Tag Archive: syria

  1. AMEND: Dear child

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    Dear child: The world is a broken and bizarre place.

    By the time you read this, you will be a student in college confronting an intersection of adult issues that I grappled with way back in 2016.

    In 2016, the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump as its candidate for the presidency. For many of us, Trump represented troubling tendencies of exclusivism and misogyny in the United States. He campaigned on a divisive platform devoid of intellectual credibility. In the face of these problems, we laughed. We laughed because he was foolish and we laughed to conceal our fear.

    In 2016, the Syrian civil war had resulted in more than 400,000 deaths. Two hundred and seventy-five thousand people were trapped in eastern Aleppo, Syria, where Russian-backed forces bombed hospitals and markets in an attempt to eradicate Islamic State rebels. Western countries accused the Kremlin of war crimes, yet the United States continued to intensify air strikes on Syrian soil. Superpower nations advanced their political interests over the well being of citizens on the ground, driving some to compare this conflict to the Holocaust.

    In 2016, an estimated 44 million Americans struggled with mental health issues, and a few more million struggled in complete silence. Sometimes people can can suffer from delusions and manic outbreaks and deep depressions. But it is never their fault, and it is never their flaw. In New Haven, people lived on the street because they did not have affordable health care which would provide mental health treatment. This was the sobering truth: Some of us here at Yale had similar diseases, yet we resided in dorms and travelled to Europe and wrote for school publications because of our access to proper health care.

    In 2016, your father — and many others — lived out a transgender identity. We bemoaned Caitlyn Jenner’s appeal to the Republican base, which included a plea to be Ted Cruz’s trans ambassador, yet we couldn’t resist feeling happy that an American celebrity was bringing deserved visibility to our cause. We met with Dean Jonathan Holloway and conducted a group interview with Katie Couric, who narrated a documentary on National Geographic titled “Gender Revolution” in mid-December. In the midst of these milestones, some of us decided to undergo medical treatments to feel more satisfied with our bodies. There were needles and scars. Remember, though, that no physical object or process is the sole determinant of your identity — only you are.

    In 2016, your grandmother presided over an embassy in Jordan that confronted the menace of ISIS. One summer in Amman, I studied terrorist recruitment and learned that those who feel alienated from society will commit barbaric acts against innocent civilians, simply to gain a sense of belonging. As I write, Iraqi forces are executing a siege against the city of Mosul that will determine the territorial success of ISIS. Yet despite the probability of an Iraqi victory, ISIS continues to win in the sphere of propaganda simply because ideas cannot be killed. They have successfully perpetuated hate-filled messages among people in the Levant and beyond.

    What ISIS taught me was that ideas stand immutable, for better or for worse. Ironically, this realization is crucial to activist pursuits: When working for a cause, you should dedicate energy to crafting durable ideas that will withstand any form of censorship, so that others, beyond your generation and geographical scope, can continue your important work.

    But in order to propagate great ideas, you must learn to accurately express them. So I’ll teach you how to write. I’ll teach you how to write in hyperrational Orwellian dialect and then I’ll teach you how to write in lavish asymmetrical prose. After doing this, I’ll teach you how to reconcile these two styles so that your adjectives are ripe yet purposeful, and so that your verbs hint at the most specific of actions. Then I’ll teach you that much of writing simply cannot be taught — that your syntactical rhythm can only come from the internal monologue you use to navigate this very broken and very bizarre world.


    Your father

    Isaac Amend is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at isaac.amend@yale.edu .

  2. Student panel discusses refugees

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    Four students spoke Wednesday evening on a panel about refugee resettlement in the Elm City and abroad.

    At the event Refugee Journey: Travel, Arrival and Integration, co-hosted by Yale United Nations Children’s Fund and the Yale Refugee Project, roughly 40 students and community members viewed short films before hearing the panelists discuss their experiences in William L. Harkness Hall. Rosa Shapiro-Thompson ’19, Advocacy and Awareness Coordinator of the Yale Refugee Project and event organizer, said the group wanted to have a diverse panel of speakers who had done work or research surrounding refugee issues.

    One of the panelists, Susan Aboeid ’19, spoke about her experience tutoring refugee children in New Haven public schools as the curricular developer and tutor coordinator for undergraduate student group Students of Salaam.

    “I think one of the main things we can do as students is just viewing refugees as humans,” Aboeid said.

    SOS was founded last year in response to a need in New Haven public schools for refugee students mentorship, Aboeid said. The group now boasts roughly 30 tutors who work once a week with classes and families and  attempts to match children with tutors who speak their language, she said.

    SOS is also hoping to bridge gaps between refugees and the New Haven community to fight the media’s negative portrayals of refugees, Aboeid said. On Thursday, SOS will host an open forum about the 2016 election for community members at the New Haven Public Library. New Haven is one of 31 sanctuary cities in the U.S.

    Danilo Zak ’18, director of Direct Assistance for the Yale Refugee Project, said Yale has many campus organizations to support refugees. But beyond service work, people must watch the ways they discuss refugees, he said. Many people tend to view refugees as either people to be feared or saved, but neither outlook truly represents them, Zak said — instead, refugees should be viewed as ordinary people.

