Yasmeen Kazkaz and Aya Kassar walked up on stage Thursday night in Coal Ben and stood in front of a Syrian flag that stated, حرية meaning “freedom” in Arabic, reminding Benedictine students of the ongoing catastrophe taking place in Syria.
Collaborating with BenU Unicef and AJS scholar Aamna Khalid, Syrians Organized for Syria hosted an Open Mic Night as part of Syrian Refugee Awareness Week to let students share their thoughts on the Syrian crisis. Before other students took the stage, Kazkaz and Kassar shared a message for the Syrians affected by the calamity.
“…We see you, we’re sorry, we thank you and we love you,” said Kazkaz.
Passionate speakers and spoken word enthusiasts expressed their outrage, love and hope for Syria. The open mic was intended, according to Kassar, to steer away from the negativity that is typically associated with Syria and to spread awareness in an up-beat and light way.
“People think that the most we can do is donate. And these kind of things like donating, helping, volunteering and aiding organizations, are the only way we can help Syrians abroad and without spreading awareness to everyone around, we can’t really do that,” Kassar said.
Many speakers told stories of life before the crisis and the small ways each Syrian life is being affected on a day to day basis where thousands are unable to live or even know a normal life.
“I myself am Syrian. I have family in Syria. I know about the atrocities that happen there…On the news we see [an issue] on a really large, big picture scale like war, genocide, massacres, etc, but the thing we should keep in mind is that this affects people not just in that big way where they’re killing each other, but also small minute ways where their daily life in impaired,” Kassar continued.
Kassar, who hasn’t visited Syria since the revolution started, said she’s often worried about her family in Syria where the fortunate ones have gotten a chance to flee, but many others still remain in the dangerous conditions.
Though the conditions in Syria are adverse and the topic is considered devastating, many Benedictine students left feeling recharged and hopeful.
“I felt energized; I feel like a lot of people who had so much passion transferred that energy to me and so it’s just a nice feeling and that’s what poetry does; you’re able to communicate feelings,” said Benedictine student Mina Yar.