Syrian Americans, like the majority of the Arab American community, are horrible at investing in their youth. We want our children to grow up to be doctors, engineers, and lawyers so that they can then use their weekend time to volunteer for nonprofits, donate money, or maybe if they are an exceptional person, serve on a board.
The problem is, our community is in crisis now. The region has been in crisis for over a decade. And still, it’s hard for youth to find an entry point into human rights organizing work.
Not only is it difficult to navigate within a community that is in conflict, but it’s also difficult to navigate between other conflict communities. And then there is the racial element of White Supremacy to deal with in the workplace: most “professional” human rights work is done by white people.
All of this to say: if you see a young Syrian person doing good work, it’s your duty as someone who is older to support them by any means necessary. It’s both insurance for the future and a reflection of our principles.
Which brings me to this: Students Organize for Syria is the brainchild of Zana Alattar, who started the organization with Nada Hashem, Kenan Rahmani, Omar Baliony, and others to be that entry point into human rights organizing for students. SOS is the only student organization that focuses both on human rights violations in Syria and fundraising for humanitarian relief for the country. Some of their work has involved mobilizing to support the Caesar Bill, which calls for an investigation into war crimes in Syria, and fundraising tens of thousands of dollars for humanitarian relief. Students Organize for Syria also launched the Books Not Bombs campaign to create scholarships for Syrian students in higher education.
Right now, SOS needs our help. They are putting together the first national conference at Loyola from Nov. 10th-12th for students on Syria, and have a variety of speakers and workshops planned. The guests of honor will be the White Helmets, who will be coming from Turkey.
What’s the full value of Students Organize for Syria? To me, it’s immeasurable. Without them, there still wouldn’t be a space to organize for Syria across college campuses. There wouldn’t be an entry point for young students to work on human rights issues related to Syria. And youth in our community wouldn’t get the experience they need that might help them pursue a passion for human rights and political organizing.
If you’re Syrian American and out of college and working, join me in supporting SOS with a financial donation towards their conference here.