– Authors: Keith David Watenpaugh and Adrienne L. Fricke with Tara Siegel (May 2013)
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, we are pleased to share with you information about this report produced in May 2013, a joint project of the UC Davis Human Rights Initiative and the Institute of International Education.
A brief excerpt of the report is provided below; we encourage you to read the full report for further background information in order to draw and shape your thoughts for moving forward.
-The Editors, IIT Syrian Student Blog
“Although Syria’s universities themselves have largely escaped the violence of the civil conflict in Syria, there are notable examples to the contrary, as discussed above. Nevertheless, the infrastructure of the universities remains largely intact. Class- rooms, libraries, research facilities have not been the target of violence or looting – and certainly not on the scale of what happened to universities in Iraq in 2003. The collapse is more a problem of human capacity, safety and trust, at least for the moment.
In many important ways, Syria’s universities served as the place where a modern Syrian citizenship could be conceived and enacted. On campus, Syrians of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds — admittedly almost all middle class — could mix, establish friendships and imagine belonging to a Syrian polity in ways that even many of their parents and certainly grandparents could not. A striking feature of the collapse of the social role played by Syrian universities was illustrated in our conversations with Sunni Muslim students from al-Ba’ath University just outside the Syrian city of Homs. Located at the intersection of Sunni Muslim and Alawite com- munities, al-Ba’ath University is one of the few social spaces outside of the military where members of these two religious communities meet. For the Sunni Muslim refugee students we spoke with, they could recall a moment in the conflict, corresponding to the fierce Spring 2012 Battle of Baba Amru, when the became more conscious and aware of the importance of the “difference” between themselves and their Alawite classmates. This awareness was accompanied by fear and distrust. It is unclear if Syrian universities can recover their former role of providing a space where different groups can interact, though the hope certainly remains that they can serve as a platform for reimagining post-conflict Syrian society.
Regardless, amongst the students with whom we spoke, while there was an obvious degree of political consciousness and awareness, we saw very few, if any, clear signs of political or religious radicalization. Helping grow and maintain this political awareness, while preventing radicalization, must be part of any plan to assist refugee students.” Link to: https://www.academia.edu/3545671/Uncounted_and_Unacknowledged_Syrias_Refugee_University_Students_and_Academics_in_Jordan