Event Raises $5K in Aid to Syria
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 01:11
With speakers, dancing and food, the NAS Arab Society aimed to bring the plight of Syrians affected by the nation’s civil war to Georgetown students Friday night.
The event, titled “One Night for Syria,” took place in Sellinger Lounge and raised $5,000 for the Syrian Sunrise Foundation.
“Our goal was twofold,” NAS president Yomna Sarhan (SFS ’14) said. One, to raise awareness about what is happening. Two, to raise money to send.”
The event, which was co-sponsored by The Hoya, focused on providing educational information and promoting humanitarian relief.
“This event is very apolitical,” Sarhan said. “Of course individuals here might have their own political opinions, but we want to make it clear that the fundraiser is only focusing on the people who are suffering. This is about the people.”
NAS, which means “people” in Arabic, is an organization that aims to develop understanding and appreciation of Arab culture on campus.
The educational portion of the program featured three reflections from Syrian student speakers, who spoke about their personal experiences in the civil war, the struggles of protesters and the government treatment of youth involved in protests.
Two of the speakers, Ali Alsayed and Hadi Al-Shammaa, were detained by Syrian security forces as a result of their political activities. Alsayed, 17, moved to the United States with his family a year ago, and Al-Shammaa, 16, emigrated a few months ago. Alsayed now attends Hayfield Secondary School in Virginia and Al-Shammaa goes to J.E.B. Stuart High School in Virginia. Both used a translator in order to address the crowds.
“I was afraid to sleep in my own house. I was afraid they would come and take me from my bed, so I would sleep in various locations in Damascus with my friends,” Al-Shammaa said.
Al-Shammaa said his involvement with the protests began with handing out pamphlets for the revolutionary cause. He witnessed firsthand the escalation of government response toward protesters.
“We saw how it spread to other cities, and the regime started to put down the revolution in other cities. We saw that with our own eyes. And then the security forces started to use live ammunition against the protestors,” Al-Shammaa explained.
Al-Shammaa was released after three weeks. He said that his American citizenship made a difference.
“They did not release him after they found out that he was American, but they could not hurt him,” Al-Shammaa’s translator explained. “Calls were made to the Syrian government, but they denied that they had him. They said, ‘If we have him, you’ll know when he’s released.’”
Alsayed was released after two months of detainment without explanation or going through a formal judicial process.
Mohammad Abu Ghazali, a freshman at George Mason University and an active member of the Syrian American Council, said that the values of the U.S. Constitution should compel Americans to help the Syrian people.
“We can’t even imagine what it would be like to go without those freedoms, but oppression is the everyday reality in Syria,” Abu Ghazali said. “Once a government loses its legitimacy, the people have not only the right but the responsibility to abolish that entity.”
According to Khweis the event was conceptualized during the first NAS meeting of the year.
“We wanted it to be educational, but we also wanted it to be fun,” she said.
Organizers of the event, titled “One Night for Syria,” said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
“We were very worried that we wouldn’t have enough food. I think we used every chair in [the Leavey Center,]” event coordinator and NAS member Juman Khweis (SFS ’13) said.
NAS will donate proceeds from the event to the Syrian Sunrise Foundation, which helps families, children and widows in the civil war.
“We heard of this organization that had boots on the ground and was really Syrian and decided it would be better to donate to them,” Khweis said.