Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Heart of STAR - 2009 - Shrouk El Attar

In celebration of STAR’s 25th birthday, we took the time to reconnect and share the stories of the people who made it possible for STAR to be where it is today. These are The Hearts of STAR, these are the change-makers, who through the decades strived to positively impact the lives of refugees and create a welcoming society in the UK and we are proud to share their stories with you on this Refugee Week 2020.

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How and when did you get involved in STAR

That depends! I infiltrated STAR in 2009 but I wasn’t allowed to be a student at the time, so I wasn’t officially part of STAR in Cardiff, even though I was doing the same stuff as other students. I was a 17-year-old asylum seeker at the time, and I used to sneak through the uni halls on my way home. I knew I couldn’t be a uni student so I used to walk through campus and act like one. At one point I saw flyers everywhere for a refugee film night run by a society called Student Action for Refugees. I didn’t know what the film was and I didn’t know anything about the society. I turned up acting like a student (I wasn’t – I was lying…) and then the students left and the committee remained for a meeting. I kind of ended up at the meeting – even though I was neither a committee member nor even a student! Of course they all knew I wasn’t on the committee, but they just had the meeting normally and I just pretended I was part of it! Then when I was allowed to go to university in 2013 I became part of STAR officially, and also joined the trustee board around then too. I’m still a trustee to this day.

What are you doing now?

I’m a badass engineer! I am an electronic engineer and I make electronic circuits and develop tech to help transgender men and cisgender women through smarter tech.

What impact did you see your STAR group having?

At Cardiff we campaigned for Equal Access and won. Cardiff is now an EA university and we’re aiming for Wales to be the first nation of Equal Access.

Favourite thing about STAR

Lots of charities are run with a saviour attitude – lots of white people trying to “save” refugees. STAR isn’t perfect but it does it better than other charities that exist. To be honest I’d like to see the whole sector improve in this aspect. I also feel that because it’s a very grassroots movement when it comes to the student societies – at least in Cardiff we made an effort to make sure there were refugees on our committees. We treat refugees as equals as students more than other charities. I’m living proof of that.

Another great thing is the commitment to running campaigns that are winnable. It’s so mentally draining to be part of activist work that requires so much energy with little results. With Equal Access, we’re still winning year on year – it was 60 universities last year, and 75 this year, and counting!

What is your message to future STAR students

STAR has shaped who I am. My life completely changed and I can trace it all back to my involvement with STAR, even though I didn’t enter it for that reason. I know that if someone volunteers with STAR, it could change their life, but even if it didn’t, at the very least they would be transforming other people’s lives, giving people access to the tools they wouldn’t have had access to so that they can reach their full potential.

Posted by STAR team on 20/06/2020 at 10:22 AM