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‘Teach-In’ Thursday Seeks to Explain Syrian Conflict

University of Virginia professors from a variety of fields will discuss the situation in Syria during a panel discussion Thursday at 6 p.m. in room 101 of Nau Hall.

“Faculty in four departments have convened this teach-in as a response to the controversy over the 1,400 Syrians gassed to death on Aug. 21 and to ongoing debates on the proper international response,” said Elizabeth Thompson, a professor in the Corcoran Department of History in the College of Arts & Sciences. “Lost in the talk of whether or not to launch a military strike were the Syrian people themselves. Five million have been forced to leave their homes; 2 million are refugees in neighboring countries. We want to give our U.Va. community a chance to discuss this tragedy and an opportunity to offer humanitarian aid.” 

The panel discussion, which will be moderated by history professor Joshua White, will feature Ahmed H. al-Rahim of the Department of Religious Studies; Hanadi al-Samman of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures; Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, a professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics; Thompson; and politics professor David Waldner.

Thompson will speak about the scale of the human catastrophe in Syria, which is now surpassing World War I, in terms of fatalities and refugee dislocation. Waldner will explain the roots of Syria’s dictatorship and of its opposition. Al-Samman, whose family has had to flee their home in Aleppo, will speak about the revolution and the plight of the refugees. Schulhofer-Wohl will speak on the nature of the civil war, and al-Rahim will explain the ideologies of the Islamists who have joined the opposition.

Following the presentations by the professors, the floor will be open for discussion.

There also will be a short film on the refugee experience made by Abu Mohammed Alsrya, leader of a refugee camp along the Syria-Iraq border, and his son Ahmed Alsrya. The film summarizes the three years they spent in that refugee camp.

Attendees also will have the opportunity to donate money to Doctors Without Borders and Mercy Corps for Syrian refugee relief.

“From the Arab Student Organization’s perspective, the purpose of the teach-in is to raise awareness and educate the student body about the tragedy happening in Syria,” said Souheil Nadri, president of the Arab Student Organization, a co-sponsor of the event. “The humanitarian effort also requires donating money to help, especially in terms of medical supplies. In addition, this conflict needs to be understood from a political and historical perspective. We want to explain why this conflict is relevant to all of us.”

The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, the Center for International Studies and the Arab Student Organization.

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