SOS: How ASU Students Are Helping Syrian Refugees


In the wake of the Paris tragedy that left the world reeling in November, the House decided to pass a bill that will suspend the program that allows Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the country.

This was the result of multiple reports that claimed at least one of the attackers might have entered Europe amid the massive in ux of Syrians seeking shelter from war. Arizona was among one of the rst states to encourage the rest of the nation to discontinue the passage of refugees onto American soil until it is con rmed that they do not pose a threat.

This decision will affect thousands from every back- ground, including those here at Arizona State University. Save Our Syrian Freedom, also known as “SOS”, is a stu- dent-run organization at ASU that was founded by Zana Alat- tar. The purpose of this group is to promote awareness of the Syrian Revolution and to help raise funds to aid those that have been affected. The stu- dents put together events and send the pro ts toward relief funds, including some families the students work closely with that have been relocated right here in the Valley.

“It was at a point where something needed to be done on a university level,” former SOS secretary and vice president Rana Dbeis says of the creation of SOS. “There were really no student-based organizations that had to do with Syr- ia and no other organizations were touching on it so that’s where the idea came from.”

The organization has more recently branched out to a national level by joining Students Organize for Syria, also found- ed in part by Alattar and other students, that now has 11 chapters at different universities around the nation including Yale, Columbia, Berkeley and others. These students have banned together across state lines in the hopes of educating their peers on the importance of giving back and the severity of the civil war that Syria is experiencing.

“To say that we’re going to close our doors to certain parts of the world because we’re afraid of terrorism or we’re afraid of certain things is un-American,” Omar Bail- ony, third-year law student and founder of the Berkeley chapter says. “This is the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and we just close our doors to it? It’s depressing to say the least.”

The vote to pass the bill was 289-137, with a surprising 42 Democrats casting their votes in favor of halting incoming refugees until security checks guarantee there is not threat to the country. This number could override a veto from President Barack Obama and stall the resettlement program.

“I’m feeling disappointment,” Dbeis says. “I’m feeling sadness. I’m angry. But it’s also motivating me to want to do more.”

“I dont think that the goals of SOS have changed at all,” Alattar says about the bill. “In fact, I think we just need to be working hard to maximize the momentum that people have right now in regard to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.”


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