Students Organize for Syria (SOS) is a student-led initiative aiming to spread awareness about the ongoing conflicts in Syria. SOS holds chapters at multiple universities all across the United States. According to Alaa Mido, the current vice president, “The main goal of SOS is to engage students and youth in the United States and around the world, advocating for an end to the violence and humanitarian crisis in Syria.”
Everyone is welcome at SOS, hosting various events ranging from advocacy circles to Syrian cultural appreciation events. This year, Students Organize for Syria organized rallies, fundraisers, and educational forums to raise awareness for Syria’s humanitarian crisis and provide aid for those affected.
In the wake of the recent earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye, SOS partnered with Youth United with Purpose (YUP) to contribute toward aid efforts. Youth Unite with Purpose is a nonprofit organization that helps refugees establish identities outside of the injustices they endure by providing refugees with education opportunities. The YUP foundation taught Syrian refugee women how to hand crochet dolls; during Wednesday tabling, SOS is selling these dolls with all funds raised directed towards relief efforts. Student outreach coordinator, Yasmine Kudssi, stated, “the main doll, Salma, dream is to inspire refugees, just like herself. The YUP foundation also sends dolls to refugee camps to bring happiness to the tiny hearts of children at the camps. SOS is trying to extend our hearts and hands to help however we can.” SOS also hosted a “Pie for Syria” event where students paid $5 to pie board members, raising over $3,500 for the YUP foundation to support earthquake relief efforts.
Many SOS members have personal ties to those displaced by the quakes. Yasmine Kudssi’s family, forced to flee their home of Ez-Zor, Syria, due to war, lived in Gaziantep, where the first 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. She stated, “when the earthquakes hit, everyone in their town was sleeping. My aunt told me they could hear buildings falling. They just got up as fast as they could, not able to grab anything but a jacket and their shoes, and ran out the door, praying their building would not collapse next. My uncle also had to go into my grandparent’s apartment and carry my grandpa out of his bed and down the stairs, running as fast as he could. But they could not prepare for what was to come next. Their whole neighborhood was standing in the streets under the freezing rain and snow. Luckily their neighbor had a car and was nice enough to let my family sit in it until daylight.”
Alaa Mido, from Aleppo, Syria, lost many distant family members due to the earthquakes. She even visited Aleppo this past summer, for the first time in 10 years and saw her own home destroyed by war. “Some buildings that were still intact got destroyed by the earthquake, and Aleppo, already severely affected by the war, was hit the hardest. Syrians have become accustomed to tragic events, but it was still difficult to see them experience yet another tragedy after everything they have been through. While we try to offer help, the most that can be done for now is to raise money and provide education to people.”
SOS president Ranya Oubied’s family slept outside in their cars for fear that their homes would collapse, thankfully, they are still standing. Ranya stated “when things like this happen, you become worried for your family because you have no way of physically seeing if they’re okay or not. It’s not like you can drive down to see them; you just have to wait for a callback.”
After being displaced by the earthquakes, Yasmine’s family spent five days in a government aid shelter until they were temporarily transferred to a home in Trabzon, a popular sightseeing destination in Türkiye. During the 20-hour trip from Gaziantep to Trabzon, her family witnessed “the devastating aftermath of the earthquakes. Almost 70% of that city fell to the ground. They saw so many people stranded in the streets crying and screaming, trying to look for their loved ones, dead or alive, under the rubble.” The future is still unknown for Yasmine’s family, “right now, my family is waiting until inspectors can go and see if their home will be safe. The government also cut out gas and water for safety reasons to avoid fires.”
For anyone who wants to help with relief efforts, SOS “urges everyone to speak up and spread awareness about what is happening and donate to trusted organizations such as Molham Team, Syrian American Medical Society, and the White Helmets.” SOS is currently working on expanding its fundraising efforts, reaching out to campuses such as UCLA about selling dolls made by Syrian refugees. To get involved with SOS, follow their Instagram @sos_ucr to stay updated on events and meetings.
“The last thing I would like to say is please don’t stop talking about Syria after this month. Syria has been in a humanitarian crisis for a decade, and its often ignored and silenced by the media. We need to make sure that we stand with Syria and Syrians and help as much as possible. That means posting about it, talking about it, fundraising, etc. Please keep Syria in your hearts, and please never stop talking about it,” stated SOS president Ranya Oubied.