The Great Hall of the Memorial Union was crowded at 8 p.m. Wednesday as James Gelvin, professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of California, Los Angeles, spoke about the Syrian refugee crisis.
Gelvin earned his master's degree at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and his doctorate degree from Harvard.
He started by stating his belief of the cause of the Syrian Civil War. The date, Gelvin said, was March 19. It was on that day that a group of children were caught writing graffiti on the walls saying down with the regime.
The kids were taken by the government and tortured, Gelvin said. Their parents took to the streets to protest when they could not get them back. Some, Gelvin stated, were shot.
This event led to other protests throughout Syria and made it so the outbreak of the war was spontaneous and without any strategic tactics.
"There was no epicenter," Gelvin said. "Instead, it broke out in the provinces. It was therefore scattered from the beginning."
Gelvin focused his talk on the Civil War and ISIS. He spoke of various ISIS attacks that have happened over the last few months.
He brought up the Paris bombing and a comment that President Barack Obama said a day before the attack. Obama had stated that ISIS had been severely weakened.
Gelvin said that this was precisely the reason ISIS decided to strike out in Europe.
All eyes were on the stage as Gelvin spoke his next words.
"In order to destroy ISIS, the Syrian Civil War has to be resolved," Gelvin said. "We all have to fight ISIS together."
Gelvin also brought up the psychological suffering that has been inflicted upon the Syrians. More than half of the children at one refugee camp had lost a loved one and many were facing depression.
Two additional speakers briefly gave their own statements on topics relating to the refugee crisis.
Nell Gabiam works in both the political science and anthropology departments at Iowa State. She discussed how European countries were once welcoming of the refugees, whereas now they seemed tired and scared of letting more in.
Carly Ross, director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Des Moines, said the United States has not done much yet to help the refugees but that it will hopefully do something soon.
Omar Raghib, senior in mechanical engineering, was at the lecture and was interested in the political aspect of the topic.
"All of the politicians have their own opinions on this with the elections coming up," Raghib said. "I think this gives a better perspective. By going to something like this, people can have a more informed view of what the politicians are talking about."