Who is the young man that helped Trump change his mind about Syria's Assad?

Leila Alwan

Published: Updated:

Kassem Eid , a survivor of the 2013 Syrian chemical attack in Ghouta caught US President Trump’s attention after he gave an interview on CNN, thanking him for ordering the missile strike on the Al Shayrat airbase in Syria in response to the sarin gas attack by the Syrian regime in Khan Shaykhun.

Eid told Al Arabiya English the 2013 chemical massacre in Ghouta that left 1400 dead was always on his mind.

“What I saw on that day is something that will stay in my memory forever. I never forget to remember,” he said.

 ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

It’s widely believed that Syria’s President Bashar al Assad ordered Tuesday’s airstrikes involving the nerve agent sarin, killing more than 80 in Khan Shaykhoun. The scenes were like something out of a horror movie, people writhing on the ground, frothing at the mouth as they slowly suffocated, children’s lifeless bodies littered across the ground.

When Trump saw the footage of young children slowly dying, parents cradling their babies’ dead bodies, he ordered the retaliatory launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Al Shayrat airfield.

“We cannot be living in 2017 and watching these images happening again and again, while we live in a civilized world this is anything but civilized this is jungle law,” Eid explained.

The Syrian activist said that while Assad, Putin, Iran, and ISIS were to blame for the atrocities being committed in Syria, he points his fingers at former President Obama because “he lied” about getting rid of Assad’s entire chemical weapon stock.

“Obama is the main person to blame, because if he acted in 2013 and punished Assad he would have never used chemical weapons again. If he fulfilled his red line promise, he could have saved hundreds and thousands of people he could have made millions of Syrians stay in their country instead of becoming refugees, instead of seeing babies drowning in the sea while they were fleeing for their lives, like Aylan Kurdi and others. He could have stopped that little boy Omran, in Aleppo from getting bombed. But his inaction, his hypocrisy, his lies will haunt him forever. His legacy will be nothing but a black mark against all of humanity. He let war criminals like Bashar al Assad walk away unpunished for more than six years. This is something that will stay in his pages forever,” he said.

After Eid was interviewed on CNN, Trump shared the interview on Facebook where he wrote, “CNN's narrative failed when a 2013 Syrian chemical attack survivor ridicules Hillary Clinton and not my Administration.”

Eid explained that after “screaming for help” for more than six years, and living in the states for two years going from congress to the White House, and to the United Nations to the DOD and the Think Tanks, he felt hopeless.

He said Trump’s comments after the attack gave him hope for the very first time.

Eid said that one of the main reasons he left the US and moved to Germany was out of disappointment and frustration with Obama’s polices towards Syria.


“I knew for sure Obama would never change his mind. He would never do anything to help Syrians. I felt disappointment and I was frustrated, I felt guilty for living safely in the US while Syrians are still being slaughtered,” Kassem admitted.

Eid said he feels happy their efforts to advocate for the Syrian people eventually were heard by the US president, and that he feels humbled to see people’s positive reaction to the interview.

He said he received a message from an ex-navy officer who was on one of the ships that Obama sent after the chemical weapon attack in 2013, explaining how disappointed she was when the former president cancelled the strike.

“A lot of people were dying to help. Again president Obama was to blame, his ego, his love of legacy, his selfishness stopped him from doing the right thing for such a long time, while it took trump less than 3 months,” Kassem said.

Kassem considers himself a Syrian, a rebel, and an advocate for the Syrian people and for human rights.

He said is part of a team effort of hundreds of thousands of “very good” people worldwide.

In response to the cynical comments on Trump’s airstrikes, Eid said Syrians had been dealing with skeptical and negative comments and opinions for a long time, that through the hard way he learned that people should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

He said he wished the strikes would take out Assad or all of his airports, but the strikes were a message of hope.

“Sending that message of hope, believe me, is priceless; after six years of suffering, six years of endless massacres. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the Assad regime.”

Eid believes they cannot take ISIS out until they take out Assad.

“Hopefully there will be more strikes. We will see very soon an international coalition to take out Assad, just like the coalition to take out ISIS. Assad is the real terrorist, he is the man who created the vacuum for ISIS and other extremist groups to operate in Syria,” Eid added.