Graduated, again!

In May 2012, Two and a half years ago, I finished final exams of my senior year in Aleppo University.

I was happy i finished my education and graduated before things in Syria got worse! but it turned out that I did not!!!

Exam results came out saying that I need one more point in one of the classes in order to graduate!!
summer semester got canceled, because war started to get closer and closer .. and I had to leave the country .. and that side of the world ..

Here I am more than two years after, finishing my last exam in Illinois Institute of Technology, where I transferred to.

It took me 8.5 years to finish undergrad, but what matters is that i finally did it..
after all, I believe that missing point, which I cried a lot about, was a gift from God to lose..

Amer Rez

Bachelor in Computer Engineering

Armour College of Engineering.

Education 3.0 – the safeguard of order and liberty


“Just wanted to share my favorite quote ever as I just walk past the actual inscription on the wonderful building of the Boston Public Library.”



Boston Public Library Board of Trustees


Editors note: We agree that education represents the foundation for liberty and freedom – and that though education is often threatened or attacked by various sovereign authorities or others who would seek to seize control of a people – as university students, we join the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees in requiring and protecting education – for all. And in so doing, we recall those university students in Syria and now those in Mexico who – in the pursuit of their education and liberty – have died.



Syrian Interfaith Leaders Visit Main Campus

The IIT Office of Student Access, Success, and Diversity Initiatives and the Office of Spiritual Life and Service Learning partnered with WorldChicago to host a delegation of Syrian interfaith leaders on Main Campus on October 31. The delegation was part of a project bringing together Syrian leaders of many faiths to discuss interfaith and faith-based peace-building models, and to establish links with the well-organized Syrian diaspora community in the United States with the goal of reconciling and healing their society through community-based interfaith initiatives.

During their time on campus, the delegation visited the IIT Muslim Student Association’s mosque in Farr Hall, the Krishna House located off campus at 31st and Michigan, and IIT’s Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior.

Following the tour of the dedicated-spiritual spaces available at IIT, the delegation joined a group of current Syrian IIT students for lunch in the Commons cafeteria before attending a brief presentation from Lynne Meyer, IIT director of spiritual life and service learning.

This event reflects the values expressed in IIT’s Diversity Statement and is intended to promote diversity at IIT.

Jase: A Story of a Syrian Tribe (Part I: Introduction)


Syria has always been diverse and Syria as a whole is defined by every single Syrian and by every religion, ideology and social structure that exists in its land. As being a member of a tribe, and as I see our heritage being diminished under this tragic situation in Syria, I want to share with you the story of a Syrian tribe. Many of my Syrian fellows at IIT didn’t know a lot about the tribes in Syria, because of the smallness of the tribes. My friends were surprised when I was narrating stories about my culture, my people and the fact of that my family is made of 3000 people. Actually my family is bigger than this; my family is Syria.

Although I have been living in Aleppo, where the community is more likely to be a city one and based on urban rules, my family originally came from a Tribe called Jase. To some extent, my family lived by the tribal principles. My grandfather told me about everything I needed to know to write this introduction on the tribal system in Syria in general and about my tribe in specific. I also did some Internet based research to gather more knowledge about this article.

In Syria, tribes represent about 5% of the population and are basically located in the east part of Syria. In general, Arabic tribes immigrated to Syria from the Arabic Peninsula during the Islamic conquests in the 8th century. Nowadays the majority merged in the urban community instead of living in the tribal system.

Jase is a big tribe from which my extended family descended, but in Syria we are a relatively small sub-tribe, living in the city of Ar-Raqqah. Jase is the name of our ancestor, who was born around 200 B.C. and is the 17th grandson in Abraham’sstrain. Now the Jase tribe is split into three groups. The biggest one is in Iraq (about 50,000 people). The other two are in Turkey (about 10,000 people) and Syria (My tribe: 3,000 people). Comparing to other tribes, the population of Jase should be in the hundreds of thousands now, but many of the Jase people have joined other tribes because of the frequent displacement and the numerous wars in the area.

