Heidi Yazdani '21
Although not talked about in the news as often as other current events, the displacement of Syrian refugees is an ongoing and constant crisis that needs to be acknowledged. The Syrian Civil War, which began in March of 2011, has forced Syrians out of their homes and into surrounding countries that treat them with contempt and hostility. Syria’s proximity to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan means these countries house the majority of displaced Syrian refugees. All three of these countries are in an economic crisis with major debts to be payed and extremely high unemployment rates. Due to their internal issues, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are not in the right state to take on an increase in population and therefore are very unwelcoming to Syrian refugees.
Fleeing Syria does not ensure stability. Many refugees who could afford to leave Syria lived very successful lives, but now face extreme poverty and struggle to receive any form of employment, education, or even basic necessities and services. Covid-19 serves as a serious threat to people living in crowded refugee camps, and makes it almost impossible for them to access supplies such as food, water and medicine.
Two organizations working to try and relieve these circumstances are Project Turquoise and IROC. Project Turquoise is a youth committee that works with Syrian refugees mainly in Lebanon and Jordan. The youth committee hosts fundraisers, including an annual 5k and a movie night held at Politics and Prose. Project Turquoise works closely with a multi-aid program (MAPS) and educates people about the challenges of being a Syrian refugee in Lebanon. MAPS works to rebuild education infrastructure for Syrian refugees under the Lebanese government and convinces Syrian parents to send their children to school. When Syrians with doctorate degrees cannot find work in Lebanon, there is little incentive to provide an education for their child when they can be at home making money for the family. Through Project Turquoise’s efforts, the organization has raised enough money to send up to 20 refugees to college on scholarship. The youth committee continues to meet once every three weeks to discuss what they have been doing and the different ways in which they can help.
IROC was started by senior Ariana Lotfi, with the help of NCS’s Vernot-Jones family fellowship. IROC stands for Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center and works towards empowering and assisting immigrant and refugee youth in the DC area. Before starting this organization, Ariana studied the journey of refugees from their war-torn homeland to their new lives in the US. IROC provides tutoring services, college guidance seminars, summer camps and other support services.
Millions of people have suffered from the Syrian Civil War and the Syrian refugee crisis for years, yet this constant human rights violation only gets mass media attention every few years. There are many ways to get involved, IROC and Project Turquoise being two examples. In bringing constant awareness to this crisis, this issue will gain more support and more efforts will be made to help.