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World Refugee Day: A Look at Four Syrian Scientists

By Florence Chaverneff

The Syrian crisis has forced more than half of the country’s population to be displaced. Four and a half million refugees have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, and over 350,000 to Europe. In total, over 160,000 Syrians refugees have been resettled globally since the start of the crisis and over 450,000 are still in need of resettlement. As the conflict is showing no signs of abatement, devising long-term solutions to integrate refugees into host countries is proving essential.

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Higher Education Under Assault: Spotlight on IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund

The Committee on Human Rights (CHR) engages regularly with many scientific and human rights organizations to exchange information, provide referrals, and advance our overlapping missions.  One such partner is the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF).

At the May 2016 meeting of the CHR, James King, IIE-SRF Assistant Director, spoke to CHR members about IIE-SRF’s work, including its vital support of Syrian scholars during the 21st century’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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The crisis of higher education for Syrian refugees

By Mohammad Al Ahmad (translated by Will Todman)

"I witnessed the collapse of higher education in Syria firsthand. I lived and worked in eastern Syria as vice dean of the College of Arts and Humanities in the Raqqa campus of Al-Furat University. After the Free Syrian Army took the city from the regime in March 2013, chaos subsumed Al-Furat University’s colleges and institutes. The Islamic State took over the city on January 12, 2014, and imposed specific conditions on us to be able to continue teaching. I was rendered useless, and so I decided to leave Syria after receiving a fellowship from the Scholar Rescue Fund in the Institute for International Education, in coordination with Georgetown University." Read an IIE-SRF fellow's experience in Syria's higher education sector during the conflict and his plan to educate the estimated 100,000 university-age Syrian student refugees.

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GoAbroad awards reward innovation in international ed

By Natalie Marsh

Recognising innovation in international education, the awards were presented at the NAFSA conference last week across 12 different categories.

Meanwhile, winning the Innovation in Philanthropy award was the Institute of International Education with its Emergency Student Fund & Scholar Rescue Fund, which provides financial support for international students who are suffering with crises in their home countries.

“The purpose of these awards is to acknowledge institutions, organisations, and individuals who are creating initiatives to move the field of international education forward,” according to, based in Colorado. “And to commend leaders in the community for their efforts to go beyond the conventional.”

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What happens in a university run by IS?

By Sean Coughlan

Almost exactly two years ago, Iraq's second biggest city, Mosul, was overrun by the forces of so-called Islamic State (IS). But since then, the city's university has remained open most of the time. This has raised questions about whether it has been kept open to provide a facade of normality, or whether it was being used to develop weapons, including for chemical warfare. But there are clandestine networks of Mosul students and academics who have wanted the rest of the world to know what happens in a university under IS control and in the deteriorating conditions of their city. They have been helped by the New York-based Scholar Rescue Fund, part of the Institute of International Education, which once rescued academics in Europe from the Nazis. On condition of anonymity, they describe a city of violence and fear, with public executions, vice police patrols, persecution, air raids, worsening shortages and bans on communication. 

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After the Arab Spring: 5 Writers to Watch

By Alexandra Alter

Fiction “can’t stop a war or turn down a killing machine, but it can be a triumph of the oppressed.” So says an IIE-SRF alumnus who writes novels set in his native Syria. An English translation of his most recent novel, No Knives in the Kitchen of This City, comes out this fall. He's profiled here as a writer to watch after the Arab Spring.

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GCPEA Celebrates First Year of Safe Schools Declaration


Supporting the international declaration to protect education in armed conflict is more important than ever with wars raging in many countries, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack said today, marking the first anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, and congratulating the 53 countries that have endorsed it. By joining the Safe Schools Declaration, countries make concrete political commitments to protect students, teachers, and educational facilities during times of armed conflict. 

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Syria’s exiled academics tell their stories

By Matthew Reisz

Unlike many countries suffering a major humanitarian crisis, Syria had “a quite strong and accessible higher education system prior to the war”, James King, the assistant director of the New York-based Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, explains in an interview. 

“As hundreds of thousands of Syrians seeking refuge make their way to our shores,” the editors of Syrian Academics in Exile note in their introduction, “migration systems are collapsing, border fences are shooting up and far right ideologies which demonise all migrants are gaining ground.” 

Their collection is specifically designed to “serve as a reminder of the variety of Syrian academic expertise that exists around the world and offer a window into the wide variety of research being carried out by scholars in exile, not only in the social sciences, but also in other natural and applied sciences, e.g. engineering, healthcare, philosophy and in many interdisciplinary fields”.

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Supporting academics in exile nearby is key to future

By Farzan Al-Khalil

A Syrian scholar writes about the obstacles and choices facing Syrian scholars affected by war and violence in their home country. 

"Syrian academics, in particular, are exposed to great risks in this conflict. They are faced with not just expressing their rejection of the oppressive practices of the Syrian regime against its own people and the extremist groups that operate to impose their ideas by force, but also speaking up about what is happening around them – the killing of civilians who are merely asking for their freedom and for their dignity."

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Giulio Regeni’s Murder and the Global Erosion of Academic Freedom

By Stefania D'Ignoti

Like journalists and human rights activists, academic scholars operate on dangerous terrain in many countries where free speech is limited and criticism of the government is not tolerated. Regeni’s case is an eye-opening incident about a little-known phenomenon that affects the lives of many academics in authoritarian countries.

The Institute of International Education, an independent nonprofit located in New York, also runs a rescue fund that assists several dozen scholars who have had to flee their home countries due to threats or pressure, as a result of their academic research.

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