The second “DIMMI migrant tales” youth exchange: from Iraq to Italy
In June, five Italian university students travelled to Iraq as part of our “DIMMI migrant tales” cultural exchange project. They spent 10 days in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, getting first-hand experience of our grassroots peace-building peace initiatives with the Youth Centres we opened in the country, but above all thanks to the dedication of the young Iraqi men and women we work with every day.
Then, it was their turn to come to visit us in Italy: for Shanya, Sara, Gzng, Waleed and Sami, it was their first visit to Europe, and as they travelled across Italy they were generously hosted by our Local Committees.
They even attended our Annual Assembly 2019 in Naples and joined us as we expressing our solidarity with Carola Rackete, the Captain of the blocked Sea Watch 3.
“The youth exchange programme was a good opportunity for me to enrich my social and cultural knowledge. It has helped me meet new people and understand communities’ different cultural backgrounds and prospectives” Shanya explains, who was rather worried before her journey.
“I wasn’t sure how people in Italy would treat me, as an Iraqi woman. I think that many Western communities are prejudiced against us Iraqis, viewing us as aggressive, traumatised by terrorism and completely downtrodden people. I thought that it would be difficult to show people that we are determined to sow the seeds of peace in our country. As it turns out, I received a warm and affectionate welcome”, she adds.
Sara shared her concerns, but was also very curious to experience European culture. “At first I was worried that people would not accept me because of my hijab, and this was my very first experience of travelling alone. My family was very enthusiastic and gave me complete support. So I gathered my courage and was greeted in Italy by a very warm welcome”, she tells us.
Waleed’s experience was similar, and he says his family were very happy that he was participating in this project. “I agreed to take part in the youth exchange programme so that I could share my opinions and ideas with young Europeans, and experience European culture and technological developments in Italy”, he explains.
Gzng’s family couldn’t believe it when she told them she would be taking part in a youth exchange programme and that she was going to visit Italy for the first time. “Once they realised I was serious, they were very happy and wished me good luck. Taking part in this exchange programme is a great opportunity to explore another culture, experience traditions that are very different from mine and discuss global current affairs with young people from other countries”, she adds.
Sami, who has been working with us for some time as coordinator of one of our Youth Centre in Iraq, never stopped taking photos. An enthusiastic photographer and video maker, he was worried that the Italians would’t speak English and so he wouldn’t be able to get to know them. “But it was all fine in the end and I discovered new cultures and new places”. He was also the captain of our dinghy during our protest for the respect of human rights of all men and women.