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Meet Ammar Mohrat: Syrian Asylee Picked as College Commencement Speaker in Florida

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Ammar Mohrat was a political and media activist in Homs, Syria. He fled Syria in 2011 due to political persecution and death threats. Mohrat was granted political asylum in the United States about two years ago. He just graduated from Saint Leo University in Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems. On Saturday, April 29, Mohrat delivered his class’s commencement address.

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NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end today’s show in Tampa with Ammar Mohrat, a Syrian political asylee who just graduated from Saint Leo University on a full scholarship. He was chosen by his classmates as this year’s student speaker at commencement.

AMMAR MOHRAT: So we went out to the street, and we began to protest. But, unlike the Tunisians, we were met by the regime’s security forces with live bullets and with arrests of the protest leaders and anyone speaking out against that sad regime. Imagine seeing your friends getting killed in front of you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ammar Mohrat giving the commencement address here in Florida. He is from Homs, Syria. In 2011, he fled his homeland due to political persecution and death threats.

Ammar Mohrat, congratulations on your graduation, giving the commencement address.

AMMAR MOHRAT: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts today on what’s happening in your country?

AMMAR MOHRAT: Thank you so much, appreciate it. I mean, what’s going on in Syria is really hard. It’s unbelievable, after six years of war. You know, like, people are dying every day, I mean, either by chemical weapons or other means of weapons. What we need, like the whole international community, they need to realize that there is a dictator in the country, who’s the source of terror in Syria and who killed his own people and destroyed his own country.

AMY GOODMAN: You came here as a refugee. There are no Syrian refugees allowed into the United States.

AMMAR MOHRAT: I’m going to correct this. I came here as an international student, and then I applied for political asylum. But, yes, I mean, the new—the new government stopped this program, the refugees program, unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean?

AMMAR MOHRAT: That means like a lot of Syrians who really were waiting for their like refugees program—for refugees applications to be accepted, they are not allowed to come here to the United States anymore. And that’s really sad, because most of these refugees, they have fled home because of the same terror that Americans are afraid of, because of terrorism either by Assad or other radical groups. And, I mean, like most Americans think like coming to the U.S. is really easy, you can just buy a ticket and come here. That’s not true, you know? If you want to get a visa, like it’s really hard. And if—like, for these refugees, they’ve been waiting up to two years, and they’ve made like a lot of agencies and like interviews to just come here to start their new life in a safe society where they can raise their kids, you know? So I guess like there’s—I mean, these refugees are really not here to harm this country. And, I mean, I understand some Americans’ concern about the security of the U.S. But at the same time, these refugees just want to live like in a free country, you know, like in a safe society. And I hope one day like the government will reactivate this program and will help all these refugees.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Ammar, very quickly, before we conclude, can you just say what the process was for you to come to the United States and to start studying at Saint Leo University?

AMMAR MOHRAT: I mean, for me, when I left Syria—I left Syria, I kept traveling in the Middle East for many countries. And then—and then I was in Jordan. I settled down in Jordan. And there, I was really safe, and like—but I couldn’t like continue my education. So I got online, and I started looking for scholarships for Syrians. And that’s how I found Saint Leo University. And I just graduated last weekend, and it was a great experience and journey.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you, and congratulations on your graduation—

AMMAR MOHRAT: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: —and being the commencement speaker here in the United States.

AMMAR MOHRAT: Appreciate it.

AMY GOODMAN: Ammar Mohrat, political and media activist in Homs, Syria, fled in 2011, just graduated from Saint Leo University in Florida, where we broadcast on Democracy Now! A Saturday, he delivered the commencement address.

That does it for our show. A very happy birthday to Democracy Now!’s Denis Moynihan!

I’ll be speaking tonight in Atlanta, as we continue our Covering the Movements Changing America tour, Atlanta at 7:00 at the First Iconium Baptist Church. On Friday at 2:00, we’ll be at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Then I’ll be speaking at 6:30 p.m. at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. On Saturday, we’re on to Madison at 1:30 p.m. and Chicago at 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, I’ll be speaking in Michigan in Kalamazoo at 11:00, Lansing at 2:00, Grand Rapids at 5:30. On Monday night, I’ll be speaking at Philadelphia Free Library. On May 12th, Friday night, at The New School in New York City. You can check our website for all the details. I’ll be at Seattle Town Hall on May 10th. That’s democracynow.org.

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