Different perspectives of the Syrian refugee crisis
By Elizabeth Campos Staff Writer
Hannah Ghazal translates Omar Wawieh’s words from Arabic to English (Elizabeth Campos/Union Weekly)
International Studies Student Association offers a look at the Syrian refugee crisis through a different lens.
The International Studies Student Association, in collaboration with organizations such as Future Underrepresented Educated Leaders, Muslim Student Association, Chicano Latino Studies, La Raza Student Association and Black Student Union, put together California State University Long Beach’s Humanitarian Week. This weeklong event is meant to bring awareness to the campus on issues that the community encounters.
On April 5 the International Studies Student Association presented “Uprooting: the Syrian refugee crisis,” an event where people shared their experiences as refugees, family members of refugees and volunteers in refugee camps.
The event that took place in LA2-109 began with Richard Garcia, executive chair of ISSTA, defining terms common to immigration conversations. Words such as “asylum seeker,” “diaspora,” “integration” and “uprooting” were discussed to give the audience a better understanding of the discussed topics.
Hannah Ghazel gave the audience a closer look into what Syria refugees go through, using her family’s journey from their homeland to Sweden as an example.
“It was about 22 days from Syria to Lebanon, from Lebanon to Turkey,” Ghazal said. The methods of transportation during this period of time consisted of approximately 15 buses, four boats, two trains and the rest of the journey was by foot.
While telling the trials and tribulations that her family members went through, Ghazal shared that they also went through a lot of injustices, Ghazal said. Life vests were given to them at the beginning of a boat trip, that were initially supposed to be a cruise ship, and were later taken away from them. When arriving in Europe, the life vests were given back to them to give the impression that they had been worn all along.
Jordan Hattar, international studies CSULB Alumni and creator of help4refugees.org, discussed his life changing experience helping refugees in the Zaatri refugee camp in the Arab nation of Jordan.
Hattar on witnessing the conditions in which the refugees live, as well as how they cope with the everyday struggles that they face.
He elaborated on the fact that even when bombs destroy the camps and kill individuals of all ages, the coping mechanism that the refugees rely the most on is smiling.
“There’s hurt right under the surface,” Hattar said.
To conclude the event, Omar Wawieh, a 20-year-old Syrian refugee shared his journey to America.
Wawieh only speaks Arabic and Ghazal, who carefully explained comments and questions of both Wawieh and the audience, translated his words.
Wawieh came to the United States six months ago and that living has not been easy. With his parents and siblings, he has struggled to find a job, obtain welfare and adapting to the American lifestyle.
He and his younger siblings have experienced racial discrimination since moving to the U.S. His siblings have been accused of causing unrest and possibly planning acts of terrorism.
When the audience asked what type of help Wawieh needed, the 20-year-old with dreams of a law degree answered that they [the audience] can go to his house to meet his family.
“Omar told us about his struggles and it made realize how little ‘the land of opportunities’ is doing for refugees like him,” Gaby Hernandez, anthropology major, said. “We should have programs where they are taught how to navigate simple things like obtaining a job or renting a house. Overall, these types of events motivate me to keep looking for ways to help people.”
The event was followed by FUEL’s “Undocumented” event and Humanitarian Week continued with the Black Student Union hosting a talk with a member of the Black Lives Matter Long Beach chapter.