By Daniel J. Broadley
Manchester Metropolitan University’s ‘Humanities in Public’ Festival has returned once again with a series of mind-opening talks and events. The first theme of the 2015/16 season is ‘WAR’ and was kicked off with an informative talk, with a personal twist, from CARA; the Council for At-Risk Academics.
CARA are a UK based organisation who seek to help academics who are fleeing from discrimination and persecution or who have perhaps suffered violence in some of the world’s most crisis stricken areas. Currently, two thirds of the applications CARA receive are from those trying to flee Syria and its surrounding areas. As Russia is now giving military support to the Assad regime in Syria, the situation looks set to get much worse.
Stephen Wordsworth, Executive Director of CARA, began the talk with a direct and chilling quote from someone seeking CARA’s support in Syria: “The killing and kidnapping of Syrian intellectuals has become a daily occurrence.”
He then went on to describe the origins of CARA, which was founded in 1933 in Vienna as Lord William Beveridge and many of Britain’s top academics sought to help those fleeing the Nazi regime in Germany. Beveridge and the group of academics were able to raise £9000 (about £350,000 today) to support those fleeing Germany. It is from here that CARA grew to the organisation it is today, helping vulnerable academics all over the world come to the UK to study and teach.
Over the years CARA have helped many well-known academics, including Lise Meitner, who discovered nuclear fission; Max Perutz, a Nobel Prize winning chemist and Albie Sachs, who served as Nelson Mandela’s Justice of the Constitutional Court.
Stephen then introduced Ali Taghizadegan, a beneficiary of CARA who is currently completing his PhD at the University of Liverpool. Ali fled Iran in 2008 after working for ITMC – an Iranian telecommunications manufacturer – and applied for asylum in the UK in December 2008. He worked with a refuge organisation until 2012 having to complete his GCSEs before CARA could accept his application. With time, Ali improved his English, going on to study with the help of a John Lennon Memorial Scholarship and gain a distinction in 2014 in MSc Operations and Supply Chain.
He said: “Without CARA, I would not have been able to achieve all that I have since fleeing Iran. The help I got from them gave me peace of mind so I could really concentrate on my studies and be successful in my career. From there, I have been able to advance my career to where I am now.”
Stephen Wordsworth concluded the talk with a question and answer session, during which he commented on the significance of CARA’s work:
“As long as there are conflicts or as long as there is hatred and intolerance, then there’ll be people who need our help.”
The next event in the Humanities in Public ‘WAR’ series will be held on Wednesday 14th October between 5pm and 9pm in Geoffrey Manton Building, Lecture Theatre One. The event, entitled ‘Memory, Forgetting and the English Civil Wars: A Field in England screening and discussion’, will be hosted by Richard Gough Thomas and Dr Andrew Moor of MMU and Dr Jerome De Groot from the University of Manchester. More detail can be found here.