Student’s road from Damascus

What has come to be known as the Arab Spring began a year ago this month. While Egyptians succeeded in ousting Mubarak, it’s been a long painful year for Syria.

Syrian citizens took to the streets of Damascus last spring to protest against the oppressive Ba’ath regime that has ruled the country for almost half a century. The people of Syria want what most around the world seek: A democratically elected government with the freedoms and rights inherent in a democracy.

The Syrian regime’s response has been particularly unsparing and violent. An estimated 4,000 citizens have been killed so far. Despite condemnation and pressure from the international community, President Bashar al-Assad has shown no intention of stepping down. Rather, much like Mubarak, he remains defiant if not delusional.

Here at home, and far from Damascus, one young lady has been able to experience the democracy her fellow Syrians are relentlessly fighting for.

Alice Mustafa is a sophomore at Berkeley International High School. She left Syria three years ago with her father, a member of an opposition human rights group forced to leave as a political refugee. They spent two years in Austria before arriving in Berkeley last year.

The Berkeley High Jacket writes that Alice follows the news in Syria closely and is involved with local Syrian groups supporting the protests. Though adjusting to life as a teenager in a new culture has not been all easy, her time living in the United States has given her the opportunity to experience freedom and tolerance for all.

Mustafa’s parents sent her to an English language institute in Syria when she was nine, and appreciates the differences between the educational systems of the two countries. She says in Syria, “teachers teach what the government wants students to think.”

She says life here has opened her eyes to new horizons and given her hopes for a better future in Syria. A future she aspires to help build after finishing her education here.

Mustafa wants to return to Syria — after the revolution, she says — to help reform their education system and help educate the next generation of Syria’s youth.