Daniella Khoury: The Middle East

Some people are very passionate about their family history and where they come from., Daniella Khoury is one of those people — read her #PassionPreview:

“I am extremely passionate about the people of the Middle East. I was lucky enough to be born to two immigrants who lived in Lebanon throughout the civil war in the 80's. They both managed to get degrees during the war despite having to go to class under gunfire and never walking during graduation due to the shelling.”

“They moved to the states around the late 80's. After having me and settling down here, we moved back for my dad's work when I was 5 and things were more stable. I got to finally understand what the other language we spoke in the house and how truly magical of a place Lebanon is. I got into it because of my mom's cooking and the crazy stories my dad told me growing up in the Middle East. Now I'm pursuing a master's degree in political science to know more about where I'm from and who my people are - and what has stopped them from achieving the society they seek.”

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Why the Middle East?

“Because the word Middle East is so misunderstood. It's not the third world, or just a desert wasteland, or this place full of a subjective "war on terror." I say that while also maintaining - that to deny that there are any systemic issues related to equality of gender, race and ethnicity in the region is irresponsible and incorrect, but it's not just this unsafe place of misery. While a civil war is destroying Yemen and civilians are suffering true horror at the hands of governments and military action, and while female rights advocates are sitting in cells in Saudi Arabia without any hope for release, the people of the Middle East are very united by a truly beautiful language and Arab culture.”

“The Middle East is full of incredible and stunning metropolitan cities, with every type of person, from diverse backgrounds and professions and amazing life stories. The main lesson I've learned from Beirut is that Middle Easterners are the most positive people in the world. They understand their circumstances in very profound ways. In 2006, during the Israeli invasion, I was 10 and I remember seeing bomber planes come in overhead. We still went to the beach and spent time outside because no one was going to take away our fun. People then got into the habit of partying in bomb shelters - which they still do to this day. It keeps the sound from annoying the neighbors and keeps them safe in any event. And that's the strength of the Arab people. “

“Despite hostile governments and suppression of female rights, and government sponsored repression of LGBT citizens, and proxy wars - the people of the Middle East are tenacious, beautiful and are hell bent on creating change. They take walks on the beach, enjoy the best nightlife in the world, and use their state of the art hospitals staffed by the most highly trained medical students in the world. The people there get this unique opportunity to live a "current event" on a daily basis, and the actions they take in the face of these events are made while imagining how it will be written in a textbook one day. And that's what I love about the people the most.”

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To someone that isn’t interested the Middle East:

“Visit Beirut. Meet my best girlfriend from childhood studying to become a lawyer or talk to the man selling dessert on the corner. Everyone has an incredible story of love and loss, and that's just in one city. Try going to Cairo, where you can get university students to tell you about what prompted them to be a part of the revolution. The world is so much larger than the headlines. Try some couscous, hummus, and tabbouleh - let a local family invite you for a meal, because everyone relishes the chance to tell foreigners their stories.

“ If you are Middle Eastern, bring an American friend with you when you go and visit family - change one person's mind. Let them see the region for its physical beauty, incredible food, and warm people. Tell your friends about one political circumstance that people in the region are living with today. All my friends know about the issues that matter most to me.”

“The world is so much more than the crazy parliamentary system of one tiny country that's smaller than the size of the state of Massachusetts, but with every person you tell, we become more informed global citizens. If none of that works, definitely try eating good baklava and then you'll get it, I promise.”

To someone interested in the Middle East:

“Read about the region. Donate to NGO's on the ground - KAFA is a great Lebanese one. Many more advocate for ending female genital mutilation and promoting equality and liberty in the region. Enjoy listening to the music and art created by Arab artists, and learn the language if you want. It's worth it just to understand the foreign memes, in my opinion.“

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