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70 Balloons Project raises UF awareness of Syrian conflict

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Sameer Saboungi released 70 black balloons Thursday, letting them fly high above the Plaza of the Americas and raising awareness of the Syrian conflict.

Saboungi, creator of the 70 Balloons Project, said many students don’t have a clear idea of the Arab Spring and what it was. UF Amnesty International hosted the public art installment to raise awareness about the civil war in Syria.

“Each balloon counts for 1,000 persons killed in Syria, and there are 70 balloons for the current death toll of 70,000 people killed in Syria,” Saboungi said.

“They know that something’s going on, but we’re hoping that by this visual representation, by this art installation, that they can get a real idea of how big the whole humanitarian disaster there is,” he said.

The Arab Spring began in 2011, when 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia publicly set himself on fire after allegedly getting slapped in the face by a policewoman.

The protest sparked a revolution in Tunisia, a movement that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and other countries. In March 2011, a civil war broke out in Syria after an uprising of peaceful political protests against the Assad governments.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have reportedly killed more than 70,000 people in two years.

“And so the humanitarian situation there is a disaster. Four million people are displaced, one million are refugees, people have no food, the army is bombing civilian areas. So it’s a disaster,” Saboungi said.

Saboungi’s family lives in Syria. He said when most students discover he is Syrian, they ask him questions about the country.

He said he feels it is important for students to become aware of the turmoil in Syria.

“Just like what happened in Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo and all these countries. You students need to be active,” he said.

According to UF Amnesty International’s!Facebook (stop linking just one word. it’s not correct. dr. rodgers has provided multiple resources on proper linking this semester), The 70 Balloons Project was an adaptation of a larger installment in Pittsburgh.

Sarah Brand wrote this story online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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