Eastern Michigan University’s Students Organize for Syria chapter held its first event, Tea with a Syrian, Wednesday afternoon in the Student Center.
A total of 35 students stopped in to drink tea, eat cookies and listen to the story of a Syrian affected the Syrian crisis.
“Our main goal and mission is to raise awareness about the events taking place in Syria,” said senior Ahnas Alzahabi, president of SOS.
In March 2011, the Syrian government responded with open fire to peaceful protesters who were asking for democracy. The government has continued to fight groups demanding the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to resign.
ISIS, an extremist group from Iraq, a neighboring country to Syria, began taking over parts of Syria in 2014.
The United Nations estimates that over 200,000 people have died due to the crisis. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, another 3.7 million Syrian’s have left the country and are seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.
“The essence of the problem is oppression,” Alzahabi said. “People want to end oppression; they want better lives.”
SOS members shared five stories from Syrians they know and personal experience.
“We aren’t trying to promote any political agenda, military agenda or religious agenda,” Alzahabi said.
Freshman Charlotte Coberley, a major in communications, said she didn’t know anything about the Syrian Crisis before the event.
“I think it’s a global issue,” she said. “It’s naive of anyone who doesn't want to seek more information and education on what’s going on.”
Students could learn about four different Syrians. Some of the Syrian’s last names have been left out for security reasons.
Mariam, 12, fled Syria to a refugee camp in Jordan where she has lived for the past two years. She deals with food shortages and disease from the unsanitary conditions.
Alzahabi, 19, flew from Syria to Beirut, Lebanon and then to America to avoid the draft.
Sophomore Sarah, a pre-med student, shared two personal stories about specific moments from her family’s journey to America.
Samer, 22, is exiled from the country and is on the government’s blacklist.
Sophomore Meryam Nahlawi, SOS member, said discussing stories about real people and about real things that happened has a bigger impact on people than just showing them numbers.
“I think it’s important for everyone to know about this crisis,” she said. “Just because it’s on the other side of the world doesn't mean it doesn't matter.”