This is part of a Columbia News series introducing members of the University's Scholarship for Displaced Students, a program administered by the Columbia Global Centers.
May 05, 2021
Sami Salloum is a student at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies from Damascus, Syria. He spoke with us about his studies in negotiations and conflict resolution, his plans to contribute to conflict resolution in the Middle East, and what he wishes more people knew about his home country.
I want to harness my skills and education to put an end to conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, where millions of civilians are exposed to heinous violations and traumas. I want to ensure that social justice and resilience are prevailing in post-war countries and that perpetrators of war crimes are held accountable. Our fight against impunity of war crimes, xenophobia, hatred, and racism is indispensable. It is our moral and human obligation to defend and stand up for vulnerable communities. Columbia is giving me the opportunity to be a high-caliber peacemaker.
What do you wish more people knew about Syria?
You might hear a lot about my country, Syria, in the news: dictatorship, terrorism, wars, humanitarian disasters, political oppression, etc. What you may not have heard is that Syrians never lose hope. We are very resilient people. Many refugees, displaced people, and political asylum seekers across the diaspora proved to be very influential in their new hosting communities and in various fields.
I want to tell the world that there are tens of thousands in Syria who are still missing, arbitrarily detained, tortured, and forcibly abducted by parties to the conflict, constituting one of the worst war crimes in recent history. Syria is not safe for a dignified and safe return. The war has not ended, even if it is not a top story in the media anymore.
Leaving everything behind, your house, family, friends, and community is one of the most arduous journeys ever. Fleeing torture, persecution, violence, and war is not a choice, but a survival instinct. People in conflict zones want peace and to live in dignity. Therefore, welcoming and empowering Syrians in their new hosting communities is an ethical duty to help them overcome the traumas they had experienced.
On a positive note, Syria has one of the best cuisines in the world, the best music, and our capital city, Damascus, is the oldest continuously inhabited capital in the world.