Syrians share stories at Oxfam IU panel



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Syrian-American student Rahaf Safi and Former Indian Ambassador to Syria and IU Professor Rajendra Abhyankar speak during the "3 Years/ 10 Million Lives Syria: the Human Side of War" informative panel and live video conference with Syrian Refugees living in Jordan on Wednesday at the Indiana Memorial Union. The event was sponsored by OXFAM at IU and Union Board. Michaela Simone Buy Photos



At home, she struggled to study without electricity, huddled by a single candle.

Every night, she sat awake, kept up by the sounds of gunfire.

“It all started three years ago,” she said. “I was just a 10th grader being a slacker in school, just a normal life. And next thing I know, there were tanks outside my house. There was shooting all night.”

Meera was lucky. After completing her high school education in Syria, her family was able to move to the United States and has been living in the country for six months.

She shared her story via Skype with a group of IU students Wednesday in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana Memorial Union.

The event, titled “3 years/10 million lives, Syria: The Human Side of the War” was organized by Oxfam at IU and co-sponsored by Union Board and the Department of International Studies.

It featured a panel discussion with School of Public and Environmental Affairs Professor Rajendra Abhyankar, the former Indian ambassador to Syria, and Rahaf Safi, a Syrian-American IU senior.

There were also Skype calls with Mulham al-Jundi, the youngest member of the Syrian National Council and Noah Gottschalk, a senior policy adviser for humanitarian response at Oxfam America.

Oxfam IU is a student organization associated with the international humanitarian and development organization Oxfam America, which seeks solutions to hunger, poverty and social injustice.

Emily Metallic, the president of Oxfam IU, is a junior majoring in journalism and international studies.

She said she hoped the event would make students more aware of the humanitarian issues associated with the war, including the effect it has had on children.

“Kids aren’t going to school, and that’s going to really affect the entire next generation of Syrians,” she said.

The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 lives have been lost in the conflict.
 
Syria has lost more than 35 years of development, with more than 50 percent of the population living in poverty.

“This really is the humanitarian crisis of our time,” Metallic said.

It was for this reason that Laura Schulte, sophomore and topics director for Union Board, chose to work with Oxfam on the event.

She said she felt people have stopped paying due attention to the war in Syria.

“As the conflict has continued and continued and continued, it has lost motivation in the media,” she said.

Safi still has family in Syria.

In October 2012, she said she received a call from her mother telling her that her aunt had picked up her cousin’s body. He was dead and had been tortured to death.

“When you hear these numbers, think about the lives affected,” Safi said. “Think about my cousin.”

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