January 9, 2019
NYU Washington, DC and One Journey co-hosted the One Journey Film Festival's second of their three-part film series about the global refugee crisis —its tragic scale and impact. The film, Last Men in Aleppo, is a piercing documentary about the Syrian civil war – being showcased to illuminate the chaos and conflict beyond the water’s edge which forces so many to flee their homes. This film portrays a group of ordinary citizens - the White Helmets - who conduct lifesaving search and rescue missions for their neighbors under siege in Aleppo. It won the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.
The film was complemented by a panel of experts including Ed Beetar, One Journey Festival Volunteer and former Aleppo, Syria resident and journalist, Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, Executive Director, Syrian Community Network, Mouaz Moustafa, Executive Director, Syrian Emergency Taskforce, and Jana Mason, Senior External Relations Advisors for UNHCR, who helped explain the tension between fleeing one’s country or staying to fight for it.
As the Founder and Manager of EnAlep.com (Eye on Aleppo), Ahmad Beetar works to bring attention to volunteer and cultural activities across Aleppo, Syria. His initiative helps young people link with NGOs to create larger volunteer movements and share best practices while also focusing on bringing awareness to minority events. Beetar has experience serving with a variety of non-governmental organizations, such as the Syrian Red Crescent, Syria Family Planning Association, UNICEF, and Aleppo City Council, where he has gained experience in community development and engagement. As a fellow at Oneblue in Washington, DC, Beetar worked on conflict resolution issues in the Middle East by providing insight into the struggle in Syria. His participation led to a workshop titled “#SyrianConflict: A Conflict Resolution Workshop by oneblue.org,” which provided participants reflection activities regarding the complexity of the struggle in Syria. After returning from the Community Solutions Program, he targeted and assisted youth in developing their own action plans for community development.
Jana Mason is Senior Advisor for External Relations and Government Affairs at the Washington, DC office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She acts as a liaison for UNHCR and represents the agency’s interests with the U.S. government – particularly the State Department and Congress – and with nongovernmental organizations. She also oversees the office’s communications and public information efforts. Prior to joining UNHCR in 2008, Mason was Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Prior to her work at IRC, she was with the US Committee for Refugees for eleven years, where she served as policy analyst for the Asia/Pacific region and advocated for refugee protection and assistance. During this time, she assessed refugee and asylum situations in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, China and elsewhere. Mason has worked in the refugee arena since 1983, which included a position as assistant director of refugee programs for the State of Virginia. She has a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, a master’s degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Georgetown University.
Mouaz Moustafa was born and raised in Damascus, Syria before moving to America at the age of 12. Drawing inspiration from the heroes of the American Revolution, Mouaz has worked on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions. Since the start of the revolution in his home country, he has worked the back-rooms of Washington trying to bring the Syrian revolution to the forefront of political discourse.
As the Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), Mouaz advocates on behalf of the pro-democratic movement inside of Syria. Working with his expansive network of activists, opposition figures, and Free Syrian Army soldiers, Mouaz and SETF provide aid to the millions of Syrians in need humanitarian assistance and are working to build a system of civilian councils to help with transitional governance inside Syria.
Suzanne Akhras Sahloul is the Founder and Executive Director of the Syrian Community Network, which helps Syrian refugees make a new home in the Chicago area. Akhras Sahloul was born in Homs — Syria’s third largest city — and came to the United States at 10 years old. She represented the Syrian American community at the U.S. Department of State’s Global Diaspora Forum in 2011 and 2013.
2018 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Grand Jury documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad’s breathtaking work — a searing example of boots-on-the-ground reportage — follows the efforts of the internationally recognized White Helmets, an organization consisting of ordinary citizens who are the first to rush towards military strikes and attacks in the hope of saving lives. Incorporating moments of both heart-pounding suspense and improbable beauty, the documentary draws us into the lives of three of its founders — Khaled, Subhi, and Mahmoud — as they grapple with the chaos around them and struggle with an ever-present dilemma: do they flee or stay and fight for their country?