Political science: do Syrians in the diaspora invest in their specialization?



Enab Baladi – Diya Assi

Many young Syrians in the diaspora have entered the world of decision-making and influence, aiming to major in political science at various universities. Many have not been able to invest this major in a job or career, as regulations in some countries do not allow foreigners, even those who have been granted citizenship, to engage in national politics.

In this report, Enab Baladi attempts to shed light on the experiences of Syrians in Canada and Turkey, a model for two different countries in terms of state structure, to learn about motivations, challenges, vulnerabilities and drivers of success.

Céline Kasem, 22, a young Circassian woman from the occupied Golan Heights in Syria, spent most of her childhood traveling between Saudi Arabia and the United States until she took refuge in Canada in 2016.

Although she is beyond the seas and oceans and previously could not travel to Syria, the popular movement in Syria since 2011 has instilled a “spirit of return” in her. Her physical estrangement has not stopped her from being there for her country during calamities.

After graduating from high school in Canada in 2018, Celine found herself studying political science, graduating from the University of Ontario East-Central Canada with honors this year.

The Syrian complex was behind the choice of this major, as it occupied a significant part of her mind for 11 years, according to her.

From study to work

Speaking about whether the university offers its students the opportunity to gain political experience through internships, Celine said Enab Baladi that the university has given them the possibility of a job or a so-called “Placement” in a sector related to the field of their studies and according to the desire of the person.

Céline wanted to spend the four-month recruitment period helping new refugees arriving in Canada to be referred by the university to the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), which specializes in supporting new refugees with courses of language and events.

There are many organizations that provide employment or volunteer opportunities, such as the Syrian Canadian Foundation, which aims to enable and promote cultural exchange for people from diverse backgrounds within Canadian society.

Celine is currently working with the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) in Turkey alongside the organization’s director of detainee affairs and former detainee, Omar al-Shughari. She started working with the said organization as a volunteer for two months until she proved her skills.

Celine Kasem during her first visit to Syria and the village of al-Ra’i in the northern Aleppo countryside with activist Omar al-Shughari – July 21, 2022 (Celine Kasem)

Country conditions and laws

In Canada, the state’s municipal government attracts political science students or recent graduates and encourages them to engage with the local business system to find new and innovative solutions to problems facing the state.

A foreigner who is not a citizen of the country can also work in Canadian government institutions, and they are equal to citizens, except for the right to vote.

According to Céline, engagement in politics or entry into government departments in Canada is not linked to the provision of assessment tests, such as the test of the selection examination for professional positions in public organizations. (KPSS) in Turkey; she confirmed that it is linked to the qualifications of the people themselves.

If the graduate does not find a vacant position, he can contact the Job Center to help him find the job best suited to his specialization.

In Turkey, engaging in political life is impossible. National states that were founded on the basis of race, language and religion do not allow those whom they consider to be trespassers or “wasteas some Turkish politicians say, to integrate with them, which is a threat to national security from their point of view.

Abdul Kader Bajiko, 26, from Hama in central Syria, studied international relations and political science at Niğde University in southeastern Turkey. But one of the disadvantages of this major was that students did not benefit from an internship, which locked them into theories and political history.

Although Abdul Kader Bajiko, who graduated in 2020, obtained citizenship and completed his military service in Turkey, he never thought of joining Turkish parties due to their large number and complex structure, a- he declared. Enab Baladi.

Abdul Kader does not know of any Syrian specialist who has joined the Turkish parties. The work of his acquaintances who claimed to have joined a Turkish party was limited to accompanying one of the party members informally, attending events and conferences and eating “Simit” (Turkish bagels).

Subsistence versus ambition

Ambition plays a role in the desire of those who wish to study political science. However, it is necessary to arm oneself with the tools of knowledge and to break the locks with playfulness.

“Only Allah knows the extent of the enthusiasm with which I entered the branch,” said the young man, who is currently looking for any job to earn a living after graduation, saying that he will not waste any opportunity in his field in the future.

The only hurdle for Abdul Kader, who missed the chance to travel to Switzerland for training on “How to take care of a child during wars”, was proficiency in the English language, which was a prerequisite. to participation.

He did not even try to see how to engage in the Syrian revolutionary and opposition forces, because it was limited to certain people, he said, considering that many political science students and graduates are more just as some of those involved in this process.

Abdul Kader now works in the shipping and logistics sector in Istanbul, which is far more important to him than politics right now, “because life is done in sweat, blood and tears”, as he says so.

Abdul Kader noted the possibility for foreigners to work in Turkish research and study centers that had previously attracted Syrian political science graduates, such as ORSAM’s Center for Middle East Studies, the Koç University Migration Research Center (MiReKoc) and USAK Center for Studies. Middle Eastern and African Studies.

But it all depends on the abundance of luck, good self-preparation, and sometimes the presence of a medium, according to him.

Requirements and professional tools

Céline believes that it is necessary to have many qualities to succeed in this field, the first of which is openness to other cultures, acceptance of others and the ability to deal with all races without discrimination.

She justified this by saying that what the Syrian situation requires is the expansion of spheres of influence to raise the voice of the cause and that requires a soft approach to achieve the goal.

Celine emphasized the importance of mastering the English language for its importance in communicating the voice of the cause to the larger segment of the world.

She also hopes for greater involvement of women in Syrian politics, noting that men have been the most important element in handling the Syrian file for 11 years.

She said coming up with a new concept of how to think about and invent the solution will be multifaceted, making women’s voices heard and drawing inspiration from successful Western experiences and models.

This profession is not seen as mere theorizing, according to Celine, who pointed out that she is not friendly. As diplomatic as politics seems to be, brutal battles are taking place.

She explained that graduates, in general, wouldn’t just stumble across opportunities after graduation because there’s no specific description of what they could do.

Conversely, those who wish to pursue a career in this field must seize the opportunity with their own hands, and not lean back on their couch proud of their university degrees, which are no longer relied on to engage in politics.

Absence of formative incubator

Mutassim al-Rifai, a member of the youth committee of the German federal government’s program (Demokratie Leben) and a member of the Alliance 90/The Greens party, says Syrians’ reluctance to take political action is due, among other things, to frustration general and deliberate marginalization of young people by Syrian opposition political entities and the inability to utilize the practical and academic experience of Syrians in the diaspora.

The sensitivity of some countries to an organizing entity of Syrians to defend them and claim their rights has played a role in the decline of Syrians.

Al-Rifai pointed out through email correspondence with Enab Baladi the need to organize Syrians into political and civil entities to defend their rights and work to open channels of communication with their counterparts in host countries and even those who oppose their empowerment in its societies.

Although the practice is a cornerstone of political life, Céline stressed the importance of studying the major at university and that her four years of learning the basics of the profession were worth it to build a clear methodology in political consciousness.

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