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Turkey’s purge of academia leads to record asylum requests

By Jack Grove

Turkey is now the number one country for applications from under-threat scholars seeking safety in Western universities, according to two charities that help at-risk academics.

With hundreds of academics sacked, suspended or under investigation in the wake of the unsuccessful coup attempt in July, the Scholar Rescue Fund has faced an “unprecedented” number of requests for help, its director Sarah Willcox told an audience at the European Association for International Education’s annual conference, held in Liverpool from 13 to 16 September.

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Exiled Syrian Engineer Designs Wheelchair Upgrade

By Benjamin Plackett

Back in 2012, when protests had turned to revolution, engineering lecturer and researcher Tarek Kasmieh began to look for a way out of Syria. He says he wasn’t political and, unlike many other academics, he made a point of not taking sides in the conflict in order to avoid being targeted. But he still remembers mortars falling around the Syrian Virtual University and the Higher Institute for Applied Sciences and Technology in Damascus where he worked.

In his new life outside of Syria, Kasmieh believes he has found a way to put his skills to use, as he is trying to improve the lives of wheelchair users. He works as a researcher at the Laboratory of Industrial and Human Automation Control, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science at the Université de Valenciennes in northern France. Here he has helped found a start-up company called AutoNomad Mobility to create and market a product that adapts regular wheelchairs into motorized ones. “With no major innovation since its invention over a century ago, the average wheelchair is overdue a redesign,” says Kasmieh.

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Researcher Suggests a Way to Protect Refugees’ Babies From Stress

By Benjamin Plackett

Al-Fanar Media profiles IIE-SRF alumna Amal Alachkar of Syria and her work studying the effects of war and stress on fetuses and new born babies. It's work that could have implications for millions of Syrian children for many years to come. 

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Beautiful Minds

By Anna Wallace-Thompson

A special auction by Christie’s is raising funds for artists and academics living in areas of conflict, including Syria and Iraq. Anna Wallace-Thompson speaks to one of the artists whose work is included in the sale, and who has benefited from the actions of The Scholar Rescue Fund. 

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Turkey's Fraying International Ties

By Elizabeth Redden

A crackdown on Turkey’s higher education sector after a failed coup has far-reaching effects for fraying academic collaboration and exchange.

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This Organization Is Rescuing Artists and Scholars from Syria and Iraq

By Anna Wallace-Thompson

“While ISIS is destroying Syria’s fabled and archaeological past,” says Dr. Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE), “the war is destroying the future of its arts. At the same time, we are hearing about artists and intellectuals who are continuing to generate new art in the context of the war.”

The [IIE Scholar] Rescue Fund aims to enable these artists and scholars to continue their work, seeing them as key assets to the future rebuilding of their respective homelands. The organization is also providing support for students and staff currently residing in the wider Middle East. This year, Christie’s annual online auction, UNTITLED: Insider Art Show, has partnered with IIE-SRF to raise funds to support these scholars in exile. Of the 60 works on offer, eight are by three artists who have benefited from the organization’s assistance—Syrian interior designer and artist Dr. Joumana Jaber, Iraqi painter Saddam al Jumaily, and one who wishes to remain anonymous due to fears for his safety.

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60 seconds with...

Last year Merton welcomed an IIE-SRF fellow from Aleppo. He talked with the local magazine about his experiences as a threatened scholar as part of the Merton@Home weekend's series of Global Issues Today on 25 June 2016. 

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Getting Syria's college students back into class

By Anna Patton

The world’s current refugee crisis is unprecedented not only in scale — with 65 million displaced, the highest number on record — but also in demographics: unlike in previous decades, many are from middle-class backgrounds. Fleeing one’s country vastly reduces chances of getting a degree: Globally, less than 1 percent of university-aged refugees of all nationalities are in tertiary education, according to the UNHCR, compared to 32 percent among the general population.

In February, the Syria donors conference directed attention toward resilience and rebuilding, including educating refugees as future engineers, doctors and other professionals. But this is no small task. Those fleeing war often leave behind the documents they need to apply.

“The problem is so multifaceted and tremendous that we need a multitude of different approaches,” said James King.

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Barred from the Classroom for Too Long: Why the U.S. Should Do More for Syrians Pursuing Higher Education

By Sarah Houston

Attending college is a rite of passage for young adults around the world, but also a daunting task and precious opportunity that many take for granted. The process requires research, support, and investment but in today’s globalized economy having an undergraduate degree has become an expectation, not a privilege. Since the Syrian crisis began almost six years ago, the international humanitarian community has focused on providing basic needs-food, shelter, and clothing- to displaced youth. But as the war drags on with no clear end in sight, it has become evident that many young Syrians will not return to their home country or university to complete their education. Why it is a moral imperative that the U.S. help.

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A Syrian family in New Jersey create art and music that they couldn't back home

By Jason Strother

Jumana Jaber has taught visual arts at Montclair State University in New Jersey since 2013. It’s been a little different from her job teaching art and theater design in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Jaber and her family of four are among the millions of Syrians who have fled their country since the start of the civil war in 2011. But they aren't living in the US as refugees. Instead, they arrived with the help of the New York-based Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund. Since 2002, the program has helped connect about 650 persecuted intellectuals (many from Iraq and Syria) with schools in the United States or in other safe countries. The fund splits the cost of settling academics and their families with a host institution for the first two years. It also arranges their J-1 exchange visitor and companion visas.  

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