Syrian academics face danger, limited options

The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, continues to result in death, destruction and displacement. The country's higher education system has suffered dramatically, too. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores some of the struggles that academics in Syria face today.

Naomi Lubick, a C&EN correspondent, interviewed Kassem Alsayed Mahmoud, a native Syrian who was forced to join the military despite his position as a food sciences professor at a Syrian university. Being a student or academic does not offer protection against conscription in the country. He ultimately fled the war and returned to Western Europe, where he had earned his degrees.

Many other faculty members and students face dangers on their commutes to school and, once they arrive, find very few resources at their disposal – electricity and Internet connectivity are unreliable. Even campus dorms are no longer safe spaces, as they are currently used as housing for some of the 8 million internally displaced Syrians. Now that many men have been conscripted into the military, women are a majority at many campuses. Others have fled: It is estimated that tens of thousands of students and faculty members have left the war-torn country.


The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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