Student Engagement and LeadershipSyria
IIE PEER & Bard CollegeAuthor: IIE PEER - Connected Learning In Crisis Consortium
IIE PEER & Bard College | Advocating for Syrian Youth
“You cannot build peace in a country without building up human beings.”
Ehab Badwi, 28, was awarded the IIE Scholarship for Syrian Students in 2018. He is currently pursuing a BA in Economics, Politics, and Social Thought at Bard College Berlin (BCB) in Berlin.
Ehab grew up in Homs, Syria. In 2013, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Al-Baath University. Although Ehab had planned to work as an engineer, mandatory military conscription forced him to flee to the Ivory Coast in 2013 and then Turkey in 2014.
As a result of his own experience as a refugee, Ehab became passionate about helping Syrian youth connect to opportunities. For Ehab, this meant advocacy and peacebuilding. He connected with UNHCR and was invited to speak at the 2015 World Humanitarian Summit in Geneva. He traveled to Europe, spoke in front of large crowds about his hopes for Syria, and decided to seek asylum in Germany.
After receiving asylum in 2015, he lived in a refugee camp, but sheer luck would connect him with a German family that would take him in for the next three years. During that time, he worked, searched for informal learning opportunities, and focused on learning German. Simultaneously, his civil society work was growing as he sought to play an active role in rebuilding Syria. At the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, he founded the Syrian Youth Assembly (SYA). Young Syrians at the Summit came together to collectively make their voices heard, organizing for change on behalf of all Syrian youth.
Since 2016, SYA has made progress advocating for Syrian youth’s educational opportunities. In a partnership with Coursera, SYA streamed 120,000 courses in Syria over two years. For Ehab, this further proves that Syrian youth are thirsty for education.
Since then, Ehab has also contributed to the peace process in Syria by consulting with governmental bodies and hopes “to build a road map which shows how young people can participate.” Through this work, he was inspired to deepen his expertise in peacebuilding and chose to pursue a BA in Economics, Politics, and Social Thought at Bard College Berlin (BCB). Ehab is able to pursue his studies through a generous scholarship from the BCB’s Programme for International Education and Change and additional support from IIE’s Student Emergency Initiative, which covers his living expenses.
Today, Ehab is not only working towards a second bachelor’s degree, but he is also the CEO of the SYA, a Youth Representative for the World Organization for Scout Movement, and a Youth Leader at the Tertiary Refugee Student Network. He takes on these responsibilities because he believes that “if the response doesn’t come from us, no one will do the response. No one is advocating for young people. This puts a lot of responsibility on [us], but there is no alternative.”
Ehab knows what a privilege it is to live in peace and pursue his passions through his education. He feels a deep sense of responsibility to lift up his community and help more refugees access higher education. Like so many displaced and refugee students, Ehab demonstrates that when we invest in young people and their education, they become committed leaders and advocates for other students living in contexts of conflicts or crisis.
“They like to learn, but they missed the opportunity because of the war. They are smart enough to educate themselves, but they just need to have the tools.”
To read other stories from the 2020 CLCC Yearbook, click here