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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Students Stand in Solidarity for Syrian Refugees

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Bostonians gathered to lend symbolic support to Syrian refugees last week. 

On a chilly Saturday evening, Sept. 19, hundreds of people gathered in Copley Square to show solidarity with Syrian refugees. “If we can all [be] a voice for [refugees,] maybe it will open other people’s eyes and they’ll realize what is going on in the world,” said Nisreen Machmouchi, a UMass Boston senior from Malden. 

The Syrian refugee crisis got the world’s attention when the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore in Turkey, went viral on social media and received mainstream coverage.

Kurdi, his mother Rihan, and 5-year-old brother Galip, were among thousands of refugees who lost their lives trying to escape the war and conflict in Syria, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. The death toll of refugees trying to get into Europe in 2014 was 3,281, and according to CNN, the International Organization for Migration fears that in 2015 that number could be surpassed.

One of the organizers of the event, Omar Salem, who is also a chairman of the board of directors at Karam Foundation, called on U.S. leaders to let 100,000 refugees into the country by 2016. Salem explained that this crisis is not a problem of a single region but it concerns the whole world: “We need people to realize that this is not a European problem; this is not a Middle East problem; this is a world problem.” 

Many attendees held signs welcoming Syrian refugees, making political statements, and trying to explain why refugees risk lives to get out of Syria. More than ten people held a single long poster that read, “We the people of Boston… Welcome Syrian Refugees.” Some of the signs blamed a certain country that they believed to be responsible for the crisis: “Turkey failed Aylan Kurdi by letting ISIS into Syria.” Other signs showed no support for any side, instead focusing on sympathizing with the refugees: “You have to understand: NO ONE puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” 

People of many different backgrounds came together to show support for the refugees, ranging from U.S. veterans to migrants from the Middle East. Dan Villarreal, 23, from Salem, Ma, is a young veteran who served in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. He explained that he attends many such events to spread positivity: “The world is hurting and people need to learn that it’s all just compassion and love that brings people to places like these.” Villarreal also said that he likes to stay out of politics and his main focus is to spread “love.” George Jreige, a Lebanese American from Boston, on the other hand, has a strong belief that only secularism can bring peace to the Middle East: “I think peace and the solution in the area is by forming a secular government regimes with a bill of rights that any person’s rights in any country are respected, then democracy will come as a result of that.”

As different as opinions and backgrounds might have been, most people came to the event in hopes to raise awareness about refugees’ suffering and somehow impact their lives in a good way. “Hopefully, this rally helps a lot of innocent people in Syria,” shared UMass Boston student Machmouchi.