Students are working to financially support Syrian students through a new resolution passed Feb. 14.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council passed the Books Not Bombs resolution, which aims to make it easier for Syrian refugees to seek an education in the United States. The resolution encourages administrators to grant scholarships to refugees by backing a national organization, which is also called Books Not Bombs.
Almost two hundred universities currently support Books Not Bombs. UCLA is the fifth UC to join the campaign.
Reem Karmouta, a second-year human biology and society student and one of the students who presented the resolution to USAC, said the specifics of how they would provide these scholarships are uncertain. However, she hopes to work toward getting support from administrators who can allocate funds for the scholarships, potentially through donors.
“We have a support system, so over time, getting it to administrators for financial and resource support would be amazing,” Karmouta said.
Syrian international students would still need to meet basic admission requirements, and public funds will not go toward the resolution, said USAC Internal Vice President Sabrina Zeigler, who sponsored the resolution.
Karmouta said Books Not Bombs would likely create between one and 10 scholarships at UCLA.
Karmouta added she wanted to help bring the resolution to UCLA because she has a passion for equal education access. She said she thinks some refugees in Syria want to attend college but cannot because of political unrest in the country.
“What happened in Syria is that we lost an entire generation of architects, engineers, doctors and more,” Karmouta said. “How are we going to rebuild a country in 20 to 30 years if our youth hasn’t been college-educated?”
Second-year psychobiology student Kawsar Nasir, who spearheaded the campaign at UCLA with Karmouta, said she was initially worried USAC would vote against the resolution because of the recent anti-immigrant rhetoric in the political sphere. However, she was relieved that council members’ views were not along the same lines.
“Knowing that people are learning about the conflict makes us realize that there are other people who care,” Nasir said. “Aleppo was heartbreaking, but (seeing that) news on a national scale helped garner support.”
Nasir added she wanted to help Books Not Bombs because it was difficult watching what was happening in Aleppo, and she thinks Syrian students also deserve a chance at an education.
Karmouta said going through USAC was a good way to attain a platform for advocacy, but it was only the first step in getting other UCs to support Books Not Bombs.
General Representative 3 Inan Chowdhury said one of the campaign directors reached out to him about presenting to USAC, so he helped edit and sponsor the resolution. Three council members need to sponsor a resolution for it to be considered.
“In a state of crisis that has been ignored, we want to help these students,” Chowdhury added. “This resolution is a key to their futures, so as an institution it is our responsibility to help provide education for people that really need it.”
Chowdhury said he thinks UCLA should be helping promote the campaign as an example to the rest of the world. He added he hopes its participation will mobilize the rest of the UCs to join.
“Even if it is 10 to 15 students that come abroad (to study), that is a huge deal,” he said. “If a few get the opportunity, they would go and give back to their communities and their families to come out of the tragedies they are facing.”
Zeigler also said she hopes the campaign will create a domino effect.
“Hopefully one day we won’t have to have Syrian refugees come here – they will want to come here if they want to, and hopefully they won’t be refugees anymore, they’ll be Syrian international students,” she said.
Chowdhury said he hopes to bring the issue to the UC Regents and persuade them to join the Institute of International Education, which helps refugee students get scholarships.