Vital service

How one woman, who left her home in the U.S., founded a ‘geek squad’ in war-torn Syria

Rania Kisar (YouTube / CBS News).

In rebel-held areas of Syria, there are no phone lines and most communication takes place through low bandwidth satellite internet. The tech may be patchy, but when something goes wrong, Rania Kisar’s “geek squad” is on hand to help.

As The Associated Press reports, the American-Syrian Kisar left her home in the United States when the Syrian civil war broke out. She founded a school for adults in Idlib, the last opposition-held region in the country. The Syrian Humanitarian Institute for National Empowerment (SHINE) offers classes in computers, web design, and programming. Thus far, the school has graduated 237 students, who are often called upon to fix cellphones and computers in the area.

SHINE is located in Maaret al-Numan, Idlib’s second largest city. The Free Syrian Army holds the territory, but radical groups like Al-Qaeda have tried to assert their dominance there. At times, the presence of ultraconservative factions has created challenges for Kisar.

When militants protested the fact that SHINE offers classes to both men and women, for instance, she decided to hold lectures for men on the bottom floor, and lectures for women on the top. Then airstrikes destroyed the upper level of SHINE, so Kisar once again had to get creative, segregating the remaining floor so the sexes could learn separately.

Kisar was forced to temporarily flee Maaret al-Numan when fierce fighting broke out between the Free Syrian Army and Al-Qaeda militants. But she told the AP that in spite of the obstacles, she takes pride in her students, who are able to provide vital services in a war-torn region.

“There are no private institutes, no universities, there are no hospitals,” Kisar explained. “It is us, a bunch of locals, volunteers, stepping forward and saying, OK, I am going to clean the street, I am going to go volunteer in a hospital and I am going to build a school … This is my part. This is my honor.”

Kisar’s story is a remarkable one. Prior to returning to Syria, she lived in Texas and worked an administrative job at a university in Dallas. In 2013, CBS News profiled Kisar and her efforts in Syria, which eventually led to her founding SHINE. Watch the report below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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