    Redha Qabazard SPH ’18, who has worked at the Yale Center for Child Studies and in Beirut, discussed the effects of violence and displacement on children.

    “Migration isn’t the end of violence,” Qabazard said. “These refugee camps are also concentrated areas of danger.”

    He spoke about the trauma that occurs after families leave conflict situations for crowded refugee camps, and the difficulties parents face when they attempt to raise their children without access to proper resources.

    Gathe Kiwan ’17, another panelist and a Syrian-American dual citizen, spoke about his experience working in refugee camps. He said people must stand up to xenophobic rhetoric when they hear it.

    There are nearly 21.3 million refugees in the world, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

  3. Yale students, faculty support future Syrian doctors


    Yale students and faculty have teamed up with the State University of New York at Albany to provide medical education to Syrian students in the midst of a protracted civil war.

    As Syria nears its sixth year of conflict, the country’s public health infrastructure has deteriorated severely, exacerbating an already overwhelming crisis. According to Physicians for Human Rights, 560 medical personnel have been killed since the beginning of the conflict and an additional 15,000 have fled the country. As of May 2014, there were only 40 doctors serving the 2.5 million residents of Aleppo, and only 40 percent of public hospitals in the country were fully functioning.

    According to Unni Karunakara, a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute and former international president of Doctors Without Borders, aggressors in the conflict are actively targeting medical facilities as part of a “calculated strategy” to depopulate cities by denying people access to basic health care.

    In response to the devastation of Syria’s medical system, the Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine and The Global Institute for Health and Human Rights at SUNY launched a joint initiative in May 2016 aimed at providing medical students at the Free Aleppo University crucial online study materials, according to Kaveh Khoshnood, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and one of the lead faculty involved in the initiative.

    The FAU operates in the north of Syria in areas controlled by the national opposition and in besieged areas in the south. Khoshnood said that the university, formerly known as the University of Aleppo before it was devastated, reopened as the FAU around three years ago. He added that the university’s reopening and its participation in the current initiative represents the realization that waiting for the Syrian conflict to end before rebuilding the health system could have grave consequences.

    “The Syrians want to begin training physicians now, in the middle of the civil war and in the midst of bombardment, because they recognize that rebuilding the health system could take generations, and they don’t want to waste a moment,” Khoshnood said. “They want to use technology to train the next generation of medical professionals and that is not only genius but also extremely brave of them.”

    According to Khoshnood, the initiative was the product of a weekend-long workshop held in May and funded by the Council of Middle East Studies at Yale. Khoshnood said that he pitched what was to become the workshop’s theme, “Conflict and Health,” in response to a call for grant ideas by the CMES. The workshop brought together leaders from the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, an international network of NGOs providing health services in Syria, and the Syrian American Medical Society, with faculty from SUNY and Yale.

    The first part of the initiative’s strategy consists of providing the Syrian students free access to online medical courses. According to Abdulaziz Said, a fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and one of the key figures behind the initiative, students are not only provided with Yale medical courses but are also offered free English language courses by SUNY in light of the fact that medical education in Syria is traditionally conducted in Arabic. Said added that the students participate in a live lecture session once a week with an instructor typically based in the U.S.

    “Students can access these live sessions from within their homes,” Said said. “This is safer for them than gathering in large numbers in classrooms, which can be quite dangerous.”

    According to Khoshnood, the FAU has been operating somewhat secretly in order to ensure the students’ safety. While there are certain semi-fixed administrative locations, the students usually meet in small groups in secure locations such as secret basement classrooms, he said.

    The second prong of the initiative consists of plans to send the students tablets preloaded with applications providing information on topics such as anatomy and histology. According to Amandine Godier-Furnemont MED ’19, a group of Yale medical students, of which she is a member, is attempting to procure this software at discounted rates by negotiating with particular application providers.

    “Many of us here at Yale benefit very strongly from using apps on our devices to learn things such as anatomy,” said Godier-Furnemont. “The students [at FAU] are beginning their anatomy curriculum this coming semester and having a resource that they can access from their smartphones would be extremely helpful given the limitations in textbooks and other electronic resources and also the inability to perform cadaveric dissections.”

    Godier-Furnemont added that the students have started a fundraiser in order to support the purchase of these applications.

    Mansur Ghani MED ’19, also a member of the group, added that the students are also working on a research and evaluation project which aims to collect data from the Syrian students to more accurately assess their needs.

    According to Said, around 370 second-year students are currently enrolled in the medical university and an additional 150 first-year students are due to join this year.

  4. HERMAN CAIN: Candidate, Celebrity, Educator?

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    You may know him as the pizza mogul honored on the walls of Yorkside, the star of a “Daily Show” segment (see “Herman Cain: An American Presidency”) or simply as a 2012 Republican presidential hopeful. With his Southern drawl and quotable debate performances, Herman Cain became a national celebrity last year. Though he failed to obtain the Republican candidacy, Cain’s still working for America, pushing hard to get his message out with trips across the country and his radio show. Following Cain’s eventful Yale Political Union debut this week, WEEKEND sat down with him to discuss taxes (9–9–9!), Syria and his plans to elevate America’s political IQ.

