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At Vigil, Students Mourn Victims of Chemical Attacks in Syria

By Alice S. Cheng and Kristine E. Guillaume, Crimson Staff Writers

About 30 students congregated at Memorial Church on Saturday evening for a vigil to commemorate victims of recent chemical attacks in Syria,.

The event, called “In Solidarity with Syria,” included speeches and a moment of silence to show support for those affected by the six-year civil war.

Tajrean Rahman ’20, who organized the vigil, began the event by asking attendees to acknowledge what she called as a “bubble” at Harvard, which prevents students from fully recognizing the impact of Syria’s civil war.

“We show solidarity for a thing that may not impact us directly, but we should feel it just the same...we are in a bubble in a sense, especially at Harvard,” she said. “When you see a headline on a social media post and it is of a child dying, a lot of times we might see this image, we might read this headline and then we scroll past because it’s just a headline.”

Rahman said she wanted her event to signal that an attack on innocent Syrians “is not okay,” and to lament inaction from Americans to stop the war.

“These children are still dying. These people are under the worst conditions and we’re like that’s it. We’ve done our bit,” she said.

Students from across the University spoke at the event, including Bushra Hamid ’20 and Rana Abdelhamid, a graduate student at the Kennedy School, with most expressing a desire for empathy for refugees and casualties of the war.

“Today just marks a day where standing in solidarity should never stop,” said Hamid, a Syrian American. “The pain should never end until the pain of other people’s suffering ends.”

Many across Harvard have friends and family members affected by Syria’s deadly war, although several of Harvard’s schools list no students as having Syria as their primary country of citizenship.

Following the speeches, attendees observed a moment of silence for those affected by the attacks and the war. Rahman closed the vigil by urging students to get involved in activism against the war and recent attacks.

Amal A. Abdi ’20, who stood with dozens in the audience, said the vigil helped her comprehend damage done by the attacks, which killed several dozen Syrian civilians.

“We are in a bubble at Harvard and to actually hear about what’s actually happening in Syria, it’s heartbreaking and it’s so easy to distance ourselves and to dehumanize them because they’re so far away,” Abdi said. “I want to remind myself that there are real people who are getting hurt,” she said.

—Staff writer Alice S. Cheng can be reached at alice.cheng@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @alicescheng.

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