What makes the tribes in Syria unique is their special system. This system depends on the allegiance to the tribe. The tribal rules are different from those that are used by the government. If I want to give an example, then that would be the Amish community in the US. Being a member of a tribe has both advantages and disadvantages. I am willing to go deeper in this topic in following series of blogs to talk about the Jase’s religion, education, economy, culture, legislation, history and most importantly being part of the Syrian Mosaic. Stay tuned.

Thank you on behalf of all Jase people,

Alaa Alaliwi

IIT Armour College of Engineering | Expected graduation, May 2015

Alaa can be reached at

The Syrian Phoenix


“Mohamad Duma”

“What a cruel thing war is…. To fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors…”

Robert E. Lee*

General (1807–1870)

US Civil War

The words of Lee, have definitely reached the heart of the artist who he says that he “draws on death” and creates something for the living – from death.

These are the leftover casings of shells and bombs – weapons that were used in the war in Syria.

It is amazing how Syrians are reacting in the face of so much suffering and death; in war everyone suffers. If we wanted a source of hope and motivation, then it is definitely with the work of this artist – and others like him.

These works of art make us feel life – and hope – by looking at the artifacts of war and death very differently. As a Syrian citizen, I feel so proud to have such an artist in my country; he gives me the strength to continue, and demonstrates to me the proof that my country, Syria, will rise from death like a Phoenix.

And the question for me today, challenged by this artist, is what works of art will I, and my fellow Syrians, create today in Chicago for our homeland?

This is my Syrian Phoenix.

About the artist

*Born on January 19, 1807 in Stratford, Virginia, Robert E. Lee came to military prominence during the U.S. Civil War, commanding his home state’s armed forces and becoming general-in-chief of the Confederate forces towards the end of the conflict. Though the Union won the war, Lee has been revered by many while others debate his tactics. He went on to become president of Washington College.

Presenting “Hope” at USF


I just came back from inspiring 34 students at the University at St. Francis in Joliet, I feel proud of myself and of the Syrian Students at IIT.

I didn’t prepare a motivational speech; to be honest I didn’t have any speech prepared at all. I was invited to join their International culture week along with my friend Safouh, to talk about our culture and education.
Things didn’t go according to plan, I started talking about my beloved country and the rich Arabic culture and how much we value education, and ended up telling stories about the Syrian Students at IIT and the enormous effort we all did to get to where we are.

I told them about my friends who fled the country’s worst time in modern history and almost dropped out of collage because of the war and other major obstacles, and how those same friends are now IIT graduates with full time positions in Goldman Sachs and Motorola.
I knew I inspired those 34 students who attended our presentation with our stories when I saw the look on their faces changing from pity to respect. I gave them a live example of overcoming the largest obstacles anyone can ever face and succeeding. I am sure that every one of them could relate to this in their own terms.

I am thankful to be able to present the story of Syrians at IIT, however I am blessed for being part of the story, a story of Hope.

Majed Abdulsamad
Major: Architecture

Expected date of Graduation: May 2016

Harvard Arab Weekend; Inspiring Solutions


Over the span of four days, from Nov 6-9, I was lucky enough to be present with some of the brightest minds from the MENA (middle east and north africa) region to discuss the future of that part of the world. Harvard hosted their 8th annual Arab weekend with the presence of roughly a thousand attendees from all around the world.

For those of you who have not heard of this event, I will summarize what you missed; it was a conference that gathered social activists, journalists, economic analysts, entrepreneurs, students and researchers from Harvard community and the Arab world. Throughout the four days of the event, I was able to see the bright side of the Arab world through talks and lectures on human rights, equality, social liberation, freedom of speech, art and culture.

I was thrilled to see the enormous potential of Arab students and professors gathering under the roof of Harvard and taking their responsibility to build a better future for their countries. Furthermore, the good number of American and international students who joined the HAW2014 to contribute to this cause sent a loud message of unity and compassion.

Themed “Inspiring Solutions”, the Harvard Arab Weekend 2014 truly inspired me and everyone who attended to stop thinking of the problems and the obstacles, and start creating ways to fix those problems, make a change and help the so-called “Arab world” to become a better place. Now the ball is in our court as Syrian students at IIT to join this great movement in making our world a better place.

Majed Abdulsamad
Major: Architecture
Exp. graduation: May 2016

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