waQas Yousafzai, Syria

January 11, 2011 | esapi-gspia

Salamalikum tout le monde,

Hope all is well in our nation’s capital and it isn’t too cold for the daily commute (my first, last and only weather reference - it had to be made as it is after all a Canadian staple of conversation)

Today I wanted to briefly write about how easy it is for Canadians to disconnect ourselves from the world at large (yes, there is more to it than US, EU and ‘hot sizzling winter get aways’ further south). As I was flying from Vienna to Damascus, the plane took a very interesting route that sparked a long drawn out dialogue in my mind. Flying in a very comfortable, almost-empty Austrian Airlines airbus, it is almost too easy to commute over the very cities that are the subject matter of countless policy documents, military and defense papers, political debates and global headlines. The plane flew over Beirut en route to Damascus, less than 150 kilometers from the West bank and 300 from Gaza, sparking a déjà vu moment from my flight over Baghdad in 2008 from Dubai. The cities have established water, electric and transportation infrastructure, active populations and from 30,000ft - the appearance of any other major Middle Eastern city. Yet, as I was flying over them I couldn’t help but think about the daily life of citizens in Baghdad under constant military oversight, or the bombings that destroyed most of Southern Lebanon including swaths of Beirut - the beautiful second oldest continuously inhabited city after Damascus. Moreover, I couldn’t help think about West Bank, Golan heights, Palestine, and the broader culturally, politically, religiously, and ethnically contentious ‘Middle east issue’. The historic and modern political and economic links between Damascus, Beirut, Tehran, Amman, Cairo, Baghdad and Jerusalem are all very complicated and require an undergraduate degree in the region’s history to even begin to understand them. Living oceans away from global military conflict zones, the average Canadian does not hear much or give a second thought to the issues plaguing other regions of our globe. In fact, as I have seen first hand, even when you do head in that general direction you can fly right over them without even realizing the significance and extent of the issues. I mean it looks just fine - what’s with all the commotion? Despite being well intentioned and making a full conscious effort to be well-informed, the regional issues of this part of the world are entirely too easy to skip. The recent disappointing Canadian performance at the U.N in October is just one symptom of this general lack of interest and global Canadian disconnect.

Arriving in Damascus, just like when I was flying over Baghdad - I once again mentally make a note to not forget about the ongoing issues and our duty as members of the global collective to work towards a prosperous and healthy state of international affairs for all. However, this time that objective can be better achieved to a much smaller degree via this internship and I whole-heartedly thank everyone involved in making it a reality.

Until next time, Masalama et Au revoir.

waQas Yousafzai
Damascus, Syria

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