The situation in Syria is deteriorating. Syrian universities are being used as detention centres. Students and academics face targeted attacks. Those in the UK are left stranded, cut off from their families, without funds. CARA is today launching an Emergency Appeal for Syrian Academics.
“With bloody violence raging across Syria, academics are once again being targeted. We must act now to help them.” says Stephen Wordsworth, CARA Executive Director.
An academic who is still in Syria describes November 2012 as the “… worst month ever… lots of killing, bombing, kidnapping, savage violence and a high level of tension between different Syrian factions”.
CARA is extremely concerned about the safety of all those still in Syria, as well as those who have been forced to flee to safety in neighbouring countries. Three academics from the University of Aleppo were murdered for criticising the Assad regime, with four more assassinations in Homs. Reliable media reports say that the universities of Aleppo and Homs are being used as prisons by the Syrian security forces. We fear a repeat of the targeted campaign of assassination against Iraq’s academics that followed the 2003 invasion, which left over 400 dead and many more still in exile.
CARA is also acutely aware of the difficulties of those who find themselves stranded in UK as students or visiting academics. They are unable to return to Syria. Many have UK visas that are expiring; their funding from Syria has been cut off. They may have lost contact with loved ones back in Syria. Their fate now lies with the UK government, and with the UK universities with which they are registered. One stranded academic, who has been harassed by UK-based supporters of the Assad regime, says “I’m terrified … that I’ll face legal consequences here in the UK”.
CARA welcomes the positive steps taken by many UK universities to ensure Syrian students do not suffer as the result of a situation that is wholly outside their control. Some are providing bursaries and scholarships. Others are registering the debt of unpaid fees against the Syrian government.
CARA is already working with Syrian academics stranded in the UK. It has supported faculty members of the University of Northumbria with an in-house appeal in support of one of their PhD students, who is trapped and in danger following his return to Syria for the birth of his second child. This is a wonderful act of solidarity, reminiscent of the support that individual academics gave to CARA when it was founded in 1933. It would be excellent to see this action replicated across the university sector.
The CARA Emergency Appeal for Syrian Academics will help to:
Anne Lonsdale, CARA Chair, urges people to contribute to this fund so that practical help can be given to academics affected by these dreadful events. “We need to support those at risk, to ensure they can survive to carry out a vital role in the future rebuilding of Syria, in which the universities will play an essential part.” Donations can be made via the link below;
CARA’s work is supported by the CARA Scholars at Risk UK Universities Network, 74 UK universities collaborating to promote and defend academic freedom and provide practical support to academics in need. It offers an extraordinary resource on which to draw, providing critical periods of sanctuary, with CARA Fellowships helping to cover living costs.
'Emergency Appeal for Syrian Academics' Press release - 10/12/12
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UNHCR Figures In the past 18 months 442,256 refugees are estimated to have fled Syria, with many more internally displaced.
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