On Wednesday, November 8, the Amnesty International Club welcomed Syrian refugee and activist Sana Mustafa to the Winsor campus to share her story, reflections on the war and what it means to lose everything in pursuit of what you believe.
After learning of Ms. Mustafa's willingness to speak at Winsor, the Amnesty Club spent the fall understanding the conflict in Syria and the plight of refugees. Club leaders Emily Drucker '18, Ellie Fulkerson '18, and Andrea Zhu '18 developed an introductory presentation for assembly, prepared panel questions, and organized a meeting with Ms. Mustafa following the assembly that drew more than 60 students awed by her candid, moving account.
"For all the power of Sana's words—and they were powerful—it was her presence that most resonated with many of the students I spoke to after the meeting," noted English faculty David Griffin, the advisor for the club. "Sana humanized what can feel like an abstract issue framed by inconceivable statistics. The poise, humor, and directness with which she handled tough and important questions from students in the audience, in the Middle East Global Studies class, in Class IV Art, and in Amnesty Club also had a huge impact."
"In club, we had been talking about human rights and how we subconsciously empathize more with domestic issues because issues like the Syrian refugee crisis feel so far away," noted Andrea. "I believe the authenticity of Sana's presentation opened many students' eyes," continued Emily. "She offered a new understanding of the details of the Syrian crisis that created a spark within the student body to want to help in any way we can." COLLECT, the Winsor student government, has already begun to discuss possible ways students, as individuals and as a community, can offer assistance.
"Sana reframed issues that many of us have taken for granted and made us rethink our vocabulary and paradigm for conceiving of global involvement in Syria and attitudes toward refugees. Having just read Thoreau's famous essay on civil disobedience, Resistance to Civil Government, students in my U.S. Lit class were struck by Sana's description of her willingness to risk her life for the sake of protests against the government. We had just been considering the question of moral imperatives, and Sana spoke the language of moral imperatives. We were very grateful to Sana for sharing her time, and I hope the conversations she initiated will continue."
Beyond shedding light on a humanitarian crisis, Emily adds, "Sana is a clear example of a passionate, dedicated woman all Winsor girls can look up to. She fought for what she believed in, despite the fact that it meant being detained and forced to leave her home without her family. Today, through the company she founded in the U.S., she continues to support refugees all over the world. She is undoubtedly a true change-maker."
Throughout the year, the Amnesty Club brings awareness to causes and issues that are priorities for Amnesty International by hosting speakers, screening videos, and participating in Write for Rights campaigns on behalf of political prisoners. Members discuss issues in the news, and each winter they host Jamnesty, the club's signature event that gives students a chance to showcase their talents while raising money and signing petitions to support Amnesty International causes.
Special thanks to Kenneth S. Stern, executive director of the Justus and Karin Rosenberg Foundation, for helping to bring Ms. Mustafa to Winsor. Mr. Stern is the brother of Alice F. Stern, Director of the Virginia Wing Library.