    Q. How did you enjoy your time at Yale?

    A. I thought it was awesome. It was a packed house. What I found most interesting was the old-time British parliament format, the stompin’ and the hissin’. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I enjoyed the feedback I got from students — the stompers and the hissers.

    Q. Before becoming a presidential candidate, you were a pizza man. Some say that New Haven has the best pizza in the country, so do you have a favorite New Haven pizza place?

    A. No, because I didn’t get a chance to eat any pizza in New Haven. We went to the place next to Mory’s, York … York … something? [WKND: Yorkside?] Yorkside! They have a picture of me hanging on the wall from the late 1980s, and the students I was with told me about it, and I said “Get out of here!” So I walked over there. I don’t have a favorite pizza place because I didn’t get a chance to eat it, but let’s just say Yorkside would have to be one of the first places I would try.

    Q. The Pew Research Center reported that of all the Republican candidates in the 2012 presidential primary race, you received the most media coverage. What was it like to be in the limelight like that?

    A. It was bittersweet. The sweet was it gave me the opportunity to get my message out, in terms of the solutions that this country ought to be working on making happen. The bitter was when some in the mainstream media turned viciously against me because of some accusations that were never proven. They insisted on pursuing it when there was no evidence. Overall, I got more out of it than having to go through that. It’s been all sweet since then (the primary). There has been no focus on the bitter part because there was nothing to it to begin with. How many times can you write the same story over and over, saying nothing about it but accusations?

    Q. What part of the message have you been focusing on getting out since the primary?

    A. Solving America’s biggest problem: replacing the tax code. Not reform, replace. Capitalize the word replace. Reform will not fix the problem. If we replace the tax code, we will create a much more robust economy in terms of growth. We can solve a whole lot of problems in terms of growth. Our tax code is our biggest barrier to success. At my website, hermancain.com, there are 3 options. We’re having a national poll as we speak. [There’s the] fair tax, flat tax, and 9-9-9 plan that I developed. I’m going to take a vote of everyone that decides to vote to pick that best plan and try to rally people around one plan that we would demand at the U.S. Congress. I would be happy with either one, even though it’s the 9-9-9 plan that I developed. Whatever the people prefer, that’s what I’m going to get behind, that’s what I’m going to get others behind, so we can move forward.

    Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the country right now? What concerns you the most about the world?

    A. The economy. Domestically, the economy concerns me the most, because we do not have a policy that is growing the economy. That’s why I’m focusing on the movement. Internationally, the biggest thing that concerns me is that we do not have a very clear foreign policy. All you have to do is look at the mess related to Syria.

    Q. If you were president, how would you be handling the crisis in Syria right now?

    A. If I had been president, the situation in Syria probably never would have happened, because I would have done something to pre-empt those kinds of things going on. I would not have waited for 100,000 people to be killed. I would have rallied with international partners, trying to get them to put whatever pressures we could not to get to this point. When it first started, something should have been done, [though] not necessarily a military strike. But instead this administration sat back and waited till it got to the point of outcry around the world before this administration was thinking about doing something. We still don’t have clarity on what it is they expect to achieve. I don’t think it ever would have gotten to this point had I been president.

    Q. So what do you think are the most important qualities for a president to have?

    A. Leadership. Leadership is the ability to Work on the right problem — W — and Ask the right questions — A — and Remove barriers — R. What that will lead you to is prioritization, prioritizing the right things. This administration … we cannot spend our way to prosperity. Energy independence could be moving along much faster than it is, in spite of the federal government and its regulations, energy is moving forward. If the government got out of the way it could be moving much faster, [and we would] not [be] subject to the whims of energy-producing countries like we are today. The economy, energy independence and of course, national security. Our military is weak right now. We need to re-strengthen it. It’s not just how much money. It’s been drained by the war in Iraq, been drained by what’s going on in Afghanistan, been drained by other smaller conflicts in other parts of the world.

    Q. How do you think the state of the military will affect any American action in Syria?

    A. In Syria, it’s dependent on what they decide to do. The military will rise to the occasion, but you can only strain your military so much before it reaches a breaking point where it will not be as effective as it will normally be. We still don’t know what the outcome would be if we used military force. That’s going to open up an entire Pandora’s box.

    Q. Going back to you now: what have you been up to since election season ended? 

    A. I have a syndicated radio talk show. People can find out more about it at my website, hermancain.com. The radio show is basically what’s consuming all my time.

    Q. How do you like being a radio man?

    A. I love it, love it, love it. It gives me an opportunity to continue trying to help people become better educated about what’s going on in this country. Too many people are clueless. When people have the right information, they’ll make the right decision. This is something Thomas Jefferson said years ago, and he’s right. I want to raise the political IQ of a lot of people who have a very low political IQ.


    Q. Is a 2016 run on the horizon for you?

    A. Nope! Not at this part point in time. But last time around I didn’t know that was something on the horizon. I have no plans right now, but I didn’t have any plans in 2012. Because of circumstances, considerations and frustrations I decided to run. A lot can happen between now and 2016.