Syrian refugees Zubair Rushk and Amira Elamri will share their stories of life in Syria and the long road to building lives in the United States during a public conversation on Tuesday, April 18, at UNC Charlotte Center City, as part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Witness in Residence Initiative.
Even before the current civil war began, Syria was torn apart by regional alliances and differences in culture, history and language. Zubair Rushk defied authorities by opening an illegal school in his home to teach the Kurdish language and history to Kurdish children. After being incarcerated for this offense, he sought asylum in Lebanon in 2005. He was selected in 2010 for the U.S. refugee resettlement program and has since made his home in Cary, North Carolina.
Amira Elamri, her husband and their two children escaped the Syrian civil war in 2013. After nine moves within Syria and one to Lebanon to escape violence, they arrived in the United States with tourist visas. They left behind friends and extended family, many of whom have since been killed by bombings. Now, they have work visas and live near Boston, Massachusetts, and are waiting for their asylum applications to be approved. Elamri teaches in a Muslim preschool.
Doors open at 6 p.m., and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m. This event is open to the public without charge, but registration is requested. Information on obtaining a complimentary parking pass for the evening will be sent shortly before the event to those who are registered.
Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology and co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at UNC Chapel Hill, will provide historical context and facilitate discussion. Poet Susan Shaw Sailer, English professor emerita of the English Department at West Virginia University in Morgantown, will read a new poem about Syrian refugees.
This conversation is part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Anabel Aliaga-Buchenau Witness in Residence Initiative.
Through generous donors from the community, the initiative provides study abroad scholarships that fund students’ overseas experiences related to human rights and social justice. It also supports the annual Witness in Residence Program at UNC Charlotte; this program brings individuals who have personally witnessed an important world event to campus to discuss that event. Witnesses present a series of lectures that are open to the campus and greater communities.