Summer Centered: Isabel Clements '21 Defends Human Rights
The political science major is pushing for justice for medical facilities harmed in the Syrian conflict as an intern at Physicians for Human Rights.
For Isabel Clements ‘21, summer break is an opportunity to create a positive change in the world. Supported by the Center for Career and Professional Advising’s Liberal Arts in the Workplace Fund, the political science major is interning in New York City at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a non-governmental organization of health professionals dedicated to defending human rights across the globe.
“With the world falling apart around us, it is often hard to feel that we are investing our time in a productive way,” she said. “This summer, I felt obligated to contribute to an initiative towards good, however far-fetched or small-scale that ‘good’ was.”
Though PHR has a multitude of projects all over the planet, Clements’ work, as the organization’s Arabic-speaking investigations intern, pertains specifically to the injustices that are being carried out in the ongoing Syrian conflict.
“My research has focused on the targeting of medical facilities and personnel by the Asad regime, in tandem with Russian forces, in Syria,” she said. “My job, on a daily basis, is to find, confirm, and record attacks on medical facilities and personnel within these areas, using intricate research methods and field sources.”
Supplementing her daily research, Clements is also tasked with writing updates for PHR’s newsletter and organizing a report “on the discrepancies between Syrian law before and after the war.” With a minor in Arabic and a concentration in Middle Eastern studies, she feels that her coursework has prepared her perfectly for the job at hand.
“My particular grasp of vocabulary used in the context of war has allowed me to perform Arabic searches, or ‘news sweeps,’ in which I search for information on attacks on medical facilities, with ease and confidence,” she said. “My ‘Middle Eastern Politics’ class at Bryn Mawr familiarized me—politically, geographically, and culturally—with the regions I am working with.”
Rather than normalizing her to the atrocities she reports on, Clement’s studies and her work have allowed her to better grasp the totality of what she encounters.
“I can visualize the lives of people who live in these places,” she said. “Though this might not be helpful logistically, it adds a sense of realness and gravity to the work that I am doing.”
For Clements, the job strikes a delicate but necessary balance between a recognition of pressing issues and a hope for their resolution. Though the work is emotionally taxing, she finds it incredibly rewarding.
“I am so thankful to be in an environment where the events of the world are inherent to the work we do,” she reflected. “I am constantly immersed in the news, and in the lives of people in this country and across the world. Though this can be exhausting, I feel it is necessary as a humanitarian to be engaged with the world to the fullest extent.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.