tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN May 6, 2016 12:00am-12:42am EDT
>> 2-3 years ago, i was studying in syria. i was trying to flee the country to find any way to leave. i was one of the young people in syria who is dream was demolished during the war. the principal concerns transformed into a question of whether or not we would be able to see the morning the next day. there is nothing worse than experiencing that every minute. my parents are still living struggling with no electricity or water. i try to call them every day to make sure that they are still alive. am speechless about the current situation. last week, hundreds of innocent
souls were killed in such a savage civil war. during the time i was still living in syria, i studied business administration and i graduated from the university of aleppo. i was also employed as a violin teacher at the arabic institute of music. p -- music has always been my passion. and i was 20, i auditioned got admitted to a school for musician scholarship. i was the last class and aleppo university, delayed three times but i cannot graduate in time. disappointed but i did not lose my hope and i did not give up your day realized that i need to work so hard to find another opportunity. i kept searching online. i spent months and months
searching i was running between mortars, cafes under missiles, rockets, just to send my applications. i applied everywhere. one day i got a magical e-mail that i was accepted to marymount , fulle with a scholarship tuition scholarship. i was amazed. i was beyond happiness. even with such a huge scholarship, affording room and challenge. great this is because my parents have lost their jobs in the war and they couldn't even support me. i kept searching online and i ,ound out about an organization
supporting syrian refugees and syrian students by giving them scholarships. i reached out to them and through them i was in touch with a man from saudi arabia who was impressed with the papers that i sent and the music videos. he wanted to help me in how that i would one day be able to help my fellow syrian friends. in theh i feel safe united states i am constantly concerned about my family and friends in syria. we have a great human potential but we are in need of help and support and to build up a good atmosphere to flourish. -- they arends architects, doctors, but their lives are full of mystery and it is threatened daily.
friends reached out to bombed.r house was she went to turkey. she could not continue her education she reached out to me to help. to my collegeit and they accepted her with a full scholarship and now she is a sophomore. i am truly grateful that i was able to do something but is it enough yet geoeye do nothing so. -- is it enough? that i havenk so been working hard to achieve success in the music world per i was -- music world. lasteived my green card year. it is truly an honor to be in this country, the country which has given me my future and my life and honestly, i cannot think the american government enough for making my dream a
reality and for saving my life. i performed at the kennedy center last year. i was honored at the white house in 2015. andso performed last month i spoke at the united nations in geneva. tomorrow i'm heading to london to perform at cate blanchett's place -- yeah, it is a great opportunity. she is holding a major fundraising event for unc are you i have also now in touch iie, they are also interested at a fundraising program. this is the least i can do to be able to show my gratefulness to all of the people who have supported me enormously to be
here with you today. today, i consider myself not just a legitimate syrian citizen but also a new devoted and young american woman. of is ahat we dream peaceful life and the hope for a better tomorrow. american culture has impacted me in so many ways. believe moree inhumanity. powerless to change the current tragedy on going in syria but i love would be an ambassador to my country and deliver a beautiful message through every performance i do. i feel that music has the power to unite us that i can improve this when i perform jewish music -- and i am christian myself, and i perform for a muslim community.
