Louisville Syrian-American remembers Assad in medical school - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Louisville Syrian-American remembers Assad in medical school

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Dr. Ammar Almasalkhi Dr. Ammar Almasalkhi
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Syrian-American living in Louisville anxiously awaited President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday night as he worried about the safety of his family still living in Syria.

Decades ago, a local doctor remembered knowing a quiet, timid man in medical school.

Dr. Ammar Almasalkhi awaited reassurance from President Obama that action will be taken against that same medical student who's now accused of atrocities against civilians.

"I might not be able to ever go back to Syria," Almasalkhi said.  

The Louisville pulmonology physician, who was born and raised outside the capital of Damascus, visited Syria with his family in 2010 and hasn't been back since.  Almasalkhi still has aunts, uncles and cousins living in the war-torn country.  

"You come here with nightmares, flashbacks and things that might happen to your family that you see on the news," Almasalkhi  said.

It wasn't that long ago Almasalkhi encountered President Bashar al-Assad.  "He was a year younger than me and was in medical school. We didn't see signs of the dictatorship.  He was very low-key. He wasn't the one chosen to be president," Almasalkhi said.

However, Assad left medicine and rose to power in Syria where oppression and violence continues.

Almasalkhi said U.S. intervention is pivotal to preventing future massacres.  "No need for American boots on the grounds or casualties, there's plenty of brave Syrian willing to liberate their country."

Almasalkhi supports the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group NBC News reported the U.S. administration is betting on.  The group is considered moderate and seen as a force that can counter the growing influence of radical Islamic groups that have also rebelled against Assad's regime.

"I hope President Obama will have a long-term vision, strategic approach to finish the dictatorship rule in Syria and protect the civilians at-large," Almasalkhi said.

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