This panel discussion will feature Syrian refugees in the United States and the Regional Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The program will also include musical performances by panelist Ms. Mariela Shaker, an accomplished classical violinist who has performed in the Kennedy Center and was honored by President Obama as a 2015 World Refugee Day Champion of Change. This event seeks to humanize the Syrian crisis and give a platform to Syrian refugees living in the United States to provide testimony about their experiences.
To date, the United States has admitted 2,500 Syrian refugees and the Obama Administration has promised to accept 10,000 more this year. As debates over refugee policy crescendo in the context of a heated and polarized election cycle, the horrific details of Syrians’ experiences remain distant and unimaginable to many Americans.
There is an unfortunate tendency to reduce enormous humanitarian crises, such as the one in Syria, to impersonal statistics at the expense of the human dimension of the conflict. At worst, Syrian refugees in the United States are met by xenophobia and discrimination upon their arrival in the West. In this context, this event seeks to open the door for Americans to gain a better understanding of the experiences of Syrian refugees, as they become our neighbors, colleagues, and classmates.