Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Student groups host formal event to raise money for Syrian refugees

By Afnan Nehela

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(IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation/Flickr)

(IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation/Flickr)

In an effort to raise awareness for the Syrian refugee crisis, student groups at the University of Massachusetts held “Stand for Syria,” a formal event in the Commonwealth Honors College Event Hall that raised money for Syria on Sunday.

The International Relations Club, the Model United Nations team and Amnesty International at UMass collaborated to stage the event. This is the second of two events that Amnesty International hosted this year toward raising awareness on human rights violations.

About 150 students gathered in the event hall as two speakers discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria and the gravity of the refugee situation.

Bryan Lickel, an associate professor of social psychology and director of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, began the event by speaking on behalf of Syrian refugees and arguing against stereotypes that he said the media uses frequently to label them.

“It is really important to remember that there are people who are in such different circumstances, who are in fear and cold and hungry and just trying to find a better life for themselves and their kids,” he said.

Fiona Servaes, Freedom Café representative, spoke after Lickel about human trafficking and how it becomes more serious and prevalent in conflict zones such as Syria, and how refugees are negatively affected by trafficking.

Nuha Muntasser, president of Amnesty International at UMass and organizer of the event, said that her passion for human rights stems from her constant interactions with Syrian friends who experienced the ensuing conflict firsthand.

“A Syrian friend of mine once cried on my shoulder telling me how her entire family was wiped out due to a bomb, and another told me about how her aunt was raped.” Muntasser said. “This just made me realize even more why this is such an important cause.”

Muntasser says she was impressed with the support the event received from the students and faculty who attended.

“I wanted my fellow students to be more active and aware of the Syrian conflict. I want them to realize that being an American means having a voice and they should use it,” Muntasser said.

In addition to the donations that were pledged to Amnesty International’s mission, three other organizations, Jusoor, MECI, and We Care about Syria, were invited to promote knowledge about the situation in Syria, and received about $400 in additional donations.

With an $8 entrance fee required for each attendee, the amount of donations totaled over a thousand dollars. The event was catered by Tamales and Chipotle, and featured performances from different a capella groups on campus, including Duly Noted, Wicked Pitch, Choral Dilemma and Rang.

“I’m happy to see that there are other students who care about this issue just as much as I do,” Muntasser said.

Afnan Nehela can be reached at [email protected]

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