A Refugee in Education

10/24/2016 11:47 am ET Updated Oct 24, 2016
http://www.manarbilal.com/
MANAR BILAL
http://www.manarbilal.com/

‘’[O]wing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it’’ [1]

Usually they say that our past can shape our future, but from the moment I stepped out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport and into my new world my past had nothing to do with my today. My past shaped nothing. I had a home once and I had to leave it. Now I do not even remember what it was like to have a “home” or what it was like to leave it.

Someone might think that I still remember all the details, I don’t remember or maybe I don’t want to remember. I just remember that I was afraid…I wasn’t afraid of Paris at the beginning, but of my home. Then I started to be afraid of both, the land of ‘’Welcome’’ and the land of ‘’Home’’.

http://www.manarbilal.com/
MANAR BILAL
http://www.manarbilal.com/

When I arrived, I did not register as a refugee, I was one of the lucky ones and received a ‘’normal’’ residency, but in reality, I was a refugee in every sense of the word. Yet, it seemed to me that most of people in the EU did not understand what it was like to have to flee your country and flee a war. They did not know what it was like to say goodbye to their family and not know when they would see them again.

I didn’t know what to do or where to go, I was left in a big city with little instructions. Most of the instructions were about how should I behave in the big city, but there was nothing about how should survive! Or maybe they were written in a language I did not understand!

I felt trapped in a place where I could not leave and a place where I could not stay! I felt something was dragging me down. I had no choice, but to move forward. There was no time to cry or collapse. I had to keep moving toward the unknown.

People ask you so many questions but not the one question you desire to hear, ‘’how could we help?’’, and even when they do ask it, they do not meant you, they speak in generally about the whole country and crisis. They do not understand that you do not have an answer to this question. If you did then why would you be stuck in this place, trapped between two worlds.

They tell you, you are safe now, so you should survive, ‘’ it is the minimum for you to do, so you can show how grateful you are for this second chance.’’ Who told them that I was looking for a second chance? Second chances are for those who have committed a crime, done something awful, while me I was not looking for a second chance, but maybe a first chance. Maybe they meant a second chance in having another country! But how can someone assimilate to a new country without having the skills and tools to feel part of this new strange and different world? Or at least a second chance to live without fear? However, what they do not know is that fear is not only in war, it exists even when the birds are signing all around you.

http://www.manarbilal.com/
MANAR BILAL
http://www.manarbilal.com/

Is it enough to have a permission to stay? Is it enough to know the best French wine or cheese? Is it enough to fall in love with someone French and try to speak the language together? Is it enough to try to have French friends?

I discovered the answers when I was given more than just a physical protection. Everything changed when I was awarded a scholarship to obtain a master degree in Global Communication at the American University of Paris, where I considered myself a registered refugee. I learned crucial concepts of global communication and journalism, more importantly, the program widened my critical thinking and personal skills. These skills enabled me to pursue my goal of implementing developmental changes to help the fight in my country. And hopefully one day, someday soon, they will help me return to my home and family.

As a young female who lost her country in the ashes of war, I came to realize that it is not enough to physically survive the war, and not enough to apply for an asylum in a country that respects your rights. Rather, it is more important to address the challenges that my country faces now and discover solutions to trigger change and implement fundamental human rights protections.

Kiron open higher education

In 2016, I was introduced to Kiron Open Higher Education France and I was asked if I would like to join them as a volunteer, and I did. Kiron Open Higher Education is a start-up project, registered in Berlin, Germany as a non-profit, nongovernmental organization. The goal of Kiron is to provide people and especially refugees, worldwide, with access to higher education and eventually graduate with an internationally accredited university degree.

Kiron open higher education

So why I believe that Kiron’s mission is my mission? Because I want these initiatives to work. We need organizations like this. We need to increase our awareness and understanding of the many complicated multi faceted conflicts that exists in our modern world. We need to be prepared for the future. We must not be satisfied to remain refugees. Instead, we must strive to become citizens of the world-and equip ourselves with the tools to continue the fight for our country and to help others to climb up the ladder of progress. Kiron allows and provides access to young people to build unique educational skills in a variety of majors and to explore new experiences overseas.

For those reasons and more, I am eager to participate at Kiron-France, and invite everyone to support the work of Kiron in general and their new office in France. They recently launched a campaign on 21 September 2016 on the Helloasso platform, where their objective is to raise up to 25,000 EUR to help students in the program and allow Kiron to continue their valuable work.

Kiron ‘s tireless efforts have provided many students access into several programs and many have found their first steps toward a world full of answers and exciting challenges. I am not one of those for now but as a refugee of education and survivor of war who found herself just because of education, I call everyone to support our right to have better access to education and to accept our request for education asylum!

http://www.manarbilal.com/
MANAR BILAL
http://www.manarbilal.com/

[1] Article 1.A.2, UN 1951 Refugee Convention (Definition of refugee adopted following World War II in response to the large numbers of people fleeing Eastern Europe).

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