NYT journalist to discuss her time with refugees fleeing Syria

For a month last summer, Anemona Hartocollis, a reporter for The New York Times, followed refugee families from Syria through northern Greece, across Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Denmark. They walked, took buses, and caught trains.

“There were scary moments,” Hartocollis says. “I was afraid for the refugees I was covering sometimes. I was less scared for myself. I wasn’t vulnerable the way they were.”

Hartocollis filed stories every day that told the journeys of numerous refugees, most fleeing their war-torn home countries—along with their businesses, properties, and ways of life. She personally observed the biggest migration of refugees in Europe since World War II.

“What I witnessed was not a bunch of terrorists or people setting out to do anything bad,” Hartocollis says. “They were very much like me and you, and many other Americans.”

Hartocollis will share her story at a free, public event on Monday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Widener Lecture Room at the Penn Museum, 3260 South St. The longtime journalist is this year’s featured speaker for the Global Distinguished Lecture (GDL) series.

GDL is jointly organized annually by Penn’s National Resource and Area Studies centers to draw attention to globally important issues.

“We tend to choose broad issues that cut across different world regions,” says Mehmet Darakcioglu, associate director of the Middle East Center, who was in charge of planning this year’s event. “In the past, we covered issues such as global epidemics and women’s rights across the world.”

Darakcioglu was born in Kilis, a town in southern Turkey, just six miles from the Syrian border. The number of Syrian refugees in Kilis is now almost equal to the number of native Turks, he says.

“The population of the town, which was about 100,000, has been doubled since the beginning of the crisis,” he says. “I was familiar with sad stories of refugees through some of my relatives who still live in Kilis, but Anemona’s story allows us to trace their heartbreaking journey as the refugees leave Turkey and continue for their search of a secure and better life in Europe.”

Living in such a global world, Darakcioglu adds, people cannot ignore the tragic humanitarian repercussions of the Syrian Civil War.

“A crisis of this magnitude, anywhere in the world, will have some repercussions for our lives,” he says. “I hope the audience [at the event] will see the interconnectedness of this problem among the Middle East, Europe, and America, for that matter.”

Registration is not required to attend the lecture. For more information, visit the Middle East Center website.