International Week Takes on New Meaning

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ATHENS, Ohio – Nearly 1,500 students from 14 countries make up the international student body at Ohio University. That diversity is what makes International Week special. And changes by President Trump’s administration are making this year’s event more important.

International Week at Ohio University is an annual week-long celebration dating back to 1979. This year’s celebration began Monday with a feature of the World Cup Soccer Tournament in Walter Fieldhouse, followed by the Flags Kick-off Event on College Green.

While International Week is known for its many activities, it’s also known for the International Street Fair, one of the most popular events of the year.

But to some, this week means so much more – especially this year.

“International week means diversity. We share food together and we celebrate,” said Ohio University student Ahajir Ali. “It’s a way to represent our culture in a small community.”

Flags on College Green for International Week

The Hardships

This week is meant to show more than diversity and inclusion, it’s to show the hardships international students face on a day-to-day basis and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is the perfect example.

Abdul-Qaadir, the founder of Muslim Girls Hoop Too, will give this year’s keynote speech, “Life Without Basketball.”

Abdul-Qaadir is a former high school and college basketball player who was denied a professional basketball career due to the ban on hijabs by the International Basketball Federation.

“I’m looking forward to the keynote speech because Bilqis has a very important story to tell,” said Graduate Student Life Commissioner Bukky Shaba.

Ahajir Ali holding the Iraq Flag on College Green
Ahajir Ali holding the Iraq Flag on College Green

“We are all brothers and sisters”

Earlier this year President Trump ordered a travel ban from six mostly Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Though the ban has not been implemented, some students at Ohio University are afraid to go home.

“My country is not currently on the list, but it previously was,” said Ali. “If I go home, I might not be able to come back. That’s why this week is so important, we shouldn’t listen to others because we are all brothers and sisters.”

“We support each other during the good times and the bad times.”

The International Students Union is working with Global Affairs and the Department of Student Affairs to provide free housing for students from the countries affected by the travel ban.

“They can still travel legally, but we want to support them and make them feel welcomed,” said the President of International Students Union Hashim Pashtun. “We support each other during the good times and the bad times.”