Loubna: a testament to the resiliency of refugees

Loubna Mrie is her name. Loubna of Latakia, Syria. Loubna of the Alawites.

Loubna, a loud and defiant member of the Revolution.

Loubna is 26 years old and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. 
She is a Master’s student at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. She’s also an asylum seeker — but make no mistake. 
She is as fierce as her signature dark brown curly hair.

For most people, an image of overcrowded boats crossing the Mediterranean comes to mind when thinking of Syrian refugees. But people like Loubna want to change the mentality of desperation and victimization thrust upon refugees. It’s an act that dehumanizes them and robs them of their agency.

Loubna shows us the power and resilience of refugees, who are able to overcome immense hardship and thrive in a new country, against all odds.

Barely 20 years old, Loubna joined the opposition at the beginning of the revolution, being moved by the immense violence enacted by the Assad regime against nonviolent protestors. Eventually, she joined demonstrations in Damascus and began to work as a photographer, documenting the conflict from within by embedding herself with oppositional forces.

This was when tragedy struck. Her mother was kidnapped and detained in retaliation to her increasingly public dissent against the regime. She believes that it was her father, an Assad supporter and former military officer, who was responsible for her mother’s disappearance and likely death.

Loubna’s story is not like most refugee stories, but hers is a stark reminder of the immeasurable grief and loss experienced by war-induced refugees. The loss of her mother has become a motivation for her work in advocating an end to the civil war and all its suffering but also an end to a ruthless regime.

Through her photography, she was able to obtain work with Reuters, reporting on the Syrian Civil War from Aleppo, Idlib, and Latakia amongst other places. She was offered a spot with the International Center for Photography. Eventually she came to New York City in 2014 through a fellowship with the Magnum Foundation. While in Turkey, she applied for a student visa after being admitted into a Master’s program at NYU and is currently in the process of gaining asylum in the United States.

Six years after the war, Loubna lives in relative safety here in New York City. But that doesn’t stop the emotional trauma of her past, or the external financial and academic pressures of living as a refugee student. And while she does have many friends here, she has no family. She admits that she still sees a therapist often, and has thought about leaving the United States because of the stringent limitations to work, travel and economic assistance. She believes the resources and programs available for refugees are simply not enough. At the same time, that’s only caused her to fight for refugee rights harder. She continues to persevere and has been extremely successful in New York, contributing to numerous respected publications such as the Washington Post and Foreign Affairs.

For this reason, Loubna has actively spoken up about the important role of education, and specifically that schools and universities can play in the lives of refugees. There are so many steps required in gaining access to schooling that most people take for granted. For refugees, each step can be like an enormous obstacle. Loubna is adamant about the necessity for programs especially designed for refugees to be able to gain an education and succeed — and not just by the way of classes, but assistance for the entire process, including language tests, applications, fees, and tuition. This is the way refugees can get back on their feet, she says, and perhaps a way to ensure a future for war-torn countries like Syria.

Catch Loubna at our information panel during Syrian Refugee Awareness next week on Monday, March 27.

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