Written by Elizabeth McDonagh, Contributing Writer, and Enxhi Myslymi, Managing Editor
Sophomore Iman Jebara, who spoke at last year’s Syria panel, returned this year to share her family’s firsthand account of the tragedies in Syria.
“This is my family. They’re my blood,” Jebara said. “You can’t just not think about it … It’s something that affects me every day.”
Similar to her talk at last year’s panel, Jebara told the story of how her uncle was “taken … in front of his wife and kids” and was forced to say that he was affiliated with a terrorist organization. Her family’s hometown, Elepo, has also been destroyed as a result of the Syrian crisis, forcing her family to flee the country.
According to Jebara, the situation in Syria is a humanitarian issue where “human beings are being treated as if they’re nothing.”
“How can we just sit here and not do anything,” Jebara asked. “It’s up to us now. We have to demand action.”
The panel, titled “Syria: Past, Present and Personal,” was organized by Nicole Davidow ‘15 and Deirdre McElroy ‘17. It took place on Thursday, Nov. 20 in the Lower Level Barone Campus Center in an effort to raise awareness about the current situation in Syria.
As Catholic Relief Services student ambassadors, Davidow and McElroy teamed up with Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network and Muslim Students Association to organize the panel discussion.
Following last year’s model, Davidow and McElroy set up a panel with Politics Professor Dr. Marcie J. Patton, History Professor Dr. David W. McFadden and Jebara.
Patton opened up the discussion with a brief description of the history and politics of Syria.
Syria is half the size of Iraq and has two major social cleavages that historically created conflicts of power: ethnicity and religion, Patton explained. An expert on Turkey, she also discussed Turkey’s involvement in Syria’s refugee situation.
These conflicts have led to more than three million Syrians fleeing to bordering countries, according to U.S. Aid’s website.
According to Patton, Turkey “opened its borders right away” to Syria in 2011. The nation is now host to more than one million Syrian refugees. Providing housing and adequate health care to these refugees has been a major point of contention for the Turkish government.
Following Patton’s lecture, McFadden advocated for the involvement of Russia and Iran in solving the Syrian crisis, especially considering that Russia is Syria’s “largest patron.”
He also discussed the “negligent” role of the United States in Syria, saying that the U.S. needs to pay more attention to the Syrian crisis and the “root causes of ISIS.”
“It’s as if [Syria] doesn’t exist for the American people,” McFadden said. “Let’s put our money where we say our values are and try to deal with it in a humanitarian way.”
Focusing on the Fairfield community, Davidow said, “We should take action and find out how to get involved.”
According to Patton, the community can start by “donating to reputable organizations or NGOs, and as students, a main priority should be spreading awareness.”
Regarding student attendance during the event, Patton said, “I thought there was a tremendous turnout.”
For Elizabeth Sheehan ‘17 who attended the panel, “It was illuminating to see Iman speaking about her personal experience. I think that it’s important to hear a firsthand account, especially when there’s not enough attention shed on this subject as a humanitarian issue.”
After she spoke last year, Jebara said, “People came up to me the week after telling me how shocked they were.”
She added, “I’m hoping that it did today as well and from what I’m hearing, I think it did.”
For more information on donating or how to get more involved, students can contact Iman Jebara at email@example.com.