thatt to make a statement i am christian myself but the relationship between muslims and is a cold we syria form a beautiful harmony and support each other. thank you so much. [applause] the >> quite a speaker, very touching, thank you. george? pushing the united states to except more refugees? george: i will start by telling life was in syria. for many people i meet here, they do not have any perception over understanding of how life was there. i will tell you little bit about my life and i will tell you
about the kind of thoughts i had on daily basis because of what is home to detach happening. i think it is a powerful tool to communicate -- what are we ?eeling as syrians what do i feel about my country? about the international reaction? i will be sharing this with you. ? what do i feel about my country? i was born and raised in syria. the one fact that many people do not expect is that we had a very normal life. we used to go out to restaurants, we used to go to the beach, we used to do everything that you guys to hear. go to universities, form friendships, have girlfriends, everything that you can imagine. it is not the country that some people would imagine, the
backwards country -- the image that isis tries to reflect. i consider myself as a person who had a wonderful childhood in syria and all of the great memories that i have are of a very beautiful country that i love and i appreciate and enjoy it. started toen things happen in 2011, everything changed. change that we had as individuals and young people is huge. youth from a safe country where you have everything you wanted a lot of shortcomings and concerns -- but you turned into a war, you are now living in a war. on a daily basis, your experiences, the feelings of
fear. on a daily basis, i remember waiting to see if someone we know has died. whenever we hear a bombing, we would be like checking on facebook and asking each other like, do we know anybody who happened to be in the location of the bombing? it turned from the very normal life into a very not normal life where it is dictated by fear, by uncertainty, dictated by also, all the other problems that young people like me would have -- what am i going to do about the future? what am i going to do about it -- if i lose someone i love? what would i do if somebody from my family died? just, those are very real
questions that we had to go through. so, i can tell you, i can assure you that there is not one syrian who -- whose life wasn't disrupted. whether from losing somebody you gettingut, whether from your building bombed, whether losing years of your life while you are waiting for the next step that is never there, that will never come. changed us as individuals. wasfor me, as a person, i very, very lucky and i count myself as one of the luckiest because through the same organization that mariela i was able to move to the u.s. to transfer to illinois school of technology. atas given a golden chance
rebuilding my life. i was given this opportunity along with 32 other students. here, wee we got always have this feeling that we should do something. -- ofl that no one course, you do -- the governments of the world -- they do care. in london, they pledged $10 billion. they do care about how would i tell that to one of my friends when they tell me that their translateer? i cannot the billions that the u.s. donated for the person who lost every confidence in the future. i cannot say it to a girl who lost her parents -- i just can't. it is very difficult. so we feel that -- i personally
feel that i have a responsibility and i have a duty to do something to help create this opportunity for those people. felt that the- i 33 students who came to chicago do share with me this vision that we do have a responsibility to we want to do something. we are all very eager to succeed, just to prove that we knowrians are not what you about us -- it is not what you read about us in some news outlets, we are just normal people who can do normal things. to give a tiny example, those 30 students have now gotten offers from google, apple, goldman sachs, from every big company -- and that is very difficult. if you came to the u.s. in two years and told me you are now a software engineer at google, i would not believe it -- but they are working so hard.
they are taking it extra step to prove to the world, that extra -- there is this extra motivation for us to prove to the world that we are normal. at the same time, that also drives us to do things, to drive positive change to other syrians . that is when two of me to start this petition. was very frustrated that nobody was doing anything, nobody was saying anything. it was like a problem that was very isolated from the u.s. political scene are from the u.s. humanitarian scene. so i wanted to do this and i did bunch i did it with many of group of amazing people who helped us carry it forward and i am very grateful to the administration for listening to us. after all, we are like, who cares about an immigrant who came from syria? i felt
appreciated and i felt that my voice was heard. that is a step in the right direction. then numbers can always be bigger and we are trying to do that. in thet it was a step right direction. some of the thoughts that i have -- do we deserve what is happening to us? this is something i constantly ask myself. do we deserve the lack of engagement from other countries or the lack of interest, like american people or european people in our causes? my answer is, maybe yes. we never had a society that can and thosee causes topics forward. what i am trying to say right now is that we need help to create a civic society that we never had. as governments
or administrations -- they tend to focus a lot on humanitarian response and they forget about the human aspect. a focus on the humanitarian aspect but not on the human aspect. -- i will justof give you an example. for thousands of syrians here in the united states, it takes years to process their asylum application. you know how difficult and challenging this can be for a person who doesn't know if into years will be deported. on top of everything that you as an individual have to care about, career, where, relationship, family, you do not really know if you will be deported. it is not the ideal situation that would help those eager people to do things because they simply do not know if they can
do it. is -- anxample is initiative to help syrian students in syria, we offer them free toefl classes in providing mentorship. we have just started that we work with some students informally. one yesterday got his visa and he is going to harvard. we are very excited. but for this very tiny organization, we are obviously tried to do something meaningful for those people to build a civil society that we aspire in the future to have for the people who are ready -- we are facing tremendous, tremendous obstacles. one is finances. by finances i do not mean fundraising.
