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A Syrian Speaks Up for Refugees

The last time Farah AlHaddad (UWC-USA, Macalester ’17) was permitted to travel home to Syria was in 2012, between her two years at UWC. Her parents now live in Jordan — and during her sophomore and junior years at Macalester, Farah organized workshops at the college’s International Round Table program on the experiences of refugees and refugee camp living.

American fellow students often seem hesitant to ask her about Syria. “They’re worried about how that might make me feel,” she says. So she often starts those conversations. “I like to challenge people’s assumptions about what they see on the news, to invite people to see it from different perspectives. I try to bring the focus back to what’s happening in Syria now — and I invite myself and others to think about the privilege of being here.”

Farah serves on the Syria UWC National Committee; she gathered stories from refugees for an asylum program in Minneapolis; and she volunteered with the Dutch Refugee Council during a semester abroad. On campus, she has organized and led a number of presentations about Syria and the struggle of refugees around the world, which she considers an urgent crisis of our time. She also organized a student committee that advocated this year for enabling more displaced young people to study at Macalester. “I have to start somewhere, so I often start with my own community,” she says.

She hopes one day to work in the asylum and immigration field, or in broader public policy — but just as for so many other Syrians, she’s unsure what the future holds. At this writing, the day of Farah’s college graduation was also the day her U.S. visa was due to expire.