In the summer of 2013, Sana Mustafa, an undergraduate business student in Damascus, came to attend the State Department sponsored Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at Roger Williams University. During those several weeks, she would be learning about democratic systems of government, seeing them in practice, and developing leadership skills. The understanding was that she would bring what she learned back to Syria. As part of a generation determined to see change in her country, Sana looked forward to using her new skills to help the movement to transform Syria into a more stable nation; one with greater equality, opportunity, and safety after so many years of authoritarian rule.
But midway through the first weeks, while sitting in a classroom on the RWU campus, Sana’s phone buzzed. The message said her father had been detained. No one knew where he was, or if he even was alive.
Already arrangements were in motion for her mother and her sisters to flee the country for Turkey. Sana was advised not to come back. It was that unsafe.
With only a suitcase packed for the six week MEPI program, and barely any money, Sana found herself an unexpected refugee in the United States. And thus began a three-year saga that found Sana sleeping on couches, going from small job to small job, resource to resource, as she negotiated a complicated bureaucracy, trying to make a life for herself in the US, as well as be an advocate for her family and her country.
Eventually, through the efforts of many in the NGO community, Sana was granted political asylum, and allowed to finish her education with a full scholarship at Bard College.
All the while, her family struggles to make a life among the thousands of refugees in Turkey, and with no word about the state or fate of her father.
As part of the Talking in the Library series, we look forward to welcoming Sana back to RWU, where this chapter in her ever-written story began.
When: Thursday, September 22, 2016
Time: 4:30 PM
Where: Mary Tefft White Center, University Library