Maryem, The Netherlands

Dear world,

Wake up. We are tired. Tired of living up to everyone’s expectations. Tired of being the perfect students. Tired of hearing that we have to try harder. Tired of not feeling enough. Tired of being treated as children. Aren’t you aware that we are the next generation? Aren’t you aware that tomorrow we will stand where you’re standing now? Wake up…

As long as I can remember, I have been told that I won’t make it if I didn’t get better grades in math. No matter what I did, it always came down to me not being able to solve those problems. I have never been the smart friend, but I was always there. I’ve been asking myself why schools only test intelligence. But it doesn’t matter how careful, kind and openhearted I am. As long as I am not able to do math, I won’t make it.

Stop that! I need all of you to wake up. Is this the life you will want to look back on in 50 years? Ask yourself a question: will it be worth the sleepless nights and the falling tears? The world needs more than just good grades. The world needs open minded people, kind people, ambitious people, and caring people. There is much more than being smart. We can offer you more than just our intelligence.

I get that you want your kids to get into good colleges and have good jobs. But does it have to be at the expense of our mental health?

Some of us are sad because this life wasn’t what we expected it to be.

Some of us are mad at the world.

Some of us are afraid of being judged and keep everything to ourselves.

Some of us are desperate for help but too afraid to ask.

Some of us are stressed because we have to be perfect.

We are all suffering. We are all fighting our own war. This is not the world I, as a 5 year old wishing for peace, wanted to grow up in.
The world is in danger, wars are going on, people are dying from hunger, there’s still no cure to certain diseases, and we’re losing our minds. And the truth is, we’re not going to solve those problems anytime soon. So I need all of you to invest time in my generation because we will be the ones facing those problems in 10 years.

Instead of looking for solutions, ask where you went wrong and why you keep underestimating us. We need to change now. You are running out of time and we are growing up.

Yours sincerely,

Maryem Lhajoui

Age 17, 
The Netherlands

Basma, Gaza

basma-fanunah

Dear world,

My name is Basma, and I’m a 22-year-old woman from Palestine. Maybe your country is a place you make up in your own mind, something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it’s not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you’ve seen. I’m not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don’t have to be like anyone else. I’m walking on the wall, and nobody can stop me.

Let me tell you a story, woman to woman, about my country.

If we all really saw war, and what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be impossible to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the distorted dead bodies of schoolchildren killed in my country, “Palestine,” and listen to the laments of their parents and relatives, we, as women, would not be able to repeat clichés we use to justify war. This is why war is carefully sanitized. This is why we are told about war’s perverse and dark thrill but are spared from seeing war’s consequences. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic and entertaining. But, wars kill the beautiful memories inside us. I have lived through three wars and luckily I survived. I believe what helped me miraculously survive is the tears in my dad`s eyes, the prayers of my mom, and the strength and anger I felt when I saw our demolished house. The image of that devastation and the memories of the dear people who died in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza are the most horrible experiences of my young life.

Despite everything, we still have hope of fighting and striving for justice for our country, and ourselves because we want to live in peace. Wars are not the end of the road, but war makes you more rational, knowing life is fraught with difficulties. If you give up, you will completely collapse. I strive every day to create a better future for my family and me. Females here face a lot of troubles during our daily life, but we believe that we are born as free people. Without the support from our parents we wouldn’t be able to function in our societies.

Therefore, I ask all women around the world to be themselves and not be subject to the decisions of their communities; stand and fight for your rights like women in Palestine.

We are strong, each in our purpose, and we are all stronger together.

Thank you

Basma Fanunah

22, Palestine

Lauren, USA

 Dear World,

Look at your hands. Now close your eyes. Run your fingers along the bones of your other hand. Four fingers, probably. Three knuckles each. One thumb, one joint. Flesh and bone and blood pumping underneath the surface.

Open your eyes. What you see now: nails painted, or not; skin pale or dark, or a shade in between; one finger missing, or three, or all of them. We live in a world where what we see with our eyes open—without looking deeper—determines the value of your life, rather than the incontrovertible truth that all humans have equal value.

I urge you to take a second, and imagine that you have hands that are different from your own.

As a man, imagine that your hands are too small to fight off a man twice your size when he corners you, and the justice system’s response is to blame what you were wearing.

If your hands are pale, imagine them a couple shades darker, and imagine that just that extra little bit of melanin means that you make significantly less money per year, if you’re not killed at a traffic stop.

Imagine being born with hands that look like they belong to someone else, someone who is not you but who you see in the mirror, and being subjected to violence for which restroom you choose to use.

Would the words those hands wrote be different? Would it change the people to whom you offered a hand or closed a fist?

Everyone has a wealth of experience different from our own that we cannot possibly have had. People may do things that seem indefensible to you, but that they think necessary or obvious. We are all the good guys in our own story, even when we disagree. And the only way to agree—to stop killing other people for things that they cannot control—is to listen.

Close your mouth and listen. Acknowledge that there are people with perspectives that you don’t have, and that you should listen to them. You do not have the right to speak for someone else.

When you open your mouth again, make sure it’s not against people whose voices have been systematically silenced by the world. Make sure it’s in defense of them.

No one can make a scapegoat of a person that you have chosen to understand.

We will never all agree. There will never be a world that contains a homogenous people, devoid of disagreement—and what a boring, useless world that would be. But difference isn’t a good enough reason for hate. You just have to listen first, and open your hands.

With love,

Lauren Smith

Age 22, USA

 

Basira, Afghanistan

Dear world,

I am in a comparatively very secure place now, in United States, than I was two weeks ago, in Afghanistan. During the one and half month when I was there, everyday the news talked about the war, Taliban, ISIS and innocents life taken. This has been happening for over thirty years in my country, and people are almost getting used to hearing it. In the U.S. people go to funeral of relative or friends once in awhile. However my friends in Afghanistan were not able to attend funerals of all their friends and classmates after the attack in the American University of Afghanistan, because some were overlapping and there was not enough time.

There are many other countries that are going through similar insecurities like Syria, Somalia and Palestine. Thousands of innocent children, men and women civilians are being victims everyday, when they did not contribute to the causes and continuing of conflict.

Obviously, there are many other crucial problems in the world as well, but war has always been unfair to the most powerless people. The huge powers begin wars for their own interests, but the powerless and the sideless always loss.

I know my generation will probably never wake up a to a day without war, but I try to work to create the hope of world peace for the next generations. I am thankful of those who do the same in their own ways and hope more people join in. We are all humans, and our ability to feel compassion makes us special, and it is better to stay humane rather than act like fierce living beings.

Basira Daqiq

Age 18 Afghanistan/NY