The city of Aleppo, one of Middle East’s oldest cities, was once a place of fine culture and Syria’s center of industrial and financial growth with a population of roughly 2.3 million people.
Now, and for the last four to five years, the city has been torn apart between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, who control the West, and the rebel forces, who control the East.
The people of Aleppo have suffered through the civil war, which has destroyed the city with bombings, gassings and warfare. The city has been brought to a crumble, and thousands of innocent lives have been taken.
Club Al-Arabiyya is a club on campus at Plattsburgh State that aims to promote the study of the Arabic language and raise awareness of the Arab customs, cultures and the traditional ways of life to the campus community.
The club has been making efforts to raise awareness of the war, and to educate those who are not informed on what is taking place in Aleppo.
In doing so, the club has organized fundraisers on campus to raise money for the innocent victims in Aleppo.
“It’s really upsetting,” Vice President of Club Al-Arabiyya Aasna Devani said about the crisis. “We’re just trying to do our part, and if everybody does a little bit of something, then all of it will make a difference.”
The club hosted an event earlier in the semester “Arabian Knights,” which showcased the Arabic culture, diving into its ethnic food, dances and artwork. Its last two events have been small and simple fundraisers, but were successful in turnout.
Earlier this week they did a henna fundraiser to benefit Aleppo victims. Henna is a small flowering shrub that has a plethora of uses. The leaves of the shrub are used for dying, which has been mainly used for tattooing hands and feet, also known as Mehndi. Mehndi is typically used for celebrations in traditional cultures.
“Not only are we raising money, but a lot of people like henna,” Devani said. “It’s been a productive way to help raise money for people who need it.”
The crisis that is happening in Aleppo continues to rip families apart and take innocent lives. Although the club doesn’t involve itself too much with the politics, its main focus is to help make a change and to do what is right.
“We’re sending all of the donations to an organization to help those victims suffering,” Devani said.
Although the minimum donation amount was $2, it helped disseminate the importance of the issues that are taking place in Aleppo. Since a lot of people enjoy henna, it was an ideal way to grab the attention of students and to engage their thought processes.
“Henna really attracts people, so we decided to do a fundraiser with it,” Club Al-Aribiyya’s PR Elena Calvo said.
The club is open to everyone and encourages everybody to join.
“I’m not related to Arabic culture in any sense,” Calvo said. “I don’t speak Arabic, but I am learning with everyone in the club. It’s all about having fun, learning and accepting others.”
Looking forward, the club plans to do many more fundraising events for various different causes. With what is going on in Aleppo, it has given them the opportunity to focus on its victims and to dedicate its fundraising to them during the trying times.
“Raising awareness is important, and when people come to our events they leave it with more information on the topic than they had coming into it,” Calvo said.
Currently, not much is left of Aleppo. Its buildings have turned to rubble from the constant explosions and thousands are left homeless because of it. The city is primarily depopulated because of the war, which has no indication of ending anytime soon.
A city that was once thriving, is now a ghost-town.
“There is so much to learn about the Arabic culture,” Calvo said. “It has never hurt anyone to learn about different cultures.”
Email Ezra Kachaturian at firstname.lastname@example.org