if they want to transfer me the money so i can transfer it somewhere else, it is -- it would be a disaster. i cannot do that because my name would be somewhere. somebody will check my name and i cannot do that. the second thing is the visa. officersto many visa who served in different countries and they told me about ie system -- i am not saying want favorable treatment for syrians but it is just very, very difficult. even if you get a full scholarship from harvard you might be denied easily because the laws that are passed in congress 40 years ago just does -- there are a lot of complications that would make it way more difficult to get
somebody of visa from a country that has worn a matter how promising he is. the things that i think about and care about. those are the things that i try to mobilize people to always do something, because of what helping theme is 45,000 refugees who will come -- our group advocated for those people. those people who will come here will build the syria that we aspire. it might be the people who transfer western values to the middle east. those might be the people who would be the next doctors, lawyers, journalists, philosophers to help us build this platform.
so, this is what i wanted to share with you. thank you. [applause] >> thank you for reminding us that syria is not what we see every day on our screens. that was very powerful. congratulations on the successes you mentioned. this is great news. you are bringing us to our next speaker. we will talk about how to give assistance. no foreigner can really dare even to take the risk that you have to incur to go inside syria are beyond your personal story, how is this movement of civil society developing inside of syria? i am impressed to see how fired up they are despite the
tremendous odds. i love being here in georgetown. when i arrived, the first place was georgetown hotel and conference center. i have all of these happy memories about having a future. ago, may 5,ears was georgetown 2013, i will give you my diary. let's say you are reading my diary. dear diary, i woke up today, i check my phone to see if there was electricity to charge it because we barely had electricity. the tap to wash my face and there was no water so i had to take from our stored water and i try to clean my face and brush my hair and be decent. then imagine that you are living
-- leaving your home and then start running because there is a sniper two miles away, shooting every movable object or just because he sees somebody like me , he is assuming that i am with people fighting against him. so he was shooting me. and there were many times i hear bullets crossing pass to my ears even when i was with my mom. nobody knows why they are shooting. they are still there. my day usually starts with going to school where i work in refugee. i was in a city without huge complex, but because of my work as an ngo -- iteer, i was an intern
worked with palestinians, iraqis, and melodies, but i lebanese. i used to go to school nearby where there is over 1000 displaced people. we used to give them food and organize them. i do not know how to describe that, it is beyond any imagination. imagine a school where each people.s at least 25-30 i was the person responsible to put them there. can be able to sleep there but we have no other choice. as much people as we can.
had toin my city, i leave because i was a journalist and even though i was not criticizing the regime or the known and, i was well respected in my community and that is why i was offered to work for the regime as a reporter for syrian television, which i refused. i also refused the opposition. being in the middle, not being with any party makes the other people think there you were -- makes the other people that you are with the other part. was survivingay until the end of the day. just like cinderella, but sunset instead of midnight, otherwise it -- what to make we mean by the party is, the
sound of the bullets, the sound of everything. everything starts by sunsetted and -- everything starts by lasts until debuted one of my memories in my building, there was a tank next to my building shooting the other part and it was so noisy but i had no other choice because i want to leave my building i was struck -- there was a sniper. then after 10 days of no ,lectricity, and with some food was trying to understand what is going on, we try to get our transit and we start running across the fire of the sniper. i do not know what to add. they said everything. sometimes i have memories, flashbacks, those kind of memories. i was remembering when i was covering up concert in aleppo. that is where i met mariela.
