Category: International Relations

Aleppo Before and After: Photo Gallery

Since 2011, the Syrian Civil War has devastated the region and displaced thousands. The past five years brought immense damage to Syria and its fate remains uncertain. Prior to the conflict, however, the city of Aleppo stood as a cultural and economic hub. It was Syria’s most populous city greatly noted for its history – it was first mentioned in records dating to around 3000 BC. Today, the streets tell a much different story. Scroll through the photo gallery below to discover Aleppo before and after this terrible crisis.

For more information on the Syrian conflict, join us for “Women on the Front Lines: Kurdish Female Fighters Battling ISIS,” tonight in Villa Sassetti.

Women on the Front Lines: Kurdish Female Fighters Battling ISIS
Featuring Imma Vitelli, International Correspondent for Vanity Fair Italy
March 29, 2017 6:00pm
Villa Sassetti

The 13th Century Citadel of Aleppo was previously marked one of the oldest, largest and most iconic castles in the world. Today, it is marked with post war bullet holes.
Previously these open freeways in Aleppo served as major passageways for many citizens to travel between school and work. Today, they are covered with ruins and demolished buildings.
The Umayyad Mosque was also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus; it was one of the world’s largest and oldest mosques and is often considered the fourth-holiest place in Islam. Today, it is no more a place of peace, but a place of turmoil.
Previously a city known for its beautiful sites and rich culture, Aleppo is now a post-war zone.

A Conversation with Imma Vitelli on the Situation in Syria

The day following Imma Vitelli’s eye opening dialogue titled The Death of Aleppo: A City Under Siege NYU Florence student Victoria Cece interviewed the international correspondent for Vanity Fair Italia outside of Villa Sassetti. The evening’s dialogue concerned the Siege of Aleppo, elaborating on the atrocities that are being committed there. It left the audience astounded, some in tears. Imma was able to vividly explain the toll that the current situation is taking on the civilian population, including women and children.

To discover more of Imma Vitelli’s meaningful journalistic contributions, please visit her Vanity Fair Italy blog column Io Sono Qui (


Syrian Refugee and Jewish Displaced Person, Are We Making the Same Mistakes?

With the current refugee crisis facing Europe and the United States, there are many people and policymakers who are debating how to ethically deal with all of the refugees. There are currently many different ways in which countries are aiding refugees.  In Italy there has been a huge influx of refugees, over 153,000 in 2015 alone according to the online newspaper West. The Italian government is working with the EU to provide aid. According to the European University Institute’s Migration Policy Centre, last March Italy pledged more than 19 million USD to provide aid and humanitarian support to the Syrian refugees in Italy, see Syrian Refugees: Aid and Asylum Map. The United States has been under heavy criticism for being extremely selective in who they will allow to seek asylum. In many cases, EU countries do not have that option. Agence France-Presse correspondent Dave Clark wrote that “U.S. President Barack Obama has promised that the United States will admit 10,000 Syrian refugees for resettlement over the next 12 months, after criticism that America is not doing enough.” (Business Insider UK). One thing I have found extremely interesting while listening to the debate surrounding current events, is how much the approach to Syrian refugees is similar to how Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) were dealt with following the Holocaust and World War II. Read more

“Post-Revolutionary Tunisia”

2010 marked the beginning of what would come to be known as the Arab Spring, a series of both violent and nonviolent protests and movements that took place throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. It’s launching point? The Tunisian Revolution. After 23 long years, the Tunisian people decided to revolt against dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ail, after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi publicly lit himself on fire until death in protest of his government. In January of 2011, Zine El Abidine Ben Ail was ousted from his seat, and a democracy was instituted. Read more

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 21st marks the United Nation’s “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.” The implementation of this day was initially in response to a shooting that took place in South Africa in 1960; an event where South African police openly shot and killed 69 people during a peaceful “anti apartheid-law” demonstration. Although this day now pertains to people in every corner of the globe, it wasn’t officially recognized until 1966.

Since then, there have been other actions taken against racial discrimination around the world. In 2001 the World Conference Against Racism enacted the “Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;” a document that the UN considers to be the “the most authoritative and comprehensive programme for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” This year’s “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” has a higher focus on the Durban Declaration, as 2016 marks 15 years since its initiation.

The recognition of this day comes at an interesting time on the NYU Florence’s campus as there is a “Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context” conference scheduled for this coming Thursday, March 24th. The “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” serves as the perfect launching point as students and the NYU community prepare to tackle these complicated and important issues.

Solving the ISIS Problem

ISIS is scary. ISIS is coming for you in your sleep. ISIS will steal your children and turn them into suicide bombers, and I am sick of hearing about how horrible ISIS is. While sorting through misinformation and attention grabbing, fear mongering articles, I begin to feel a great sense of hopelessness. There’s this big scary threat in the Middle East and we haven’t thought of anyway to get rid of it, except that our governments continue to try to bomb the problem away, which is how we responded to the last big scary threat. What can I, as an individual, do to solve this problem? What can our governments do differently?

French professor Olivier Roy is of the opinion that, sooner or later, ISIS will self destruct and that ISIS really isn’t that scary; Naturally I went to him for answers. Read more

Marginal Communities in Italy

NYU Florence professor David Forgacs joins La Pietra Dialogues on March 21 for Marginal Communities in Italy, a dialogue that is part of the Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context series. He will talk about the settlements of migrant Roma, fast-track removal centers, and the low-wage informal economy, as well as street vendors, Chinese garment workers and others who live on the margins in Italy.

In his recently published book, Italy’s Margins: Social Exclusion and Nation Formation since 1861, Forgacs examines five cases of political and social exclusion in Italy: “the peripheries of Italy’s major cities after unification; its East African colonies in the 1930s; the less developed areas of its south in the 1950s; its psychiatric hospitals before the reforms of the late 1970s; and its ‘nomad camps’ after 2000.” He explores how photography and writing both support and challenge these exclusions.

Read more

Italy Seeks to Improve Relations Between Muslim and Italian Communities

Last month Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence, and Imam Izzedin Elzir, President of the Union of Italian Islamic Communities, signed a ‘transparency pact’ that calls for the Italian language to be spoken during Islamic prayer services and for information booths for visitors to be set up in mosques. The pact, which was also signed by officials in Turin and began being discussed in November after the Paris attacks, is among one of the latest efforts to combat Islamophobia in Italy by helping the Italian community better understand Islam.

After the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in January 2015, Islamophobia seemed to grow around the globe – not unlike after Sept. 11 – including in Italy. The region of Lombardy (the capital of which is Milan) passed a law that stated people of a religion not recognized by the state would face special restrictions when constructing places of worship. The law became known as an “anti-mosque law” due to the fact that Islam is the only major religion not officially recognized by the Italian government (for more on this read the section on “Muslim Organizations” on this information sheet about Islam in Italy). A PEW Research poll released January 2015 – the same month the law was passed – found that 63 percent of Italians polled have an “unfavorable” view of Muslims. This was the largest percentage of any country polled (other countries included Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and Spain). In March 2015, the law was sent to Italy’s highest court for review in response to public outcry, and last month the law was nullified.

Read more