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In Istanbul's 'Little Syria,' refugees want more from US

A Syrian worker prepares Syrian baklava pastry in a pastry shop in the 'Little Syria', the nickname for Istanbul's central Aksaray neighbourhood, now home to many Syrians who escaped the civil war that has ravaged the country for the past six years, Saturday, April 8, 2017. Restaurants and shops with colorful Arabic signs offer respite to those who sorely miss their country and its delicacies.The country hosts three million Syrian refugees and its largest city, Istanbul, is home to some 480,000 of them. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
April 08, 2017 - 12:40 PM

ISTANBUL - The fast-moving developments in Syria are never far from people's minds in an Istanbul neighbourhood that is home to thousands of refugees from the country's civil war.

In the Aksaray neighbourhood — now known as "Little Syria" — the signs are in Arabic, the cuisine is seasoned with nostalgia and the weary residents are hoping for change after the first U.S. strike on President Bashar Assad's forces.

The U.S. fired nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base early Friday, days after a chemical attack widely blamed on government forces killed nearly 90 people in the opposition-held northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. Opponents of Assad welcomed the move, but many in Little Syria feel that more should be done to end the grinding, six-year civil war.

"We are fed up of bombings, what we already lived through is enough," said Samer Maydani, who hails from Damascus and owns a coffee shop in Little Syria. "We need political solutions through the U.N. and the Security Council."

"After seven years of destroying us, we don't trust anyone," he said. "If (U.S. President Donald) Trump and the international community want change, they should just ask Assad to leave."

Turkey is home to some three million Syrian refugees, 480,000 of whom live in Istanbul. The Turkish government welcomed the U.S. strike and has called for renewed efforts to remove Assad from power.

Across the street from Maydani's coffee shop, Hussein Esfira, from the Syrian city of Aleppo, works 14-hour shifts as a butcher in a Syrian restaurant. He says he has little time left to follow politics, but feels the U.S. could do more.

"Why are they bombing?" he asked. "Everyone is seeking to take a piece of the cake."

"Instead of bombing, the U.S. can intervene for the sake of a peaceful solution," he said.

The owner of a nearby pastry shop agrees. Anas Jamous, who also comes from Aleppo, said that if the international community wanted to end the war, "they would have done so five years ago."

He is still angry about Trump's travel ban, which would have barred people from Syria and five other Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the United States until stricter vetting procedures are put in place. The ban also temporarily suspended the U.S. refugee program.

He said the ban, which has been blocked by the courts, "expresses a deep hatred against Muslims from the American government."

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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