The Power of Refugees

Basma Alawee: The Power of Refugees

Basma Alawee is a refugee. She and her husband fled Iraq after the Iraq war and settled in the United States. Since arriving in the U.S., she has become an activist. Today, Basma is the National Campaign Director for We Are All America, of the National Partnership of New Americans, and the founder and executive director of WeaveTales. She oversees organizing efforts across 21 states for We Are All America, which is dedicated to promoting policy that supports refugee and immigrant communities.

In her Tedx Talk, Basma reflects on her experience as a refugee, the reasons people flee their homes, and the power refugees have to make a positive difference in their communities.

Teaching Ideas

Before the film:

  • At the time of Basma’s talk, there were 100 million refugees worldwide. Ensure students know the meaning of the word refugee.
  • Ask students to share the words or images they associate with refugees and then ask what words or images they see or hear about refugees in films, photographs, and on the news. 

After the film:

You might begin by hearing which words and phrases from Basma’s talk resonated with your students.

  • One way to facilitate this discussion is to ask each student to share a word or phrase without commenting. It’s ok for students to repeat the same words used by a classmate.

Digging Deeper

Ask students to reflect on the following questions:

  • What does Basma Alawee want the audience to know about why she left Iraq?
  • How did the experience of becoming a refugee change her identity?

Basma describes facing prejudice, and even a death threat, in the U.S., after arriving.

  • How do you explain those reactions?
  • What can you do to counter anti-immigrant and anti-refugee prejudice?
  • What is your role in responding to anti-immigrant hate? What is her role?
  • What is the responsibility of non-immigrants in responding to anti-immigrant hate?
  • How can non-immigrants/refugees counter anti-immigrant prejudice?
  • What opportunities do those who aren’t refugees and immigrants have that are different from those who are targets of that prejudice?

Basma wants listeners to understand that refugees are more than victims. They have power. 

  • What does she want you to know about what refugees can contribute to society?
  • What does she want you to understand that non-refugees can receive from refugees?
  • Consider: what is the difference between what refugees contribute and what non-refugees can receive from refugees?


  • Use the Project Zero Three Whys routine to reflect on the significance of Basma’s story.
    • Why does her story matter to you as an individual?
    • Why does it matter to your community?
    • Why does it matter to the world?
  • Revisit the words that students noted were associated with refugees at the beginning of the class. Ask students to consider adding to that list after hearing Basma’s presentation.
  • In small groups, ask students to reflect on how they can help contribute to the inclusion of newcomers, immigrants, and refugees in your school or community. And, what are the ways that they can ensure that their peers and members of their communities can receive the assets that immigrants and refugees can contribute to their communities?