Syrian Kennesaw State student reflects on refugee crisis


KENNESAW, Ga. – Millions of Syrians have fled their homes since the conflicts in 2011, which have developed in to the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

Ali, a Kennesaw State student from Homs, Syria, witnessed first-hand, from the balcony at his home in Homs, the Syrian’s uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

In 2011, Syrians protested in the street, just under Ali’s balcony, for freedom and to force President al-Assad from power.

Ali, 21, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at KSU, came to the U.S. in December 2012 with one goal: completing higher education. He chose to leave because the situation in Syria had become unstable. Ali’s last name is being withheld because of safety concerns for his family still in Syria.

“It was time for a change,” Ali said.  “There were many restrictions on Syrians. It was free and it was safe, that’s true, but nobody ever had the guts to say anything against the regime, anything against the president or even policemen. I’ve seen what the regime has done.”

Ali said he saw people being arrested for protesting and then sent to prison. No one knew what happened to them, whether they were killed, or they stayed in prison their whole life, he said.  Ali said that government forces shot and killed one of his classmates while he filmed a protest. The army came to stop the protest, began aimlessly shooting and his friend was shot.

Ali and his family left to Lebanon for a week, but during that week the situation escalated in Syria, causing them to stay. After eight months in Lebanon, Ali moved with two friends to the U.S. to get a better education and find safety.

The conflict in Syria is a complex issue with competing interests from a number of different factors such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States, ISIS, and the Assad regime.

Maia Hallward, associate professor of Middle East Politics at Kennesaw State University, has been following and studying the Syrian crisis and the U.S. involvement.

“It’s not a civil war going on in Syria,” Hallward said. “It’s a much broader conflict that involves all of the surrounding states practically and beyond. It has become a proxy war with all these major powers involved.”

The biggest victims of the war are the Syrian people who have been forced to leave their homes and become refugees.

“I think every Syrian have been affected either by a family member, relatives or a friend has died, been injured or kidnapped,” Ali said.

The social media-saturated photograph of the 3-year-old Alan Kurdi who drowned and was washed ashore on the Turkish coast represents just one image of the biggest humanitarian refugee crisis of this generation.

Every day, thousands of Syrians are fleeing their country. More than 11.6 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Seven million Syrians have been displaced within Syria and about four million are displaced outside of Syria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

International help organizations critic Europe and the U.S. for not helping enough refugees. However, since the photograph of the 3-year-old Syrian boy went viral on social media several big nations such as UK, Germany, Australia, and the U.S. have accepted to help more refugees.

Since 2011, only 15 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“The U.S. has also been very rightly criticized for not dealing well with the refugee situation,” Hallward said. “Part of this has to do with Congress, holding funds and debates within the U.S. about immigration. The U.S. has accepted very few Syrian refugees.”

Last month, President Obama announced that the U.S. will admit 100,000 refugees from around the world within the next two fiscal years.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain will welcome 20,000 refugees over the next five years, according to the British media. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said that Australia will accept 12,000 refugees. They estimate that it will cost Australia seven hundred million dollars to absorb these refugees.

Germany expects more than 1.5 million refugees by the end of the year, as Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the German borders last month welcoming Syrian refugees, but they already face big challenges like full shelters and the quickly approaching winter, according to the Guardian.


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