Yasser Abdesselam is participating in the Department of State Professional Fellows Program. Each fellow will be writing a blog post about their experiences.
“Algeria and Egypt had their fair share of conflict back in the 70’s and even in the late 2000’s. The story, for both conflicts, was about soccer—something shameful for both nations. Two of the greatest and most ancient civilizations in the world fighting over a ball of fancy rubber and leather. And the worst thing about it was that they were only supporters and not directly concerned.
In the early 70’s, Algeria and Egypt fought back to back in the war of October. Algeria was not even as near to the conflict as Egypt was but still had its sister’s back against the enemy—whoever that enemy was. Further back in history, in the late 50’s, the very first Algerian Temporary Government was established and the announcement was on the Egyptian National Radio. Was Egypt concerned or directly involved? No. Yet, Egypt stood with Algeria and supported that government around the world.
I know that you might think that this is a history lesson; it is not. This is only to show that these two great nations share much more than pointless conflicts about a pointless matter that, in its essence, is supposed to bring people of the world together and unite them. They share honorable values, sacrifices, struggles, martyrs, alliances, and more… They share history.
This is my first week within this great group of amazing people from at least 3 countries; Algeria, Egypt and the USA, and believe me when I say that the stereotypes are already broken. What people hear about important matters is not necessarily true, even false much of the time. This is my story with the Algerian and Egyptian fall delegation of the Professional Fellows Program hosted by Legacy International in Washington, D.C.
I have been with the Egyptian delegation for a week now, and they are some of the nicest international people I have ever met. Mohamed’s positive attitude, Fatma’s smile, Basma’s kindness, May’s genuineness, Nagwa’s strength, Lobna’s humor, John’s honesty, Hossein’s calmness and zen attitude, Marwa’s spontaneity and strong will, and Aya’s comprehensiveness… These things make each and every member of the Egyptian delegation, a particularly special person without whom the experience would be really different and probably not the same.
This is where it gets sad so brace yourselves. Even though we, Algerians and Egyptians alike, know that the so-called conflict was made up by some people that had interest in that happening, we still had this pre-programmed idea of what the contact would be like, some of us were even warned about getting in contact with each other and were told to avoid talking about certain matters because that would probably lead to violence. The sad thing is that Algeria and Egypt are only a few thousand miles away from each other, a few hours flight separates us and we waited until reaching the United States to unite under one roof to get rid of the built-in stereotypes.
I mentioned above three countries and I have been talking about only two, I haven’t forgotten our American friends and their help. Maryna’s constant happy attitude and positive energy, Mike’s leadership and guidance, Atefeh’s extreme kindness and Mr. Rash’s young spirit and humorous attitude. If I had to go back in time and change something in my life, I would just leave it the way it is because that is what lead me to meet these people and I am grateful to everyone involved in making this program a reality.
If I had one message to deliver to youth in the North Africa region then I would simply say: Whoever you are, reading this message, make sure that the human side of you is stronger than the patriot because a few centuries ago, the borders did not exist and a few million years ago, the continents were all one. “