Roles of Syrian student Union in Ankara
Enab Baladi – Zainab al-Masry
With the increase in the number of Syrian university students in Turkey, they started to participate in unions and bodies representing them and organizing their activities in the universities where they study, and providing services for new students.
The number of Syrian students studying in various Turkish universities has reached 27034, according to Turkish Higher Education Institution statistics of 2018-2019.
Starting from the principle of assisting Syrian students in the Turkish capital Ankara, approximately 14 students founded a “non-profit” student group, in March 2017, and called it “the Syrian Students Union in Ankara.”
The “independent” student group aims to unite the efforts of students to confront problems and find solutions to them, to provide an appropriate social climate for closer relations between students, and to raise awareness by hosting cultural activities, according to the Union’s Internal Code of Procedure.
Mechanism of the selection of Union’s members
The Union consists of administrative and supervisory bodies and associate members. The executive body consists of nine people who meet every two weeks to discuss ideas and activities and submit them to the supervisory authority. The latter consists of seven people and is tasked to monitor the work of the administrative body and verify the commitment of its members to achieve their goals that they proposed during their nomination period for the Union elections, according to one of the founders of the Union and the student at Gazi University, Marwan Khoulani.
The members of the administrative body represent the Syrian students in the universities of Ankara. According to the numbers of Syrian students at one university, the names of their representatives are selected. For example, Gazi University includes 100 Syrian students whose representatives need two seats in the administrative body.
The Union’s activity includes all Syrian students in Ankara universities. The Syrian student can join the Union by filling out a form that the administrative body can review to document and collect his skills in a database “to facilitate the process of exchanging expertise and achieving the maximum benefit.”
The Turkish capital Ankara has 16 universities, six of which are state universities and ten are endowment universities.
Activities and Events… “My Record” Campaign
The Union organizes many activities and events in cooperation with associate students and members, such as the annual forum during each academic year at a date determined by the members. The forum brings together many Syrian students, during which activities, students’ needs and expectations from the Union are discussed. This is in addition to many other activities and events such as the Readers’ Club, economics and health seminars, competitions, entertainment trips, as well as training sessions in Photoshop, IT skills, cinema, directing and photography.
One of the activities launched by the Union every year, and was re-launched this January is “My Record” campaign, through which a team of volunteer students work together to register students “without exception from inside and outside Syria and Turkey” and in cooperation with 15 student unions throughout Turkey and a registration center in Idlib.
Students in Ankara can coordinate with the Union to implement their ideas and proposals, as the Union’s mission is to secure the proposal’s venue and requirements, according to Marwan Khoulani.
Obstacles and criticism
Siraj Bahbaha, a student at the Department of Economics at the University of Hacettepe and one of the founders of the Union, said that the lack of experience of some members of the administrative body of the Union and some students who are not familiar with the existence of organized student unions is among the factors that hinder the Union’s performance.
Bahbaha told Enab Baladi that all student unions in other countries are supervised by embassies or responsible bodies that provide all kinds of support. However, this is not available for the Syrian student unions.
He added that the Union faced many challenges since its establishment, the most prominent of which is the refusal of many female students to join the Union because they did not trust it and that many of the affiliates do not participate in activities fearing that their families in Syria will be harmed. Bahbaha pointed out that the Union has been “always neutral” or at least trying to be, but many people “do not see this.”
The Union also lacks sufficient financial support, as its members collect money among them to cover the costs of some expenses and activities. For example, the Union collected the costs of the “Syria Stand” event, i.e. to secure beverages and traditional Syrian food, during the foreign students’ forum held by the university every year, according to Siraj.
For his part, Abdullah Masri, a student at the University of Ankara, criticized the Union’s method of work, as he sees that the student body represents several close friends, who get to be involved in all the activities exclusively. At the same time, the percentage of participation outside this closed circle remains “weak.” Besides, the absence of an official and autonomous center for the Union is one of the reasons behind the students’ shaken trust in its credibility.
Qamar Sheikh Hassan, a student at Hacettepe University and one of the Union’s members, agreed with Masri, as she sees that the Union consists of a group of students with identical shared perspectives, who are operating within a closed circle. Still, in return, they provide services and organize many events she had participated in, one of which.
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