Refugee Week events start today on UI campus

Photo by Adam Burke
Photo by Adam Burke

Events to raise awareness about the ongoing international refugee crisis will be held on the University of Iowa campus this week, including a panel discussion Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Iowa Memorial Union about the challenges refugees face during resettlement and in addressing xenophobia in their new homes.

“Refugees aren’t just some external group, they are part of us,” said Hibbah Jarmakani, a University of Iowa student and intern with the Iowa United Nations Association who is helping to organize the events. “They go to our schools. They are part of our communities. We have differences, but those should strengthen, not divide us. So why not open up this discussion?”

News reports have shown an increase in reports of bias-based attacks following Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump and concerns among international students at Iowa’s public universities prompted campus programs to send out a joint email addressing questions, including questions about whether or not visas will still be valid under a Trump presidency.

Jarmakani said she hoped people would come away from the events and discussions with more information and hopefully reach out and call for more action and support for refugees from their governors and state and federal legislators. Individuals can also sign a petition calling on the University of Iowa to offer scholarships to Syrian students.

Although she is originally from Syria, Jarmakani has lived in the United States for most of her life. She used to travel back to visit family, but hasn’t been able to do so since war broke out in the region. She said it was heartbreaking to watch the country be destroyed and not be able to do anything about it.

“It definitely feels like being caught between two identities,” she said. “When I listen to the media and the way the situation in Syria is being portrayed, it feels like part of me is being attacked, like part of me will never be good enough.”

The groups involved with the events include the Human Rights Student Collective, UI Students for Human Rights, Iowa United Nations Association, UI Center for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, MEDLIFE and the Women’s Resource and Action Center.


Hats that Help — Everyday this week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the UI T. Anne Cleary Walkway, organizations will sell Carhartt hats for $15. The cost of each hat purchased will be donated to a refugee in need.

Sew-a-thon — On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the UI Women’s Resource and Action Center, help out by sewing recycled fabric into reusable feminine hygiene products that will be donated to women in Tanzania.


Panel Discussion — The Journey of a Refugee: Resettlement to Xenophobia — On Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 pm. in the Illinois Room of the University of Iowa Memorial Union, join a discussion about the integration of refugees into new communities. Panel includes two refugee students, a Muslim Imam and a human rights lawyer.


Lost at Sea Memorial — A display of Life jackets will be set up on the UI Pentacrest lawn representing the many refugees who have died at sea.

Film Screening & Discussion: Salam Neighbor — On Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Medical Education Research Facility Prem Sahai Auditorium, check out the documentary film by two American filmmakers who lived among 85,000 Syrian refugees in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

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Pancake-Palooza — From 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, come out to the Old Brick Church for all-you-can-eat pancakes ($5 suggested donation). Proceeds from the event will go to the United Nations’ High Commission on Refugees.


Film Screening: The White Helmets — From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday in the Northwestern Room of the University of Iowa Memorial Union, watch the documentary about volunteer rescue workers in Syria and Turkey. The screening is part of the Human Rights Student Collective’s Friday Night Rights series.