In the middle of June, when the team at the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund realized we were facing a third Iraq emergency—as well as requests for help from scholars in many other parts of the world—Senator Leahy of Vermont reminded us why we do this work. He told the story of a man walking along a beach where many starfish had washed ashore. The man was picking them up one by one and tossing them back into the ocean. A passerby noted that there were many hundreds and that the effort was pretty much futile. “Not to the one I just managed to throw back,” replied the man.
“Thank God we’re alive, but we are dying an intellectual death.”
Wearing a colorful headscarf and a seemingly permanent look of sorrow, an intense and charismatic professor I’ll call Noora shared with me her tragic story of fleeing Syria and becoming a refugee. I was in Reyhanlı, a dusty border town in Turkey’s southernmost province, to meet with Syrians whose university education and academic work had been interrupted indefinitely due to the conflict in their homeland. Among the more than three million Syrian refugees, including an estimated one million in Turkey, there are tens of thousands of university students and professors.
Donors regularly ask how their contributions to the Institute advance our mission, impact individuals in need worldwide, and achieve results. This is especially true when we issue our annual appeal for unrestricted gifts.
Doing our best to ignore the rumbling of military tanks outside a Beirut classroom, we listened as a group of Syrian university students shared with us how they had fled their homes and studies in Syria and were struggling to continue their education in Lebanon.
University budgets for the humanities just about everywhere are declining or the first to be cut. So when a donor—let alone two—want to contribute to rescuing scholars in the arts, I take notice. So thank you to two Institute trustees, Robert L. Dilenschneider and Mark A. Angelson, who have created the new Janet Hennessey Dilenschneider Scholar Rescue Award in the Arts in the IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund to save the lives and work of scholars in the arts.
A scholar from Afghanistan who is on the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) fellowship sent the Institute the following piece about education in his country. For the last 60 years, it has been a see-saw ride for higher education in Afghanistan. However, the data proves that the news is not all bad. In fact, educational opportunities have increased, especially for girls and women.
The crisis in Syria has created an academic emergency, with the break-down of higher education within the country and major obstacles facing Syrians who are studying or teaching outside of Syria. This week’s violent attacks on the University of Aleppo have underscored the need for urgent action to save the students and scholars who will be needed to rebuild their country. IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund has been helping scholars from Syria to enable them to continue their work at safe haven universities around the world. Today, we joined with the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) and the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR) to issue a joint statement condeming the attacks on the University of Aleppo.
On Friday night here in NYC, I attended the first Gala dinner of a group called Jusoor. Arabic for “bridges,” Jusoor aims to build a more peaceful and prosperous Syria by connecting the 20 million people in Syria with the 20 million people in the Syrian diaspora throughout the world. Like IIE, their focus is education.