In 2015, Josie met Yazan through an online mentorship program. Josie was attending UC Berkeley studying the Middle East and Yazan was based in Latakia, Syria studying Mechanical Engineering. Since then, Yazan, like so many other Syrians, has had to leave his family, his home and all of what he knew because of the war. Since then, the US has accepted only 18,514 Syrian refugees of the estimated 5.5 million that have left Syria. Since then there have been countless programs centered on making life better for refugees and people in the Middle East without involving them in the conversation or knowing what their lives are really like. Since then the US has implemented a Travel Ban against all people from Iran, Yemen and Syria, causing the separation of families, denying people of opportunities and education and other-izing them because of the country they were born in.
In 2017, Josie traveled with the Ibrahim Dialogue and Leadership Program to the Middle East where she met several inspiring change-makers. As a way to bring these inspiring people and their stories into conversation with Americans, Yazan and Josie teamed up to create a cross-cultural dialogue project that shows the true lives, stories, art and culture of people living all over the Middle East. The project was also inspired by the Euphrates Institute's founder Janessa Gans Wilder, who has dedicated her life to turning her one time enemy, the "other" into a "brother".
Through a portable installation, our virtual dialogue sessions provide an opportunity for face-to-face interactions and relationship building between Americans and Middle Eastern youth. The conversations help to combat misconceptions about terrorism, war, refugees and Islamophobia through open and honest dialogue with those currently living in the places that the media "otherizes" for violence and conflict.
Help us host a dialogue session by providing a space or come to an event to experience the virtual dialogue installation yourself - stay up to date on our facebook page as we travel across the US and work toward de-otherizing the Middle East!