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Isra Chaker

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated Isra Chaker’s refugee status. She is a Boulder native.

Growing up a Syrian-American Muslim in Boulder, Isra Chaker spent summers visiting her extended family in Syria. That changed when conflict broke out in the country in 2011 and it became unsafe to take the yearly trip. To make matters worse, the 2017 Muslim ban meant that family members wouldn’t be able to come to her, either.

Chaker will share these experiences and others in a talk at the University of Colorado Boulder on Tuesday night. The talk, titled “Facts, Not Fears: Dismantling the Misconceptions of Refugees,” is sponsored by the student-run Cultural Events Board.

Chaker will share her personal experiences as an advocate for refugees, as well as her work with Oxfam and as a public advocate for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency USA.

Chaker is a CU Boulder alumna, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. She also has a master’s in global affairs and public policy from George Mason University.

She was scheduled to speak this past spring to address the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and the Syrian refugee crisis, according to Anuja Gore, speakers coordinator for Cultural Events board. However, on the day of Chaker’s event, a massive snowstorm hit the area and her flight was cancelled.

This time around, her talk will coincidentally fit with the federal administration’s recentantagonism towards Caribbean refugees seeking help after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.

Gore said that in some ways, Chaker’s message resonates just as much now as it ever has.

“We’re hoping that seeing a successful ambassador for the campus, following her passion, people will look at her and know they can follow their passions as well, no matter what obstacles face them,” Gore said.

Colorado has accepted about 60,000 refugees and individuals seeking humanitarian relief since 1980, according to John Rosa, marketing and communications specialist for Colorado’s Department of Human Services. Most of them have settled closer to the Denver metro area where most of the services and infrastructure needed to support incoming refugees are located.

Laura Deluca, an anthropology instructor at CU Boulder, studies refugees and international rights. She said the recent change in attitude is both confusing and concerning.

“The heart for refugees tends to be very bipartisan, so going after refugees is not a solid policy,” Deluca said.


If you goWhat: “Facts, Not Fears: Dismantling the Misconceptions of Refugees”When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17Where: CU Boulder University Memorial Center, Glenn Miller BallroomCost: Free and open to the public

More info: www.colorado.edu/iafs/2019/09/10/september-17-facts-not-fears-dismantling-misconceptions-refugees

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