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A Rhodes Scholar Hopes to Help Rebuild Syria

When Yale announced that Marwan Safar Jalani (Syria, UWC in Mostar, Yale University ’20) had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for at least two years of study at Oxford, Marwan said: “I will go as a Syrian, proud of my identity, proud of my people who have endured so much, and hopeful about a future for Syria.”

The first Syrian student from Yale to win a Rhodes, Marwan plans to pursue an advanced degree in comparative government, building the skills he’ll need to help create a future for his country. Raised in Damascus, he escaped Syria’s civil war with his family in 2012, then lived in Egypt and Turkey before attending UWC.

As an undergrad, Marwan has worked at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, and for the Bronx Defenders and Human Rights Watch in New York City. He was president of the Yale Refugee Project and served on the UWC Syrian National Committee. His senior thesis examined the lessons learned by civil-society organizers in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina that, like his, have been riven by conflicts between “people who perceive themselves as different from each other.”

“I think those are lessons we can use to design a future for civil society in Syria,” Marwan says. “We have to imagine a future for the country, because we cannot afford not doing that.

“I have to utilize the resources that are being provided to me to contribute to that future — because other people in Syria don’t have those resources.”