In the winter of last year, I went to Turkey for an AIESEC volunteer project. Dubbed “Speaking Cafe,” it provides a place for locals to improve their conversational English. There, I met many interesting people. One of them, who was from Yemen, left a lasting impression on me. Unbeknown to me, it would become the first time I realised that war was close to everyone.
My friend, a university student, is safe studying in Kocaeli, Turkey right now. Nonetheless, he had to escape from his homeland to get there! Nowadays, Yemen is isolated with its airports closed so, after he applied for a Turkish government-sponsored scholarship, he had to get to Turkey through Saudi Arabia by bus. This route was doomed to be dangerous as, according to him, Saudi Arabia is afraid of young Yemenis people leaving Yemen and learning the latest technology and knowledge to return home to make Yemen stronger. Not surprisingly, it would be a risk for them. As anticipated, soldiers on the border stopped them and even insulted a girl in their group. Apparently, they were locked in the bus for almost two days without any drink or food until a Turkish officer came to rescue them!
When I asked my friend what the war was like in his country, he told me that there were constant airborne attacks everywhere. Once in Ramadan, an airstrike commenced after he had just finished praying without warning. All his family had to run to the basement where they communicated in complete darkness assuming their final farewells to each other.
My friend could not recall the number of air attacks he had to experience nor speculate how many times his family and compatriots would have to experience them in the future. He is lucky to have come to Turkey to study engineering where he is far away from wars. Notwithstanding, without ample effort to bring about peace to ward off such atrocities, a conflict might break out on your doorstep.
This heartbreaking story opened my eyes to tragic happenings in a fearful world. Have you heard of any similar stories? Maybe the first step to realising how close we are to our neighbours is to speak out about our interactions with them.
Written by Valentina Tu