these memories always come to you and put you in a bad mood. anything -- any success will not compare to what i did at home. however, i would like to also say, to think the u.s. government. first, i came in fellowship sponsored by the state department. i was the first and only syrian to get accepted to move were supposed to learn about the community and go back and try to adopt things we have learned here in syria. when i came here, the chemical weapon he is just started in the u.s. threat of intervening in syria -- and as a journalist who was writing and has 20,000 followers, they saw that i and here to be trained on some sport of spying so it was so dangerous
ir me to return so i -- so had to start a new life here. sometimes when they ask, are you a refugee? i say, i am technically a refugee because i am forced to leave my country. otherwise, i will stay there, why should i leave? being here, although dangerous, i have to stay here. the u.s. government gave me a .uture by accepting me here mese kind of things give hope. otherwise i would be killed or kidnapped summer because i will not -- violence solve anything and it is not my only point of view -- there are, like, 100,000 people who believe in the same thing which is why my friends and colleagues have been here we are trying to convince the american people
that know all series believe in violence, not all series want to be with the regime or the opposition or isis or whatsoever and if we have a couple hundred making poor choices by being in those -- by being with isis doesn't mean all syrians are dead. i'm here to i have a good life. i am working freelance or die and trying to be an educator. i'm trying to promote the syrian cause. i try to take advantage of being here in d.c. to attend events about syria and syrian refugees. i used to stand up in every event and say, look, i am syrian , i do not cause any threat that i am not a stereotypical perspective about syria, the people that you used to see in movies, that that guys who will bomb everything. silly to -- even
questions or nothing -- but i want to make people know that, yes, there might be syrians among you and you might be noticing them and they will not do anything bad to you at i try be honest,-- i will joining organizations -- syrian organizations here -- they only -- blaming this park, blaming it isher part -- know isis -- no it is -- it is not like us, ok? it has been five years but i think nobody is right and the other is wrong. there is no ultimate villain who if we eliminate him, everybody will be happy, the hero will get the hair when and, yeah, and we have the and we have a civil war where people are fighting, trying to kill each other, so all we have to do now is try to save those who have potential and refuse to be dragged into this vacuum of violence, try to
improve them, try to give them the ability to be heard -- how much time do i have? now? really? ok, so i would like to thank you , and i am celebrating that a couple of hours ago, aleppo has a cease-fire for 48 hours, so my family is still safe for 48 hours, hopefully. something.e to ask i would like all of you to stand up for a moment of silence for all of those who were killed in that thend i am hoping others do not have the same fate. >> thank you very much.
[applause] >> we would listen to you for more time. i know it is painful to bring through the angst that you all of you are living. thank you for breaking that -- >> i tried to talk about a different perspective. i am talking to my family like every moment to check that they are alive and they have horrible stories about what happened. bombs and bullets and everything. >> thank you. i forgot to mention when i --roduced shell to the with palestinian refugees be are just to emphasize that he has experience in the middle east.
when things are difficult for refugees, the world tends to [indiscernible] of the job description it in the case of the syrian crisis, the former high commissioner in current high commissioner have tried to raise the alarm repeatedly and what sort of challenge did you face when he raised that alarm? what is your experience? >> thank you. it was about a year ago that we library, thisme beautiful library, the former high commissioner was here and i am afraid that some of the points i and going to make he had to make last year in the year before much more -- aftery, i'm sure all, he was the high commissioner -- and the new high commissioner is doing the same. the first thing that unites us, i think the whole u.n. system of , ish unhcr is just one part
to wish for peace. that has to happen. all that we do in cooperation in cooperation with ngos, and there are hundreds of them, big and small, national, syrian, international, american, european -- all that we do is somehow try to relieve the pain but the solution is peace. and 48 hours is simply not enough. against the background of to actuallyilure come to some resolution to the ir and it is a megawatt -- mean, it is not just in syria, it is in iraq and there are risks of the spillover beyond -- or until such time as the war does come to an end, our mantra
as the refugee agency is of course that the international find ways for refugees and asylum-seekers to have access to territory, to be able to be able u-boat to makee their claim, to hear their story so they are not subject to forcible return and they are able, during the time that they are forced to be in exile, to have as normal a life as possible. michelle was tucked about 2013 as a watermark. is true that over the last couple of years in the investment,ustained our budgets are all underfunded, quite significantly, notwithstanding the generous support from the u.s. taxpayer particulars and in
