Journeys of a Syrian Refugee Couple

This Lunch & Learn took place on October 16, 2018 and you can watch the recording here:

Listen to the incredible story of this amazing couple, Jihad (Jay) Abdo and Fadia Afashe as they left their successful lives behind and came to America to start over, continue their work, and shed a light on the conditions in their home country. Please see their individual bios below for more info.

To see the full-size flyer image above, click here.

Artist Fadia Afashe proudly describes herself not only as a visual artist, but a women’s rights activist. Afashe graduated from the Ismail Institute of Art in 2000. She’s had several national and international exhibitions. While immersing herself in the world of Art, Afashe also pursued a degree in Criminal Law at the University of Damascus and graduated in 2003. Then she got her master degree from the Syrian-French institute for public administration (l’ena). 

Afashe used her degrees and artistic skills to engage in causes advocating women’s rights. She created many exhibitions about women’s issues. She wrote and produced with the help of Geneva Institute for Human Rights “Suspended” (2011), a short film about women exposing how the laws of rape in the Arab world leave women unprotected and disenfranchised. At the rise of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, Afashe left Damascus for the United Stated to pursue a fellowship at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, which she completed in May 2012. Fadia’s Art became part of her activism to advocate for human rights. She got the award Gary De Cramer Leadership Prize Minneapolis MN. Fadia is working now at RAND Corporation, She got RAND’s 2017 Spotlight Award, she is based in Los Angeles and she had many individual shows of her.


Jay Abdo is a Syrian American actor based in Los Angeles. He was born in 1962 in Damascus. His first experience with performance came when he proved to be a talented concert violinist in primary school, an experience that served to further his passion for the performing arts. He was awarded a scholarship to Cluj-Napoca, Romania to study Civil Engineering, and while there he began acting on the Romanian stage. Even performing in a newly learned language, Jay made a remarkable impression upon the theater critics, and positive reviews followed. His success on the stage caused him to redirect his educational ambitions and he soon returned to Damascus, which is widely considered the Hollywood of the Arab world, to study acting at the prestigious Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts. In the year after his graduation, Jay was named one of the ten most promising actors in Syria and the Arab world, and he has been cast for starring roles ever since. To date, Jay has appeared in more than 40 Syrian films and over 1000 episodes of television, most often in the leading role. He has taken the stage in over 20 theatrical runs, performing in English, Spanish, Romanian and Arabic. Jay is a grassroots activist who has long used his fame to assist orphans, children with special needs, and children stricken with cancer. In March 2011 his refusal to publicly support the repressive regime led to personal threats and professional pressure, and he was soon assumed to be sympathetic with the Syrian freedom seekers. By late 2011, Jay’s continued refusal to provide support to the regime left him with no option but to leave his fame behind and flee Syria to the United States where his wife, Fadia Afashe, was studying as a Humphrey fellow at the University of Minnesota. Upon his wife completing her coursework, Jay and she moved to Los Angeles, where he began rebuilding his career from scratch. He worked as driver and pizza delivery. Then Booking a few supporting roles in the first year, till he met Werner Herzog, who has cast him to play ‘Fattuh’, a major role opposite Nicole Kidman in Mr. Herzog’s film, “Queen of the Desert“. Jay then booked another role with Tom Hanks at “A Hologram for the King“. Recently, Jay played a lead in “Bon Voyage”, the successful movie that was shortlisted for the Oscars 2017.