Whabey.
“We want our Syrian people to decide what’s best for our country, not anybody else,” said Atiyeh.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.