What comes to your mind when you hear ‘Middle East’? Let me take a wild guess.. Terrorism, ISIS, Bombs, threats or maybe even danger?
Let me introduce myself, I am Amrien Al Suhail. A proud daughter of an Iraqi father and a Belgium mother. My lifestyle and passport are European, my blood is Arabic. To come back to question I raised before, the words that used to come to my mind while hearing Middle East would be “My heaven on earth”.
I can tell you’re probably frowning right now. I might owe you an explanation. As a young girl, I had the personal privilege to visit my country multiple times. This left me overwhelmed. The amazing food and desserts, the adorable chaos on the streets, the music, the beautiful mosques, the history, the la-vie-est-belle attitude but most of all my numerous nieces, nephews, uncles and aunt’s, my amazing lovely family.
Suddenly everything changed. September 11 happened, war in 2003, Sadam got caught – and so on. My young and naive brain did its best to try and understand the horror and somehow link all this to a certain fact : trips to my heaven on earth were no longer an option. Slowly but sure a decade passed by. As we all know, a lot can happen in a decade. People grow older, facts become memories and my once o-so-beautiful city became what it is today. During those ten years, time passed by in different speeds. The chains of horrible events kept on going in such way that it got hard to keep up with. At the same time I slowly rediscovered my beautiful country by doing research on the past, by visiting neighboring countries and by reliving my memories in a million different ways. I was dreaming of re-exploring ancient Baghdad, a place were culture could blossom and intellect was key. My own little heaven on earth.
Finally in 2012 my dream became reality, a trip back to my roots. After only a few hours in my personal heaven, I fell from cloud nine right back with my feet on the ground. Faced with this harsh reality, destructing, sadness, poverty and hate, army men controlling every single move and detectors checking every single car. I was devastated. But somehow against all odds, the thick grey curtain in front of my eyes fell down and I rediscovered my heaven. The food was just as good, the history just as inspiring as it used to be, the music had the same joyous tone and my family was even lovelier than I could remember. That’s what happens in life, it goes so fast, everything evolves, but somehow nothing really changes..
So this leaves my at the puzzle I am facing right now. I for a fact, am sure that ISIS will eventually be defeated. History teaches us that even the strongest societies can fall down when a shared idea of a hopeful future unites people. However my major concern is this: ‘What will happen next?’. As for now I see so many preparing for war and destruction, but only few actually preparing for the future. This upcoming youth, who grew up with bomb threats, war and destruction as an everyday reality, what will become of them? I do not support the idea of again implementing change by new laws and another set of political games. To my humble opinion real change can only be achieved from within. That is why I support the idea of empowering youth to question and study current reality and events happening, and placing them on a historical and cultural background in order for the youth not to enhance in the same games that are being played for decades right now.
More than anything education can magically change and empower and entire generation which will eventually lead to a more promising future and allow the creation of certain perspectives not known today. Sustainable education programs have the power turn the mirrors of these young boys and girls into windows, and reflect their own reality and critical mindset on an entire society and somehow let them act upon this. The decisions that are being made this present day are robbing the future of an entire generation. For what it is worth, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you can take away these kids’ parents, their houses, their schools, their joy but you can never steal a young girls or boys’ vision. As crazy and dark as this world can get, I believe a young generation with a clear vision can brighten up this place and be more powerful than whatever weapon mankind will ever know.