Editor’s note: Like Humans of New York’s “daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets,” Humans of CSU tells the stories of the people who populate our campus. Written by Collegian staff and told in first person from the subject’s point of view, this series aims to make each individual on campus relatable.
I was born in Denver and raised in Aurora. I lived in Jordan for a few years —when I was a baby, I was taken overseas to Jordan for about three years, and I went back when I was 13 for about a year.
It’s pretty difficult to grow up Arab in the U.S. in a post-9/11 world where my people are viewed as violent, unstable monsters who blow themselves up, especially when we’re represented by the minority. Additionally, factor in being not just Arab but Palestinian-Arab; I’ve learned my cultural identity has become a political nuisance.
I used to tell people I was Jordanian because no one knew what Palestine was.
I think when I was about 14 or 15, that was when I started to come to terms with my Palestinian identity. That was when I started to learn about what was going on overseas. That was the first time I learned what a refugee was and that everyone in my family is a refugee. I am a first-generation Arab-American here. My entire mom’s side of my family lives in Jordan and in Palestine.
I went to Palestine for the first time that I can remember when I was 15. I had been there before, but that time was the first time I could remember it. I go back every couple years.
I remember seeing the apartheid wall, which is the wall that separates Palestine and Israel in the West Bank. I can remember standing on this hill, and I could look over and see how nice the Israeli side was and how destroyed the Palestinian side was.
When we went for the first time, we got held up for hours waiting for my sister’s passport because they didn’t want to let us in.
They even have it separated to Israeli and American, and then everyone else. They even have signs that say, “Arab- and Israeli-only streets,” for areas that they deem to be more dangerous because of higher terrorist activity.
I didn’t know what I was going to study at CSU – I came in undeclared. I knew I wanted to insight change. I just didn’t know how to do that. I learned about the international studies major and looked at the classes for the major. A lot of them had to do with Palestine and Israel and I knew instantly that’s what I wanted to study with my focus in the Middle East. Ever since then, I try to advocate as much as I can for Palestine.
I learned Arabic while I was in Jordan, and I was able to pick up the levant dialect, which is what they speak in Jordan. I took Arabic here for three years and now I study it on my own.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just so much. People think that it is a religious conflict, and it’s not. At this point, it’s a conflict over human rights. All the people just want peace in that region, and it’s really sad because the idea of who a human is and who deserves human rights has become a political question.
Something that’s really big for Palestine is what is called the right of return. A big symbol of Palestinian solidarity are keys, and those are the keys to the homes that people had to leave. A lot of older people wear keys around their necks, and those are the keys to their homes before they were bombed.
I am applying for the Peace Corps, hopefully going to Morocco or Botswana. I ultimately want to create a non-profit for refugees.
I love hearing other people’s stories, and you’ve never heard a story like you’ve heard a story from a refugee. They are some of the strongest people you will ever meet that have had the hardest lives, and it really humbles you.
I consider myself to be an advocate for human rights and equality, and my ultimate goals revolve around service work and social justice.
I’m beyond proud of my ethnicity: I wear it on my heart, defend it in society and insight change through the bigotry that comes with it. “When you hear the word Palestine, I want you to think of our delicious olives, dabke dances, fresh falafel, exquisite calligraphy and rich traditions. I want you to think of a home consisting of peace, freedom and equality.”
Collegian staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.