Students Organize 4 Syria held a crash course on the Syrian crisis to cover the history of the Syrian conflict, the refugee crisis and post presidential election effects on Nov. 14.
Panelists included WSU's Dr. Saeed Khan, a Near East and Asian studies professor, Dr. Eric Montgomery, a Peace and Conflict studies professor and Gaia Klotz, a senior majoring in theater and conflict studies.
Khan started the course by covering the history of the Syrian conflict. His presentation ranged from the creation of the Ba’ath party in 1947 to the emergence of ISIS in 2014.
Khan also covered the difficulty in defining sides in this conflict.
“If you look at the most current area of control in Syria, you’ll see that it is a mixed bag. There are areas of significant Syrian government control, [and] there are areas of rebel control as well,” he said. “In many ways, it provides a kind of mosaic which is reminiscent of the way the French had divided the country in order to be able to more successfully rule and maintain order.”
Montgomery discussed the current refugee crisis in Michigan and all around the United States.
“This is probably the largest refugee situation in almost all of our lifetimes, definitely since World War II,” Montgomery said. “So the scale and scope of this, the enormity of it is on a scale we haven’t seen before despite the fact that it has been relegated to the recycle bin of the news media.”
Montgomery said the refugee crisis is not beyond our reach, and students can help refugees directly, especially since some refugees reside in our own neighborhoods including Dearborn Heights, Ypsilanti, and Troy.
“I was at the Pontiac school last semester. The bell went off and the kids jumped underneath their chairs, that’s the amount of PTSD they’re contending with. I haven’t cried in about eight years and I cried for two straight hours,” he said.
Montgomery said he is disappointed that the U.S. allows only 10,000 refugees.
“Many times our government is choosing security over freedom,” he said.
Montgomery said he looks at the refugee crisis as a shared responsibility among the nations.
“I would encourage you, even more than sending letters to Stabenow or even your house representative, go straight to the governor and say you want to see more refugees,” Montgomery said.
Klotz spoke on her experiences and studies at her summer internship with The Carter Center in the Conflict Resolution program in Atlanta. One of the significant projects she was initially interviewed for was the Syria mapping project, Klotz said.
“The Carter Center is one of the first organizations that stepped forward and decided to encompass the Kurdish perspective,” Klotz said.
Amal Rass, a sophomore majoring in English and the president of WSU’s chapter of SOS, said it is important for everyone to be educated about the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis to avoid not knowing about “the largest humanitarian crisis of our era.”
“College students: we’re the future of this country. Not just the country, but the world as a whole,” Rass said. “If we’re not being educated about the largest humanitarian crisis, if we’re not making plans to help or doing activist work no matter how minimal, then I see that as a waste. We have so much potential as university students,” Rass said.
Rass said WSU is so diverse in religions, cultures and ethnicities, and students have a great opportunity not just to be educated, but also to take action and help.
Students can sign SOS’s petition to provide scholarships for ten Syrian students.
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