Conflicts in the Middle East reaching Ohio

CLEVELAND - The Associated Press reported Thursday the United States is looking at suspending another major weapons shipment to Egypt as tensions in the deeply divided country continue to grow. 

But the unrest in the Middle East does not end with Egypt, nor is it only impacting the Middle East.

In Ohio, we see something wrong in the gas prices going up and down but overseas it's more than that, involving lives dying in the struggle for Democracy, said Josh Stacher, A Middle East Expert. Stacher spent two years living in Egypt and still has friends and students there. 

What's happening now?  In the past week, more than 1,000 people have been killed in Egypt following a government coup weeks ago.  The latest news, the country's former authoritative ruler, Hosni Mubarak, is out of jail and under house arrest. 

To those hundreds of protestors who died since fighting for a more democratic state, "This is horrible, It'll cancel everything we've been though: all the killing, all the bloodshed, it's devastating," an Egyptian resident told national news.

In Stacher's world, "It's wreaked havoc on my life. I'm trying to be a university professor and teach my classes and carryout my research agenda but the problem is, because I lived there for so long, I have friends that are directly involved in the protests – many acquaintances, many people that I've interviewed, many people that I've known for a long time that have either ended up in jail or ended up being oppressed in some shape or form."

But Stacher says he's also concerned for Syria where early Wednesday, rebel forces say the Syrian President was responsible for killing around 1,300 people in a chemical attack. 

Stacher called a chemical attack on a group of people a war crime but added in these situations where groups are fighting for government change, " What started off as movements for emancipation and freedom have just been utterly slammed, the door has been slammed shut on these people and it's unclear which side the international community is on.  They seem very torn between pushing for Democratic values and protecting and guarding their national security interests and just like other times when these make or break moments have happened, usually the large international powers have sided with the national security interests and that looks what they're doing right now."

How do Ohio's political leaders side on this?  Senator Rob Portman visiting the Flats Thursday said, "I'm very concerned of what's happening.  Egypt as you know is the most populous Arab country.  It looks now as though hundreds of people have been killed while protesting.  The United States government has a role to play here."

Portman continued, "One is: we've got to stand up and say, ‘Let's have a peaceful resolution of this; let's allow the interim government to take control and let's over time have elections and get back to the Democratic process, which is what the United States has to stand for.  Second, we've got to be sure in Syria, in Egypt and around the Middle East that we have a presence there.  That the United States is involved and engaged because it does affect us here.  I look at the prices at the pump right now.  You probably notice they've been going up and down.  Why? Because of the uncertainty about Egypt."

Portman also acknowledged his and the country's concerns are over more than just gas prices as he underlined the importance of upholding Democracy.

Friday, August 23 rd from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. the Syrian-American community in Ohio is planning a vigil/solidarity stand at Crocker Park to mourn the  deaths of over 1,000 civilian  killed by chemical weapons attacks in Eastern Damascus. 

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