There is no professional wrestler as genre-bustingly progressive as Rami Sebe, otherwise known by his ring name, Sami Zayn. Sami Zayn is a WWE Superstar, and Quebec-born of Syrian immigrants. Instead of coming out in stereotypical Middle Eastern garb in order to provoke boos from the crowd, he skanks to the ring, an homage to his love of ska music. He also embraces his Syrian heritage. Last year, Zayn raised more than $100,000 to aid mobile clinics in his war-torn country. Currently, Zayn is involved in a campaign to raise $50,000 more for a program called Sami for Syria, to benefit SAMS, the Syrian American Medical Society. Here we speak to him about his goals for this campaign and why he became involved.
Dave Zirin: Can you talk about this new fundraising campaign, Sami for Syria?
Sami Zayn: July 12 marked a year since we launched the last fundraiser and that was basically to raise funds to launch a mobile clinic in Syria, operating on the ground to help people who were in really rural areas or had been displaced that had no access to health care. To basically fund these mobile clinics, which would deliver medical services and medications and delivering it directly to them, to people who otherwise couldn’t access health care.
That ran for a year, and I believe it’s actually still in operation and we raised around $105,000 and were able to provide 8,000 medical services, which is amazing. I’m very proud of that and I’m very happy about the generosity of all the donors that made it possible.
But now we find ourselves in a bit of a new situation, due to the escalation in violence in Daraa, which is actually where our mobile clinic was operating to begin with. It’s led to somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 people who had to flee their homes. And a lot of them fled towards borders of Jordan and towards the Golan Heights.
But these borders are now closed to them, so they couldn’t even flee the country as refugees, so they were basically, literally stranded in the desert with no protection, in a lot of cases not even a tent, nothing. Just them in the elements and the desert. Which is just crazy. I can’t even fathom that, because I live in Florida and if I’m outside of AC for 15 minutes, I start getting irritable, so that kind of puts it in perspective.
So this latest campaign is called Sami Relief and it just launched, today, almost on the one-year anniversary of the launch of the previous mobile clinic campaign. I’s basically to address this present humanitarian crisis, this present situation, because I know a lot of times people can get worn out by the news. The conflict in Syria has been going on for around eight years now, and so I understand how people get worn out. You turn on the news and every day something new, not just in Syria, but even here in the states, so it’s very easy to get worn out, and I understand that. This particular fundraiser that we just launched today is in response to something that is happening right now, in real time. The situation is very complicated with regards to politics, but that’s stuff that I don’t want to touch, honestly. That’s not my focus. The whole focus here is a nonpolitical, nonreligious, you know, fund that will basically help displaced civilians.