Symposium for Syrian refugees features human rights scholar

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Symposium for Syrian refugees features human rights scholar

Dr. Keith Watenpaugh, University of California, Davis eminent scholar of human rights and renowned historian, will keynote the Symposium for Syrian Refugees that will be from 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at Fresno State.

Presented in the Alice Peters Auditorium in the University Business Center (Room 194 ) by the Islamic Studies Speaker SeriesDepartment of History and College of Social Sciences, the free, public event will focus on the challenges facing Syrian refugees trying to resettle in the United States, said Dr. Stacy Fahrenthold, the Fresno State history professor who is organizing the event.

Joining Watenpaugh will be speakers from U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services, refugee resettlement agencies and humanitarian groups to discuss vetting, resettlement, asylum, service provision, refugee mental health and refugee education.

“Participants can learn more about how refugees are vetted, what the asylum process looks like and meet new Syrian neighbors in Fresno,” Fahrenthold said.

Watenpaugh, who will deliver two lectures and do a book signing, directs a global project that seeks to better understand the problems and opportunities facing refugee college students from Syria. His work has taken him to refugee camps in Jordan, Syrian ghettos in Istanbul and illegal encampments on the borders of Greece.

“Watenpaugh’s work has been vastly influential in shaping how scholars and policymakers alike think about refugees, resettlement and refugee access to higher education,” Fahrenthold said.

Speakers and discussions include:

    • 1-2:30 p.m. (University Business Center, Room 194) — Emilia Bardini of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Asylum Office will discuss the asylum process and how the San Francisco Asylum Office works with refugees entering the United States. Lunch will be served.


    • 3-4:30 p.m. (UBC 194) — Watenpaugh will present “There Are No Students in Zaatari Camp: Losing a Generation of Syria’s Best and Brightest and the Challenges of Refugee Higher Education,” a discussion on the cost of war, the conditions facing Syrian refugee students and measures that can reconnect them with higher education.


    • 5-6:30 p.m. (UBC 194) — A panel Discussion on “Refugee Assistance Work in the Central Valley” with speakers including Wasan Abu Baker of the American Friends Service Committee and Kathleen Chavoor and Zack Darrah of the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries. The panel will discuss local efforts to assist refugees making the transition to Fresno. Abu Baker and Darrah will provide insight on agencies working to help refugees seek housing, employment and education. Chavoor will discuss mental health care and the challenges Syrian refugees face when processing past traumas and moving to the U.S.


    • 7-7:30 p.m. (UBC Alice Peters Auditorium) — Book signing reception with hors d’oeuvres when Watenpaugh will sign copies of his award-winning book “Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism.” Syrian style refreshments will be provided.


    • 7:30-9 p.m. (UBC Alice Peters Auditorium) — Watenpaugh presents “The Drowned, the Saved and the Forgotten: Genocide and the Foundations of Modern Humanitarianism.” In this talk, drawn from his book “Bread from Stones,” Watenpaugh examines the international humanitarian responses to the Armenian genocide. He argues that modern humanitarianism and genocide have a complex history that has shaped the modern concepts of humanitarian neutrality, humanitarian governance and the human rights-based development. The event is co-sponsored by the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program.


Symposium for Syrian refugees

Dr. Keith Watenpaugh, Wasan Abu Baker, Zack Darrah

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