UPDATE JAN 17, 3:38 P.M.: Anaheim Businessman Bill Dalati returned back to OC yesterday from the Liberty Convoy for Syria. As Reuters, Al Jazeera, and other news agencies reported on Thursday, the group of about 150 expatriate activists were unable to deliver food and medical supplies after driving through Turkey as they were stopped at the Syrian border.
Dalati served as a spokesperson for the convoy group telling journalists that "The Syrian government said no to medical supplies, no to doctors who would go in to treat the wounded, and they said no to food. They said no to everything." He also made mention of the death of his cousin earlier this month in Syria saying that he had been shot in Zabadani, near the Lebanese border.
Speaking to the Weekly today, Dalati mentioned that the the aide was left to a humanitarian organization that would utilize its resources to deliver it within Syrian borders. "One convoy was not going to do it," he says, "the aide was symbolic and nowhere near enough for the need inside. The main mission was to break the silence and bring the media's attention to Syria."
At the border crossing, Dalati also called for foreign military intervention into his country of birth as a bloody repression of a 10-month anti-government uprising continues. Prior to leaving on the convoy, the Anaheim businessman said in an interview for an upcoming cover story for the Weekly that he was against such action, but now after having returned, he states support for the establishment of "a no fly zone, a neutral zone, but no NATO airstrikes or anything like in Libya."
ORIGINAL ITEM, JAN. 8, 11:34 A.M.: Arab League observers in Syria have issued an initial report recommending the continuation of their controversial mission assessing whether or not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is adhering to a peace plan. The crackdown on protests that began in March of last year and have since turned into a full-fledged uprising, however, shows no signs of abetting. The latest wave of repression has hit close to home for Anaheim businessman and former city council hopeful Bill Dalati, who lost a relative to Assad's goons last week.
Prior to the latest news, Dalati--who twice ran for Anaheim City Council in 2006 and 2010 and became a Democrat because of it once OC GOP members began spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric against him--recently recounted to me in an interview last week that he had lost family members to the violence. "I cannot accept that much killing," he said as he planned to depart on the Liberty Convoy for Syria, a humanitarian mission aimed at delivering food and medical supplies to distressed areas. The United Nations places the number of civilians killed since the uprising ten months ago at more than 5,000.
Violence continued this past week, claiming the life ofSamir Dalati
, a relative of the Anaheim businessman who owns property in the city'sLittle Arabia
district. The London-basedSyrian Observatory for Human Rights
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reported on Friday that Samir, 42, was killed by snipers in Zabadani, a suburb of Damascus. YouTube videos have since been uploaded showinggraphic images of his slain body
as well as the funeral afterward where mourners chanted as he was carried through the streets.
The dynamics of the Arab revolts in the Middle East and North Africa have had direct implications on the Arab-American community here in Orange County with the death of Belal Dalati's relative being a most recent and dramatic episode. Where the call for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt was widely celebrated locally nearly one year ago, Syria has created sharp divisions as the uprising against Assad continues. Either way, Orange County is unequivocally a part of the Arab Spring with all its hope and despair.