"How To Be A Refugee In Syria" is a pilot project for a radio documentary to be made in August, 2009. To support the project, listen to the pilot, read below, and send an email to richardcozzens [at] gmail [dot] com

Narrators Fouad, 19, and Ahmed, 18, are from Baghdad and were forced to flee Iraq after militia threats. For the past two years they've been living in Syria, where they joined the Iraqi Student Project. The ISP is an American organization that helps young Iraqis whose education has been interrupted by war to study in the States, where colleges give them a free education if they can score high enough on their English entry tests. This piece is based on an project completed by ISP students for a writing class.

The documentary planned for this August will follow Fouad and Ahmed on a road trip across the United States, before they start their studies in the fall. They will visit friends who started their studies last year with the ISP to ask about how reality has matched up with their expectations, what their impressions of American society have been, and what it means to be Iraqi in the United States. As well as talking to friends from last year, Fouad and Ahmed hope to talk to Iraqis who have been resettled in the US, peace activists, and US Army veterans who have seen Iraqi through very different eyes. In addition, the journey itself will provide interesting experiences and interactions, especially since many of their destinations are located in parts of the country which have limited exposure to Arabs and Muslims.

For the last six years, America has dominated Iraqi life. As young Iraqis, Fouad and Ahmed have grown up knowing the US principally as the occupier of their homeland. But also, like many other Iraqis their age, they know American TV shows, listen to American music and have invested great time and effort improving their English. This project will explore this relationship, which is more complex and nuanced than many in the West would expect. The final piece promises a series of surprising and compelling stories as Fouad and Ahmed interact, for the first time, with US society in all its diversity and complexity.

The project will be produced by two ISP teachers, Matthew and Richard, who will accompany Fouad and Ahmed on their journey. If you are interested in supporting this project, advising the producers, or putting the show on your radio station, please email richardcozzens [at] gmail [dot] com