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Abdulrazzak breaks ground with research on Syrian refugees

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – A Monmouth College student is leading the way on research related to Syrian refugees, and she’s only scratching the surface.

Syrian refugee Iman Abdulrazzak ’18 broke what is possibly new ground with her research on almost 1,500 fellow refugees scattered in more than three dozen countries, and she did it by leveraging social media.

What Abdulrazzak learned supported her hypotheses – that displaced Syrians place less importance on the values of religiosity, familialism and collectivism, among other values. They place even less value on them when they relocated to a Western culture, as opposed to one in the Middle East. Those values also decreased when they relocated without other family members.

Abdulrazzak shared her first set of findings Tuesday during the College’s senior psychology and biopsychology research presentation session.

“To our knowledge, this could well be the first study done on Syrian refugees having relocated to dozens of other countries and displaced Syrians yet within Syria, on the changes in their cultural values – acculturation,” said Visiting Assistant Professor William Zingrone, who oversaw Abdulrazzak’s research.

Abdulrazzak said that she wanted to examine “what happens to an individual’s cultural values when they move to a new environment.”

She said the topic was very personal for her, and it helped her understand an issue that had been bothering her. She’s noticed a change in her own values since living in the United States, although she said the change hasn’t been unpleasant.

“What I’ve found is very complicated and very different from when I was in Syria,” she said. “I didn’t expect that, because I liked myself before I left Syria.”

In addition to her psychological conclusions, Abdulrazzak’s research also helped her reach an important personal conclusion.

“It makes me feel that it’s not about me anymore,” she said. “I feel I’m not alone anymore.”

During her project, Abdulrazzak found similar research about Chinese immigrants, but she believes she might be the first to examine Syrian refugees. She was able to cast a large net by using social media – specifically, Facebook – and the 1,489 respondents who completed the survey live in 42 different countries.

“Iman also obtained additional demographic information on her participants than (what she) reported,” said Zingrone. “She will be doing further analyses and will have a great deal more data and results to report in the near future. We are all impressed with her work and insight.”

“This was just an initiation for my next research,” said Abdulrazzak. “We need to examine why individuals behave this way.”

Moving forward, Abdulrazzak said she needs to develop a scale to measure Arab cultural values and norms, and she also hopes to examine the potential harm that can be caused if individuals are not acculturated.