KNOXVILLE - About 100 people viewed a documentary and discussed current issues in Syria at the Annoor Academy on Sunday.
The discussion featured a panel of leaders in the local Syrian community, including Maryville doctor Jabber Hassan, owner of Yassin's Falafel House Yassin Terou, and Knox County Mayor Chief of Staff Dean Rice.
"I think one of our duties is to begin to use the right language. This is genocide. This is the systematic targeting of a population to eliminate it," Rice said.
The Muslim Community of Knoxville organized the event even before last week's developments that included Syrian president Bashar al-Assad deploying chemical nerve agents on civilians and the United State's answer of 59 Tomahawk missiles.
The documentary and much of the discussion focused on the humanitarian efforts of volunteer rescue workers from the Syrian Civil Defense known as the White Helmets.
"This was great. Seeing all these people who want to come and get the real information was great," Yassin Terou said. "The White Helmets people, they're saving people like my baby here."
Terou said the growing awareness and the U.S.'s stance against chemical weapons is a good sign.
"Seeing all these people today gives me hope because as a Syrian, for six years of government attacking us everyday - that will make you lose your hope," Terou said. "But today, it's like it will refresh my hope."
Dr. Hassan hopes that awareness of the Syrian humanitarian crisis stays at the forefront of people's mind.
"It's better unfortunately after each event like this. After each major attack the awareness increases. Then it dwindles. Then it disappears," Hassan said. "We don't want to keep waiting for the other Omran or the two twins suffocating to be moved."
The panelists urged people who care about the Syrian humanitarian crisis is to let lawmakers hear their voices.
"The best thing for Tennesseans to do is to call our representative and tell them we cannot accept this," Hassan said. "As humans we cannot accept this suffering."
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