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Thursday, November 30, 2023


Students ‘Light the Night’ to illuminate Syrian crisis

Bright lights pierced the hazy sky Monday night as students gathered and released lanterns into the darkness, symbolizing their goal of illuminating the current crisis in Syria to the rest of the world.

Political science professor Cyrus Contractor said the issue of humanitarian rights was the evening’s focus.

“It’s a mess… with seemingly no end in sight,” Contractor said.

Before the lanterns were set free into the night sky, United Muslim Relief hosted a talk on the Syrian situation called “Light the Night: Lanterns for Syria” in the Rockwell Pavilion of the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library. Key speakers included Contractor, political science professor Eduardo Aleman and Shiyam Galyon, the president of the Syrian-American Council in Houston. The speakers gave their thoughts on the current situation in Syria before holding a general Q&A session with the audience.

Students let go of a lantern as it begins its ascent. | Karis Johnson/The Cougar

Both groups are experiencing pressure from outside players, including the Islamic State, Iran, Russia and the United States. The government loyalist group, or the Assad regime, has traditionally been backed by Iran and Russia, while the rebel forces are supported by Turkey, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

While a series of talks known as Geneva II was held in 2014 with the intent of ending the conflict diplomatically, these negotiations failed, leaving the Syrian population hung between the violent factions that outline the crisis.

Both the Assad regime and the rebel group have been accused and convicted of committing human rights crimes, and the Syrian civilians bear the brunt of the casualties.

While the speakers offered differing views on the situation, the uniting factor rested on revealing and preventing the crimes against humanity that are occurring daily in Syria.

“I’m not surprised that everyone is confused about Syria,” Galyon said. “The atmosphere we have set up is not prepared to handle the current situation (in Syria).”

Political science junior and UMR president Dania Albaba spoke afterward about the harsh realities of the crisis and the importance of dispelling public ignorance.

“To me it’s about educating the general public about what’s going on because the only way we can get this (crisis) to stop is if we have informed citizens,” Albaba said.


The floating lights above M. D. Anderson Library Monday night weren’t UFOs but symbols of dispelling ignorance. | Karis Johnson/The Cougar

After the talk, students were able to purchase the miniature hot-air balloons for $8 before heading outside for the releasing ceremony.

Students formed a circle, and designated lantern lighters set each lantern ablaze before it was turned loose to brighten the night. The result was a sky littered with incandescent lights, symbolizing the penetration of truth in a world where ignorance runs rampant.

All of the proceeds received from the lantern lighting ceremony will be donated to the United Muslim Relief’s fund for aiding Syrian refugees.

“I just wish the world knew how real this conflict is for a lot of us,” Albaba said.

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