A lot has been written about Sheherezade “Sherry” Jaafari, who’s scheduled to start classes at SIPA this fall.
In an email to a J-school professor, ABC journalist Barbara Walters said she “is brilliant, beautiful, [and] speaks five languages.” On the other hand, Haya Dweidary, the only Syrian student in SIPA’s class of 2012, told the Daily Beast “she’s not qualified” for admission to SIPA and that she is “a supporter of the [Syrian] regime to this moment. And this is a regime that has killed more than 15,000 civilians.” British newspaper The Telegraph claims that she’s referred to as “Syria’s Kim Kardashian.” And outraged Syrian opposition activists describe her as a “direct advisor to the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad” whose admission to SIPA will taint Columbia’s reputation.
Sherry is the 22-year-old daughter of Syria’s ambassador to the UN and former press aide to Assad, who’s massacred thousands of his own citizens. As one of his most trusted press people, she arranged all the interviews he did with the media, including last month’s hard-hitting interview with Walters. After the interview, she was fired from her job in Assad’s regime and asked Walters for help getting into SIPA. Walters emailed an ethics professor in the J-school, who wrote back that admissions would give Sherry “special attention.”
She did get in, though SIPA insists Walters’ endorsement had nothing to do it. Nonetheless, Syrian activists are outraged that Columbia admitted someone who assisted a regime that’s killed tens of thousands of its own citizens. An online petition demanding SIPA rescind her admission has been signed by over 600 people.
Weirdly, this isn’t the first time Columbia’s gotten in the middle of Syrian politics. Last year, supporters of Assad supporters spammed an unofficial Columbia facebook page after Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi
wrote a was quoted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article criticizing Assad’s regime.