Documentary Screening to Illuminate the Syrian Refugee Experience

Image taken from the documentary "This Is Home: A Refugee Story" (2018).

Teresa Schuster/Staff Writer

In Miami, our image of the refugee tends to come from South America, but a graduate student wants to open the community’s eyes to a new refugee experience: that of Syrians in the U.S.

To call attention to the challenges they encounter in the U.S. and how the community can help those in South Florida, FIU will host an event titled “This Is Home: Exploring the New American Experience.”

The event will include a screening of a documentary about Syrian refugees, followed by a panel discussion where students will have the opportunity to ask questions.

The documentary, “This is Home: A Refugee Story” (2018), follows the life experiences of a Syrian family resettled in the US and the challenges they face, according to Mitra Naseh, a Ph.D. student at FIU who organized the event.

Syrians comprise the largest refugee population in the world according to the United Nations refugee agency, and Naseh said she wanted to call attention to their problems.

During her childhood in Iran, Naseh frequently saw refugees from Afghanistan in the streets, and later worked with an NGO serving many refugees. This experience inspired her passion for working with refugees.

Now, her research focuses on refugees, and she hopes the event will help correct misconceptions students may hold about refugees.

“I believe there is a lack of understanding of refugees and who is a refugee,” said Naseh. “Their life was in danger. They escaped to stay alive.”

The panel will include words from Miriam Potocky, an FIU professor who studies refugee resettlement.

2015 and 2017 were the peak years of Syrian arrivals in the U.S., and Potocky told PantherNOW that about 1,200 Syrian refugees resettled in Florida during that time.

According to Naseh, Syrians resettled in South Florida face different challenges than refugees from South America.

“Those groups have social ties here, they have social support, they have other members of the community who speak their language,” Naseh said. “People are more tolerant about their presence. That’s not the case with Syrian refugees.”

Syrian refugees are no longer able to enter the U.S., due to the government’s travel ban, which Naseh said also contributes to discriminatory attitudes against them.

“It’s very important that our community start giving more attention to the problem,” she said.

Potocky echoed Naseh’s sentiment, saying that more eyes on the problem will lead to greater understanding.

“We should all be knowledgeable about our neighbors in order to promote a more harmonious and thriving community,” said Potocky.

The event will be held on February 20th from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and will be held in the Graham Center Auditorium (GC 140) on the Modesto Maidique Campus. 

Admission is free, and students and members of the public are asked to RSVP at this link: http://thisishome.bullfrogcommunities.com/mitranaseh/this_is_home_exploring_the_new_american_experience?recruiter_id=28722

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