The Council For At Risk Academics

By Thomas Wales

The Council for At Risk Academics (CARA) has been active in helping and relocating academics in hostile areas of the world, and now Syria is no different.

Preceding the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre, the international community vowed to never let horrors of that kind materialise again, yet in Syria we have. The terror in Syria at the hands of Daesh and the Syrian Government is all encompassing, including academics and postgraduates for various ideological reasons. Given these vulnerabilities, I am passionate about being a student ambassador for CARA. If you are not aware of CARA, I represent those who help people like you and I through our degrees in conflict zones around the world. Before I came across CARA as an organisation, the Syrian conflict seemed to afford little to no options to the afflicted. Yet, CARA has given at-risk academics the chance to escape persecution and further their academia. By finishing their education with the assistance of CARA, there is an emphasis on them returning home with their new skills or further education in order to rebuild a home community. I believe that as history students, or with an interest in political and international relations, CARA’s cause will resonate with you. We aim to present the very liberties that British students exercise on a daily basis.

Britain’s leading academics and scientists founded CARA in 1933 in response to Adolf Hitler’s decision to expel hundreds of leading scholars from German Universities on racial grounds. Today, the organisation aids academics from discrimination, persecution, suffering and violence and others facing assault and murder because of their ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Helping these academics is worth much more than to assist them complete their Masters or PhD qualifications; each and every one of them represents the future of higher education in their countries. As we have seen in Syria, as well as in Turkey under Erdogan’s government after the recently unsuccessful coup, teachers and academics have been punished for prevalent anti-government movements. As a consequence, young people will learn no skills, no professions and, with no futures and living in a turbulent environment, some may turn to extremism and the whole world will endure. CARA is a unique organisation, with no European counterpart, further highlighting the importance of our organisation.

With these risks in mind, 65% of UK higher education institutions are actively engaged; through the CARA scholars at Risk UK universities network we can facilitate cooperation and collaboration between academics and universities. Dr Bridge, lecturer in Environmental Engineering at the University of Liverpool, epitomises the good work CARA has been doing by placing academics in UK universities to finish their qualifications:

CARA’s work gives true meaning to the term ‘academic community’ not only reaching out to those in dire need, but stimulating exciting and profitable collaborations”

There are a number of case studies which point out the excellent work CARA have done in relation to the Syrian crisis and the two which I will now discuss studied at Cardiff University and Kent University respectively, after being helped by the organisation, and both talk frankly about their experiences. Both names of these fellows have been changed for the safety of the academics. ‘John’ from Cardiff University started six months after the revolution as he began to participate against government action. As a consequence, he was arrested and imprisoned and henceforward, treated “very badly” and “violently” in an “underground prison”. He describes how when he wanted the toilet he was hit and insulted in a small room of over three hundred people surrounded by thick wire.

We were described as betrayals…animals…insects”

After John was released, he returning to University in Syria but was controlled by strict guidelines and poor facilities. Having taken International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests in Lebanon, CARA secured him a position to continue his masters and PhD. In comparison, ‘David’ studied at Kent University and was told about CARA in Syria. Despite poor IELTS results, CARA stood by him and as a result, he believes that he can have faith in the world again.

“Without CARA’s help I would be in the army to kill people or be killed”

Although these are only two examples of CARA’s success, there are many more who are still in need of help. This is exactly why our university needs to become more involved and engaged with the Organisation and this year I aim to encourage the University to consider a closer relationship with CARA in order to help those academics return to help the future rebuilding of their home countries and region.

Wonderful organisation”

The dramatic and emotional way that these two fellows describe their position and CARA’s help is telling. The aforementioned effects on academics and students are devastating, thus it is for this reason that increased Exeter University funding could be so crucial, even sponsoring a handful of at-risk academics would make a drastic change.


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