From Syria With Love

Mission High School senior Kenan Mirou, who fled his home country, addresses the opening ceremony of last week’s Model U.N. meeting in Switzerland.

Kenan Osama Mirou is one of 16 Mission High School students who raised more than $25,000 to participate in the Model United Nations conference in Geneva, Switzerland, last week. The Frisc reported their story last month as they crossed the fund-raising finish line and prepared their reports and speeches. Mirou, a Syrian refugee who came to the United States in 2013, was asked to speak at the conference’s opening ceremony, which took place Jan. 10 at the United Nations’ historic Palace of Nations in Geneva.

The observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is now the start of what many groups and schools call Peace Week. We can’t think of a better way to honor the week’s lessons, remembrances, and celebrations than to present Mirou’s eight-minute speech in its entirety.

Dear Secretary General, dear ambassadors, dear honorable guests, teachers, and participants of FerMUN 2018, dear friends:

I am honored to stand here today at the 2018 Model United Nations Conference. It is a dream come true to plant my feet on the most important tribune, for me as a student, in the world. My name is Kenan Osama Mirou, I’m a 17-year-old 12th grader attending Mission High School in San Francisco, California, and I come from the oldest inhabited capital of the world, Damascus, Syria.

I fled my country back in 2012 when a series of events unfolded that conflicted great danger upon my family’s lives, as well as my own. If you did not know, the bloodshed and massacres that have happened and are still happening in my country were last seen back in the world wars.

What is happening in Syria has driven over 7 million people out of the country and displaced 14 million others. Those 7 million people are scattered in places all over the world, and my family was destined to end up in the United States.

I was able to continue my education as if I was still back home, because I taught myself English by translating books and movie subtitles since I became able to read and comprehend back in 2nd grade. But, I was still disconnected from the people around me culturally. So I decided to enter a course pathway started by Peer Resources in my school titled “Critical Thinking and Teaching for Social Justice.” The course is taught by our wonderful teacher and educator, Ms. Fakhra Shah. Through that course I was exposed to issues in society that I was never aware of before. And the second year of the course, which is what I’m taking this year, is all about adversity and fighting for social change.

The Mission High delegation at the U.N.’s Palace of Nations.

This opened up my mind to a global scale, and I was able to better understand the world around me and all of its problems, not just mine. And that is why it is such a pleasure to be here, because I remember those nights sitting in front of the TV with my family and watching the conferences that happen in this sanctuary of a place, and not having a ray of hope that I might actually speak from this podium one day.

So many powerful decisions with lasting, transformative change have been made from this building, and some of the most recent decisions made by UNESCO are a great proof of that.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the full conference due to the inability to extend my passport because of the tough situation of my country. Which has led me to only be allowed to stay here until Thursday the 11th. And even though it is disappointing to have that happen after all the work I’ve done to get to be present today, it all seemed OK because I get to kick off such a valuable and rewarding event.

This would not be possible without the efforts and initiative of one of the most genuine people I have met my entire life, Ms. Florence Baudry. Her exemplary care for true representation of all people, which caused me to be chosen to give this speech, is truly apparent. Her daughter Clara, who was an exchange student in our school, was the initial connection between our school and the organizers of the conference. I would like to point out the fact that our class that is present today holds a very diverse student population that we are very proud to include. We have people with roots from Eritrea, Guatemala, Yemen, Philippines, Ireland, China, Mexico, and Syria.

“The world as shown to us looks big, but it’s really not. We come today with the message that this world is built with enough room for all of us.”

And despite any differences within us we were able to work together in the supportive environment allotted to us in the United States, under the umbrella of achievement and unity, and make this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime educational trip happen for us. The same could happen on an international scale. Imagine how powerful this world would be if we all stand together and work towards making this huge world a community for all of us. Because the world as shown to us looks big, but it’s really not. We come today with the message that this world is built with enough room for all of us, so there is no need for any conflict or blood over a spot somewhere. We should feel compelled to stand with our brothers and sisters anywhere in the world where they are being mistreated and dehumanized.

I would like to rephrase a line in the Declaration of Independence that substantiates my message here. It goes something along the lines of “those who have the power to make change, should feel responsible to do so.” And our team wanted change and wanted to spread the ideas we learn and use to better our communities — those same ideas that cemented together the base of the United States Of America. And that is why we did not give up and we did a lot of fund-raising, selling, and presentations, because what we have come to say, matters to us in ways we almost don’t understand.

But without the help of some, we honestly would not be here today. First I want to thank from the bottom of my heart the family of Julia Guiramand and Julia herself for hosting me in their warm home and helping me understand the conference and all of its parts. Second, I want to again thank Madame Florence for having my back at all times and making sure I get here and do this today. Third I want to thank the Mission High Foundation, Dropbox, and my principal Mr. Eric Guthertz for being a lending hand in fund-raising for the trip. And lastly I want to thank Madame Vellucci and every single person that listened to me today.

I stand here today on behalf of 23 million Syrians that are either misplaced, struggling, injured, or dead. To the major world and regional powers I say: Your clash of interests in Syria is a fire, and that fire is fueled by nothing but the lives and blood of innocent and weak Syrian people, and only Syrian people. And to the rest I say that we are people of peace and hard work, and our country was the only self-sufficient country in the Middle East before the war, which meant that we ate from what we grew, we wore what we sewed with our own hands, and we filled our cars and warmed our homes with our own natural resources. But plans that we were not a part of drove our country to where it is today.

So please, let’s all be a part of making this world better for those who are unable of controlling their own destiny. In the end, we are all human and we should all love and support each other. Thank you so much! Cheers!

Read the original post, “Already World Citizens, Mission High Students Head to Model U.N. debate.”

Alex Lash is editor in chief of The Frisc.

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