Panelists preach advocacy for Syria

As the Syrian refugee crisis wages on overseas, the disagreements about U.S. policy in the matter have not ceased either.

On Wednesday, the Bradley International Affairs Organization (IAO) brought in three panelists from around the country to discuss humanitarian law in relation to Syria. The panel included Robert McKenzie of the Brookings Institution, Suzanne Sahloul of the Syrian Community Network and Roya Naderi of the Karam Foundation.

“[We brought this panel] here to educate ourselves further on the topic, to raise awareness about the issue happening in Syria and just to be a part of the population that helps make a change,” Yasmine Musaitif said.

As president of the Muslim Student Association, Musaitif partnered with the IAO to co-host this panel to bring more attention to the issues abroad.

“You don’t really see a lot of organizing of student body for issues that really matter,” Musaitif said. “There’s so many issues that we can come together and raise awareness about. It’s this one chance to see and meet and learn about all these different kinds of people and assemble. It’s something we don’t see at Bradley, and that’s a step I’d like to see.”

Naderi, director of communications for the Karam Foundation, said she hopes the panel will change the culture and dialogue about these issues on college campuses.

“From just having a small conversation to holding a vigil outside your campus … it’s not only meaningful to those people when they hear that students in Peoria care about Syrians, but it also sends a message to people who are higher up,” Naderi said. “University presidents can change their policies … to world leaders seeing that students at [these universities] care about this cause.”

According to Naderi, she would like to see students understand their influence and begin using it to spur change within their communities.

“A lot of times when you remove yourself from the academic settings and spaces that you’re in where these conversations might be being held, you’ll notice that a lot of people don’t know [or] don’t care what’s going on in the world,” Naderi said. “Holding yourself responsible for educating your peers and raising awareness within your own community is really important.”

 One Bradley student in attendance, Patric Nguyen, said he attended the panel because of personal ties to the issue.

“My family was Vietnamese refugees, and it’s kind of personal connecting how my family went from poverty and moved here,” Nguyen, a sophomore international studies major, said. “I want to see how I can help the Syrian refugees as they come to America.”

Nguyen said he additionally wants to see students act together to do much more about changing policies.

“We can write to our congressmen, write to our representatives,” Nguyen said. “If there’s a big group of people in a small town like Peoria … that’ll make our representative and senators take notice, so I think that we should spread awareness and write to our congressmen.”

Musaitif said she hopes to see even more awareness raised for this cause and to see students getting out and doing their share.

“Educating yourself and just advocating in the little ways you can, those make a difference, a huge difference,” Musaitif said.