Amnesty International's Arts Quad flag display before it was vandalized Wednesday night.

Michaela Brew / Sun Senior Photographer

Amnesty International's Arts Quad flag display before it was vandalized Wednesday night.

April 27, 2016

Cornell Amnesty International Stands in Solidarity With Refugees Using Flag Display

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Cornell Amnesty International is displaying the flags of five countries on the Arts Quad this week to draw attention to the plight of multitudes of refugees who hail from these nations.

“The display was inspired by the sheer number of refugees that have been forced to flee their homes in the past two decades,” said Fiona Boomer ’18, Amnesty International programming chair. “So many people have no place to go, and we wanted to express how big the problem truly is.”

The display features flags from Palestine, Syria, Sudan, Iraq and Somalia, accompanied by information about the conflicts in these countries, according to Boomer.

Boomer said they chose these nations because they have had the highest numbers of “displaced citizens under refugees status” in the recent decades, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Statistical Yearbook.

Zach de Stefan ’18, secretary of Amnesty International, said the organization chose to display flags on the Arts Quad because they wanted the display to make a powerful statement and catch people’s attention.

Kyle Friend ’17, treasurer of Amnesty International, explained that the display is made up of 250 flags with 50 flags per country. The Department of Near Eastern Studies and Amnesty International at Cornell provided funding for the display, according to Friend.

“It’s important to bring to light the hardships that refugees endure as they seek asylum,” said Grace Bogdanove ’18, urgent action coordinator of Amnesty International. “Amnesty International aims to protect and advocate for the human rights of all people, and refugees are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations.”

There are more than four million Syrian refugees, 6.6 million Palestinian refugees, one million Somali refugees, more than 500,000 Sudanese refugees and 1.4 million Iraqi refugees, according to the UNHCR Statistical Yearbook.

The flag display is part of the Week of Action — a week to raise awareness about the problems refugees face — that will culminate in the Syrian Refugees Gala on Saturday.

Bogdanove called the decision to deviate from the Syrian focus of this Week of Action and to include information about several other affected countries the “most difficult part of the project.”

Bogdanove added that the organization spent approximately three weeks budgeting items and researching the refugee crisis, asking members to dedicate time outside of normal meetings.

De Stefan said he initially decided to help lead the effort to expand his understanding of the global migrant dilemma.

“Everyone has seen the viral images online or in the news of migrants trying, and often dying, to reach Europe,” he said. “But how many of us actually understand the political, economic and social factors that have perpetuated this crisis in countries around the world?”

De Stefan said the display has the potential to change people’s opinions, especially since Ithaca is considering opening its doors to refugees this year.

“I am constantly inspired by the motivation, tenacity and spirit exhibited by my fellow members and activists, all of whom share a collective vision for a better world,” de Stefan said.

  • Truther

    Anmesty International freely lies about Palestinian refugee numbers…

  • Billboner

    Palestine is not a country it is a territorial region pls correct this article to reflect that only four countries are represented.

  • Billboner
    Student advocacy for palestine is a shallow front to hide anti-semitism and neo-nazism

  • Bonerbill

    Because wanting justice and compassion for an oppressed people is definitely anti-semitic… Not to mention that those goals also align closely with re-creating the Holocaust.

    • Billboner

      There is no such thing as the palestinian people. There are ethnic arab muslims that reside within Israel and were offered citizenship in surrounding arab nations, which they refused. The name Palestine refers to a terrorist organization whose goal is the eradication of the Jewish people

  • Definitely not Billboner

    Palestine is recognized by the UN and is cited in the UNHCR Statistical Yearbook as such in terms of refugee statistics.

  • Billboner

    The UN is a commune of ungrateful pseudo hippie bigots who worship at the altar of failure and are cuckolded by American and Israeli success

  • Billboner

    UN soldiers rape children in Africa and stood by impotently while real genocides occurred in Rwanda, Darfur, and the Balkans so they are not a valid source of moral authority

  • OneWhoCares

    The standard definition of a refugee, which applies in every case except that of the Palestinians, includes only those actually displaced in any given conflict. UNRWA has defined a Palestinian refugee as anyone whose “normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” But it has also continually expanded this definition, now stating “the children or grandchildren of such refugees are eligible for agency assistance if they are (a) registered with UNRWA, (b) living in the area of UNRWA’s operations, and (c) in need.”
    AAs a result, the number of official Palestinian refugees—according to UNRWA— has expanded almost to the point of absurdity. The best estimates are that perhaps 650,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1948-1949; but UNRWA now defines virtually every Palestinian born since that time as a refugee. That number now reaches well into the millions. This is quite simply unprecedented. In no other case has refugee status been expanded to include subsequent generations over a period of decades. (

  • Hamza Yassir Humdinger

    I like male goats.