Often who’s telling the story is just as important as the story itself, and this is particularly true when it comes to the Syrian civil war and the resulting refugee crisis. 

“There is this cast of characters within the Syrian play, we’re constantly told, is neither written or directed by Syrians,” said Syrian American activist Susan Boulad at a forum on the refugee crisis hosted by PRI at Maclaster College last fall. 

We focused on bringing Syrian youth voices to the forefront over  the last year as part of our SafeMode project. This included two events in which we tried to bring together youth activists and performers, along with academics and NGOs workers with on the ground experience. 

Thefirst event was at Macalester College, on Oct. 29

Perfomers included University of Minnesota student Khadija Charif from with her spoken word poem "She woke up." 

And Maclaester student Mutaz Alnaas with "You don't belong here." 

Among the panelists was Syrian American activist and University of Minnesota law student Suzan Boulad. 

The second event occured Nov. 19 at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Again, it featured a mix of youth activist voices, along with academics and NGOs workers with on the ground experience dealing with the refugee crisis. 

The featured poet was 23-year-old Harvard student Zena Agha, who was also featured on The World. Her cousin, Amjad, who lived in Damascus, died on a migrant ship that likely capsized on its way from Turkey to Greece. That loss inspired her to write this piece, The Sea is Big. 

After the forum, about 50 students gathered for a post-event next steps meeting, which was moderated by local Syrian activist Mohamad Al Bardan. He spoke to The World's Marco Werman in the same week, when we filmed this video on why it's important to listen to Syrian youth — a quesiton we hope the video, along with our SafeMode events and coverage, helped answer.

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International