through the state department -- notwithstanding refugees are sensory -- suffering -- that led to improv version in. we have data from the world bank, the unhcr clearly reflecting that refugees in jordan, lebanon are in a big way 80%-90%e talking major, -- living below the poverty line and that is a progressive impoverished and and it is a astained despair that created situation that led so many hundreds of thousands of people to try to find another place where they could put their children in school. it was not more complicated and motivation as you are trying higher education for families to protect their children just as uri what -- when i was in jordan, i went to syria every opportunity i could and it was such an authentic place --
>> beautiful place with one beautiful place because the food -- and, but, what was remarkable is that it really was a middle income country. , a middle means it is income country where like everybody -- like everywhere else they want their children could is cool, they want to have a job, they want to take care of their affairs and that was simply impossible for refugees living in jordan, lebanon and turkey, noticing the generous policies up until then of the governments to allow them access. ist has happened since another story and i do not want to see the zero on the sheet of paper saying i'm out of time so what i would like to highlight is nevertheless perhaps the fact that many of you don't know when that is when we see the pictures of refugees in camps, from saw from jordan, that is
where the journalists and the congressional delegations, that is where visitors are able to go . 60% of the refugees -- and 90% of refugees are living outside are living in cities and towns or in shelters or in renovated apartments over and the newters development over the last that, again,s is after considerable encouragement and advocacy, there is a shift in the recognition that something has to be done to support the host communities in order that -- in order to allow for more asylum space so that -- and does are in not remain, if you will, a burden on the local economy and on the host population, so we
are hopeful, again, here, the united states has been instrumental in working with the world bank, other international financial institutions, turning the corner in that respect but really, we half to look forward, way to organize humanitarian and development responses in the future when there are new emergencies. the last thing i would simply thats it is very important as many refugees as possible are given the opportunity to move legally. we have moved -- we have heard a lot about irregular movement and we were talking about last year, resettlement to the united states, there were not pictures of asylum officers interviewing individually and a 7 -- a refugee for an hour and a half, taking down all of the information about their story, to validate them and to verify who they are in with a recovery from -- no, on cnn, we saw pictures of masses of people going through the fields of
croatia, macedonia, serbia, as if that is resettlement in it is simply not the case as i am sure simon will elaborate. so it is very important that we promote resettlement, other legal avenues whether it is through scholarship programs or labor migration to brazil and elsewhere to allow as many people -- they will still be the minority but to allow as many people as possible to find safety, to build a future for their kids because that is the kind of international solidarity that it will encourage jordan and lebanon and turkey, iraq, egypt to do as much as they have done -- to continue to do more because the war is still going on in the refugee situation, the refugee crisis will, regrettably, persist for years to come, in one from or another. so, with that, i want to acknowledge the great support we have gotten from the united states and other countries and to just say that this is a struggle that will continue for as long as the international
community is unable to help syria find a peaceful resolution to this terrible war. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much. i'm quite stimulated by the note heard in your last comment when i tend to become more depressed by the week, particularly when -- try to host a special meeting on resettlement and european countries were noncommittal despite the fact that they want people to stay outside the borders so they do not come canly -- illegally -- so we discuss that -- but thank you for your sense of optimism, that is great to have the. -- great to have. simon, the u.s. has been the leader in humanitarian relief in the last 30 years, since the
beginning of the syrian crisis of the mostor, one engaged governments and my sense is that sometimes we have the leader but we turn around and say, where's the pack? what are the challenges you have faced in the international community to respond to the syrian of the most crisis? simon: thank you all for being here today. great turnout. keep thinking it is friday afternoon because i am taking tomorrow off, so, thank you for being here on what seems like a friday afternoon. the i represent the humanitarian state department and one of the difficulties of working in a humanitarian work is that we do not actually solve the political crises that caused the humanitarian harm in the first place. but we do very much hope that our colleagues led by secretary kerry right now are able to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis because that is what will cause the most humanitarian good. the continuation of the