Surviving the Crisis
Updated: Jan 29, 2019
She has not hugged her mother in six years. She spent one week with her brother out of six years. She has missed marriages and the births of nieces and nephews. Meaningful moments and interactions with family members have been reduced to phone calls and video chats for six years.
Not a day has gone by in those six years without IU Professor Iman Alramadan hoping for a miracle to bring her family out of the war zone in Syria and into the US. She has tried to bring family members in the past and the process has not been easy, especially with the travel ban Trump has pushed.
“It’s really unfair to treat Syrians this way, unfair to feel that Syrians are terrorists,” she said as tears rolled down her cheek. “It’s unfair to think that they will hurt you, they won’t. To treat all people like they are the same, it’s unfair. Don’t generalize, all people are not the same.”
It all started in 2011 when pro-democracy protests broke out in Syria after the arrest and brutal treatment of a group of teenagers who painted radical graffiti on a school wall that was directed towards Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad. The protesters were fired at and some were even killed, causing even more the protests to erupt, but this time they were demanding for Assad’s resignation.
These series of events caused nationwide unrest and broke out into a full-on war involving multiple countries including the US and has resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 Syrians. Syrian civilians are in the middle of a warzone and a UN Commission of Inquiry has evidence that civilian suffering has been used as a method of war, which includes blocking access to food, water and health services through sieges.
Because of this Syrians are in more need than ever and are fleeing the country. Alramadan fears waking up one day and receiving a phone call with bad news regarding the wellbeing of her family members back in Syria.
Syrian refugees have had an extremely tough time fleeing to the US since the travel ban was pushed through. The Bloomington Common Council passed a resolution in March last year, welcoming Refugees in Bloomington. In result of this, The Exodus Refugee Immigration organization partnered with the Bloomington Refugee Support Network in hopes to help refugees settle in Bloomington. Since the ban was pushed through, the amount of refugees sponsored by Exodus dramatically dropped and they no longer needed Bloomington as a site. According to a member of the Bloomington refugee support network, they hope to get more refugees in the future.
Alramadan believes that there should be some restrictions on immigration to ensure that whoever comes to the US has good intentions, however, Alramadan is strongly against shutting the door on everyone based on generalizations. She insists that the ban prohibits a lot of educational opportunities for Syrians and can hurt foreign students.
“I’m not saying Syrians are great because I’m Syrian or because I just want to have them here,” Alramadan said. “Look around you. They are your surgeons, heart doctors, engineers, business owners and they are helping grow the economy. When you open a door, don’t open the door and let everybody in, I agree, but just don’t prevent everybody from coming in.”
There are less than four Syrians students at IU, however, all of them live in the US and not Syria. This is partially because of immigration restrictions, but also because of finances. According to the Director of Student and Scholar advising Rendy Schrader, it is harder for Syrians looking to study in the US to get funding. Some scholarships are offered by The Power of International Education, but sometimes they aren’t always enough.
If by chance they do make it here, they might not be able to leave. There have been instances when, some Middle Eastern students fear of leaving the country to visit their families, because there is a possibility they might not get back in to continue their studies.
Schrader said that the IU administration stresses that international students get involved in different associations and organizations. Schrader said they try to introduce them to other international students and host a lot of programming at the beginning of the year to show them available resources and help them feel a part of the community at IU. The goal is to make sure that students feel comfortable and included, stating “we aren’t always successful but we try our best.”
As for Professor Alramadan, she personally feels very welcome at IU. This is her second year teaching Arabic at IU and she loves it. She said she feels very much a part of the community, but she wants IU to do more and celebrate the different cultures that exist within the middle east as they do with other communities. She even suggested that IU host a Middle East Week consisting of movies, activities, food, speakers and we have lecturers.
“We need bigger events about the Middle East, we need to highlight the Middle East,” she said. “We have middle eastern students who study medicine, we have students in engineering,they don't study only language, so we need to highlight them.”