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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Award winning Netflix documentary to be screened Thursday

The White Helmets are a non-political group of volunteer-rescue workers that operate in Syria to pull victims of airstrikes from under the rubble. The group of Syrian civilians was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and Netflix released a documentary about the group in 2016.

A group of like-minded students assembled with the purpose of creating on-campus awareness about the devastation in Syria and planned to screen a Netflix documentary, “The White Helmets,” on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Evans Library, room 204E.

Mahmoud Yamak, petroleum engineering graduate student said the event is meant to raise awareness among the student body.

“We want to increase awareness about Syria,” Yamak said. “I think that Aggies need to be familiar with what’s happening…[because A&M] is a school that revolves around a lot of politics, so, students here should be familiar with what’s happening.”

Presidential candidate Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party responded with “What is Aleppo?” when asked about his actions to help the city in Syria at the heart of the current refugee crisis if elected president. Yussra Hamid, sophomore biomedical science major, notes that Johnson’s comment pointed to the fact that there is still a lot of awareness that needs to be raised about the crisis.

Nimrah Riaz, health education second year master student, said the importance of raising awareness on what is happening in Syria is a global issue that pertains to everyone.

“This is not only a Syrian cause,” Riaz said. “This is a cause that is affecting people worldwide because refugees are fleeing to every country possible. As an American citizen, I want to be able to tell people that there is so much you can do from your home to help these human beings that are suffering.”

A student-led panel and discussion will follow the documentary screening. The panel will consist of students who have been personally affected by the Syrian refugee crisis – Hamid and Israa Alshwaiki, two Syrian students, and Riaz, a Pakistani student who traveled to Jordan to assist Syrian refugees. Rebecca Hankins, Africana Studies professor, will moderate the event.

“It’s really important to have Syrian students sharing their narrative, rather than non-Syrian analysts talking about [the issue,]” Yamak said. “Sometimes when you speak about an issue that you’re not really connected with, it can be a dry analysis. When you have someone who is affected by it personally, there is a bit more emotion, more passion, so I think people need to see that; they need to see the other side.”

Hamid notes that the refugee crisis and how it is personally affecting people needs to be discussed in public arenas. As a Syrian, this is a perspective that she will be able to offer to audience members of the documentary screening.

“I have my whole extended family [in Syria]. I used to travel there every other summer just to visit. I’ve seen the streets I spent my childhood on crumble to the ground. I have relatives that have had to leave the country and relatives that have gotten killed,” said Hamid.

The coordinators of the event are hoping for open dialogue and questions that aim to resolve ambiguous information conveyed by the media, as it will provide a new, important perspective that many students at A&M have not heard, said Yamak.

“We don’t want it to be a lecture,” Yamak said. “We want people to ask questions and interact with the panel.”

Along with providing a window into the lives of Syrian people, Yamak hopes that the documentary screening will shift the anti-refugee sentiment at Texas A&M.

“Texas A&M is generally a pretty good sample of Texas,” Yamak said.“We have people from all over the state that go to the school…So, when people see the documentary, the devastation, the people running from Syria seeking a safer place…the level of destruction, we are hoping that that will change some minds because some students might have an anti-refugee position.”

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