Cody Langford is an average American citizen who lives in the small rural town of Stonyford, California, which has a population of about 200. Langford is also a humanitarian activist who was supporting the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom and dignity through the online defacement work done by the internet hacking group called Anonymous when the revolution began in 2011. His desire to become physically active in supporting refugees developed as a result of watching the regime’s deadly response to the peaceful protests that were being held at that time.
In 2013, Langford created a humanitarian organization called Remember Syria Relief and has traveled to Turkey four times since then, once to distribute winter clothing to refugee children living in camps near the Syrian border, and three more times to implement projects that would create work opportunities for Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
SYRIAWISE sat down with Cody Langford a few days ago to talk about his views of the current situation in Syria.
Q: A large number of Syrians that we know believe that consecutive American administrations should shoulder responsibility for the fact that Assad is still in power. What do you think?
I would have to agree with them. The regime has committed countless acts of violence and atrocities unimaginable for the 21st century. Yet Assad remains in power. It distresses me to see such as the US Embassy of Damascus and our State Department condemn these acts, but overall do nothing to change the outcome. Eleven years later the situation in Syria remains the same. If the consecutive US administrations had supported the Syrian people, as they are the Ukrainians, I honestly do not think that we would be talking about Ukraine today.
Q: We are used to seeing the regime’s atrocities against opposition forces and people in the liberated areas of Syria, but the execution-style killing in the video of the Tadamun massacre published by The Guardian last April appeared to be of regular people living in the regime-controlled area. Is there anything about that that surprises you?
The only thing shocking or surprising is the audacity to record such acts. Countless videos have been uploaded of the Syrian regime committing crimes against humanity. In addition, any area under regime control is not a safe environment as countless men have been physically detained and conscripted into the army to fight for them. Raping, kidnapping, and torture have consistently occurred in the regime-controlled areas as well as their continuous bombing of the areas outside of their control.
Q: Do you think that the surfacing of this video now, and the investigation that it sparked, will make any difference in Syria?
Honestly, I do not see any future difference in Syria after this video. It may be archived to be used as evidence for future cases of prosecution for war crimes, though overall. I do not believe Syrians will be seeing any justice in the near future for Assad’s crimes. The only hope I see is that there may be ramifications for Bashar Assad for his support of Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. The world is watching and most are supporting Ukraine. I believe Assad’s support for Russia will only make it harder for him to fully secure Syria. Though politically, the US will most likely not take any action to eliminate Assad or even Amjad Youssef (the executioner in the video). The US also has a royal passion for small-time ISIS operatives and unfortunately, because of that, the world came to view ISIS as the focal point of what was happening in Syria.
Q: The first time you went to Turkey was to take winter clothes to the children in the refugee camps. How did you transition from that to creating businesses for Syrian refugees?
Well, that was a long process. I wanted to do something more substantial and beneficial, as well as self-sustaining. It bothered me to be doing one-time handouts such as clothing that would only last a couple of years for kids that young. I did some talking to people — well actually just one. That was my friend Mahmoud who lives in Turkey. His help made such things possible. He went to meetings, figured out the costs, arranged for the labor, etc. His participation made it possible for me to come back home while he acted as a go-between, bringing me any issues or concerns and helping me to make the decisions that had to be made.
Q: If the regime was to fall, would you think to visit Syria in the future?
Yes, of course, right away. Actually, I was planning to go in quietly without telling anyone. But the project we were hoping to create there failed. My intentions were to join a Turkish NGO on a trip to Idlib for a housing project for refugees. Though the costs quoted by the NGOs were far too much, as if they expected me to be a wealthy American businessman. Mahmoud also helped by arranging for the appropriate documents that would allow me to enter Syria under Turkish authority. Unfortunately, since that project failed, traveling inside Syria failed as well. I believe at this time the only logical way for me to have projects in Syria would be by way of the Turkish authority which would also give me the right to return to Turkey. That is something many people, even many Syrians, are unable to do, unfortunately.
I just can’t bring myself to go into Syria without a purpose. I won’t put people at risk for no good reason or constructive purpose, so unless I have one, I won’t even try. But of course, I will go when Assad is gone.