In the communication school IHECS (Brussels), first-year master students take part in “Embrace it”, a project aiming at raising awareness on Syrian refugees’ situations in their host countries. For that purpose, Feras Abo Dabboseh has been invited one week at IHECS to give a lecture on Syria’s history. For Feras, the Syrian conflict is not just a chapter in a History book. This conflict is part of who he is. This conflict is what led him here, in Brussels, to stand in front of a class and share with us his story.
How are you feeling after teaching a class of twenty students? Was it a first for you?
Yes, it was a first! I always wanted to be a teacher, but it was not possible in my country so I’m really happy I had this opportunity.
Why is it important for you to teach Belgian students about the history of Syria?
Because it explains the current refugee crisis and this crisis is directly linked to the rising of the populist political parties. I feel it’s important that they learn about the situation from someone who has lived it, someone without a political agenda. I actually feel entitled to speak about it because I have a master’s degree in political sciences and I wrote my thesis about the Syrian situation, so I have an academic perspective of this conflict. There are a lot of emotions linked to the Syrian conflict and my academic background helps me to be more objective and detached from the emotional part, even if it is impossible to erase it completely.
What do you hope will come out of this project?
I hope that students will be more informed and can become themselves ambassadors in order to explain our situation to the people around them. I also hope that it will eliminate the “fear factor” about refugees, that they will see we are just like anyone else.
How can this fear factor and the stereotypes associated with refugees be eliminated?
Well, this project is a good way start, but we should also focus on what brings us all together. According to me, culture actually is the best way to connect people. Through culture we can bound with each other on a human level. Everyone can enjoy music, a novel or a good movie for example. We should concentrate on what connects us all together. We should also remember that we are all humans but born in different places and living in a different context.
Are you settling to your life here in Brussels?
Yes, I love to live here. Brussels is a nice city, it’s green, diverse, I don’t feel like a stranger! I can’t say that it feels like home yet, but at least I feel welcomed. It’s weird to say but I actually got used to not having a home. I was born in Kuwait, then my family moved to Palestine because of the war. But then the war started in Palestine and we moved to Syria… and well, you know what happened next. I was born a refugee. I don’t have any nationality.
Upcoming federal elections in Belgium are happening in May 2019. What would you say to a student who plans on voting for a party opposed to immigration?
I would remind them the history of Europe. If you vote for a far-right party, you might end up with the same situation as sixty years ago. Europe has lived its darkest hours when nationalisms were in power and when countries were divided but it is strong and great when they are united and when they believe in human values.