The Syrian War has reached its fifth year with the death of an estimated 400,000 people. It is also responsible for the biggest refugee crisis in documented history. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 4.8 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, with another 6.6 million displaced in Syria itself. They also report that “hundreds of thousands” have fled to Europe.
Photojournalists have shown that many Syrian cities are uninhabitable, with basic living and education no longer viable. However, a glimmer of hope does exist for a time when the rebuilding gets underway.
Image Credit: BBC
German military men, proficient in practical, structural engineering skills, have been training Syrian refugees. The hope is that they will return to Syria, once the war is over, to improve conditions and help rebuild their nation.
The program has been running for five months, with a pledge at this stage, to train 120 refugees. To the refugees’ benefit, the skills they are learning can also be used on German soil. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen launched the project saying:
“The goal is for these young people to get good, basic training. We don’t know how long it will take until they can return, so they have to be able to make a living while they are here.”
A sad and bizarre correlation has emerged and begs the question: ‘Has a lack of Middle Eastern employment opportunities for engineering graduates led to a spike in terrorist group membership numbers?’
Researchers believe it has. A 2016 book published through the Princeton University Press, named Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education, revealed that 800 known ISIS members were, in fact, engineering graduates.
The authors, Diego Gambetta & Stefan Hertog, also wrote: “In fact, of the twenty-five individuals directly involved in the 9/11 attacks, eight were engineers.”
The socioeconomic conditions in these Middle Eastern countries, some of which are war-ravaged, have made it incredibly difficult to find normalcy let alone skilled employment. The result has been a plethora of applications for resettlement in an assortment of countries, including those in Europe and in the United States. With their sought-after skills, refugees hope to forge new lives. Some destinations are more reticent and less welcoming than others and there are many and varied reasons for this.
The Travel Ban
President Donald Trump’s travel ban has thwarted the ambitions of many Middle Eastern engineering students and professionals hopeful of settling in the US. On the 27th January Trump signed an executive order to delay the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Federal judges have since overturned the executive order, deeming it unconstitutional. Trump’s vow to appeal their decision is being watched closely by many.
The tug-of-war between the federal courts and the presidency has prospective MIT student, Mahmoud Hassan, concerned. Talking to CNN, Hassan, an 18 year old Syrian student from Damascus, says that even though he has a scholarship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), his dream of obtaining an engineering degree from America’s top-tier university is “basically ruined.”
The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.
"Gambetta, D. and Hertog, S.: Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education. (eBook and Hardcover)." Princeton University. The Trustees of Princeton University. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.
"A Syrian Teen Was Headed to MIT and Then Came the Ban." CNN. Cable News Network. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.