I spent the last 10 days in the West Bank and in Amman, Jordan as part of a solidarity visit. I had been to Israel, Ihad visited the Middle East before, but what made this different was that I had the opportunity to hear directly from young people throughout the region. And because of this direct contact, my perspective has been completely changed. This is in no way to say that I am even close to understanding the complexities of the issue, but at the very least, my view is broadening.
Wassam, from Iraq, spoke about how the invasion by the United States had only brought destruction and violence to his country. From his point of view, as a young Christian Iraqi dentist, living under the regime of Saddam Hussein was preferable to the current situation. He spoke about the bombing of buildings and the fractured state of his country. And there was no doubt that without the US intervention, this would not have happened. Although life might not have been great under the Hussein government, he felt safer. At the very least, he knew what to expect and the Christian population was more protected. Now there is only chaos and confusion. He doesn’t know who will be in power and how they will react to this religious minority. He worries about persecution by extremists. But most of all, he wants his country back. He wants to feel proud of who they are, he wants to have the buildings be beautiful again.
Because my perspective is almost completely shaped by the New York Times and other western media, I was surprised to hear from so many people that they would prefer regimes that we have been told are “evil.” I consider myself a critical thinker, but when you are a religious minority, the authoritarian regime might be better because they protect you. It is the unknown that is most frightening.