Students Organize for Syria raise awareness about the Syrian crisis

Eastern Michigan University’s Students Organize for Syria chapter will hold their first event "Tea with a Syrian" as part of national Syrian Solidarity week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday in room 104 in the Student Center.

Students can listen to the story of a Syrian affected by the Syrian Crisis. Volunteer story-tellers will explain the stories over cups of Arabic red tea and five to 10 stories will be shared.

“The whole purpose of the event is really to make a connection -- that personal connection,” said Ahnas Alzahabi, senior and president of SOS. “Most of us have lost sight of [that] with regards to the Syrian conflict. We view the conflict as numbers and we don’t really know how it’s affecting people’s lives.”

Alzahabi said the stories that will be shared come from SOS members who are in touch with people in Syria and know people in America who have been affected by the crisis. The identities of the Syrians the stories are about will be kept private due to security concerns for those still living in Syria.

“I think most people will lose sight by watching and following the media. They aren't sure how that’s affecting people’s lives and there is a disconnect. So we want to make that re-connect and make these stories real,” Alzahabi said.

Noor Ghali, sophomore, secretary of SOS, said they get their facts and statistics from the United Nations and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s websites.

“When we do have our events and we do tell people about what’s going on, they always get so sad about it. They always want to learn more. They always want more examples. They always want to make sure that it’s real,” Noor Ghali said.

Amer Ghali, Early College Alliance student and vice president of SOS, said that he plans talking about the conflict in general and sharing photographs taken by award-winning photographers of it rather than sharing a story.

EMU’s chapter of SOS began Jan. 27. Wellesley College, Arizona State University, University of California Berkley, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Loyola University Chicago, University of Central California and Yale University also have chapters.

Amer Ghali said that EMU’s campus lacked a focus on the problems in Syria.

“I looked at our campus and saw a lot of potential for it to thrive here,” Ghali said.

The U.N. has labeled the crisis the worst humanitarian disaster in the 20th century. Amer Ghali said that the first step in changing the problem is identification.

“People should come out because this is something that cannot be ignored,” Amer Ghali said. “And to educate themselves. I feel as though if we want to be identified as students and an institution dedicated to improving ourselves, and subsequently with improving society, we should begin by analyzing what needs to be changed and fixed about society.”

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