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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Arab students converge on national conference

GW played host to 11 universities for the national Union of Arab Student Associations’ fourth annual conference this weekend. About 400 students crowded the Marvin Center for three days of panels and cultural programs.

The UASA, an umbrella group of Arab student organizations at 11 local universities including Johns Hopkins and University of California-San Diego, planned the conference to unite Arab-American students nationwide and encourage student activism, said UASA spokeswoman Tanya Bathiche.

“We want to show the Arab-American students that there are many things they can do to have their voice heard,” Bathiche said.

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader was scheduled to speak at the conference but cancelled to attend a California fundraiser, Bathiche said.

The conference offered workshops teaching students effective ways to plan cultural events, including helpful tips on creating fliers and other promotional campaigns and methods to expand groups into nationally recognized organizations.

“We’re very active on our campus, but we came because we wanted a more national perspective,” said Heba-Alla Nassef, president of Arab Students United at New York University. “We wanted to see what other schools were planning and also share some of our ideas.”

“Washington, D.C., was the ideal choice of location for the conference as it allowed students to visit and ask questions at the Justice Department and State Department, and offered list of speakers with positions in the government,” said Yasmin Hamidi, a GW Arab Student Association member.

Speakers discussed a range of issues Arab-Americans face after Sept. 11.

Carol Khawly, legal director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a D.C. civil rights organization, discussed backlash following Sept. 11 including hate crimes and racial profiling at schools and airports.

Other speakers including Albert Mokhibar, an attorney and board member of the ADC, discussed the Patriot bill – a controversial anti-terrorism bill that offers greater law enforcement power including detaining non-citizens indefinitely.

Mokhibar urged students to read and educate themselves on the bill and other policies.

Other panels focused on media coverage, models of successful businesses, the American political process and issues affecting Arab women.

Khalid Saffouri, president of the Islamic Institute, urged students to become active at the local level, noting that interning and working for government-related local offices could lead to larger national jobs.

“You can not keep complaining about the system when you are not in the system,” he said.

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