Dear Turk and Arab Youth Congress,
Thinking that I will get accepted to participate in a youth congress dedicated to Turk and Arab youths only is beyond disbelief. My application, probably one of my random applications sans contemplating if ever I will have the chance to be one of the participants, was remarkably candid, yet I answered the essay questions wholeheartedly, honestly, and with a sense of (hopefully) wittiness.
My application strives from deep curiosity and research passion to observe a culmination of cultural and intellectual exchanges among youths, with the assistance of invited learned-scholars and practitioners, of two ancient civilizations (Ottomans/Selcuks and Arabs) engraved with a rich history, cultural heritage, and a legacy of the immense contribution of intellectual stamina for the progress of the entire human civilization.
I was at awe and excited when I learned that I was accepted, especially that all participants are entitled of free return tickets and board and lodging over the entire duration of the congress. I was also amused that my second flight was a business ticket. Indeed, a large amount of financial resources is necessary for an international congress or conference to be held successful. So, thanks to the organizers particularly to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Youth Assembly.
|Poster made by the organizers.|
In the very beginning, before the congress started, there were administrative and technical hurdles and struggles that the coordinators and organizers faced. I hunched that they encountered a long bureaucratic process in waiting for approvals from authorities in receiving their budget. We were also informed that some organizers/coordinators have had familial difficulties. This was in no doubt some common obstacles especially that the organizers, as all of them admitted, were first-timers or novice.
Accepted participants were anxiously waiting for updates regarding the logistics and course-program. Some of the pathological vulnerabilities experienced by the participants were: updated information was given one to two days prior the commencement of the program (this was unacceptable since there are international recipients who needed to processed-out their visas and other pertinent preparations), some (isolated) youth participants have to find the venue (the university and dorms) themselves while most were accompanied, and confusing verbal instructions from different coordinators have taken placed upon the entry of participants inside the vicinity. However, we are hoping that, in the subsequent congresses, these problems would be overcome.
One of the disappointing news in the program was the last-minute cancellation of invited keynote speakers who have been confirmed. I was personally excited in meeting John L. Esposito, but he cancelled abruptly due to ‘unknowable’ flight issue problem(s). Even some local personalities cancelled their appearances. This is why the organizers have to resort to their back-up plans or plan B, C, or D onwards, thus affecting the entire supposedly ‘grandeur’ program. However, it was intellectual delightful to listen and learn some inputs from Prof. Dr. Heba Raouf Ezzat on ‘civil society’ and Bilal Macit on ‘leadership’.
|Certificate given by the organizers.|
The workshops were like ‘open forum’ about sharing anecdotes on social networking, electronic revolutions, and personal advocacies. I raised questions that somehow would ‘positively’ provoke the participants and directors of workshops to brainstorm on Noam Chomsky’s thesis of manufacturing consent and Howard Zinn’s quotes. But, no one bother to expound or contemplate on my inquiries despite briefly explaining them. I was interested when academicians such as Ali Murat Yel et al have opened the discussions on Muslims in the West particularly on American Muslims while I shared my thoughts on European Muslims concomitant Turkish, Arabs, and Iranians counterparts.
Although there were historical tensions between the relations of Arabs and Turks since the Arab revolt against the Ottomans or the allying of Turkey with the West since the post-Cold war era … it has come to present attention that Turkey’s political and economic relations with her eastern neighbors (mostly Arab countries) are gradually strengthening based on positive economic indicators and the determination to maintain Turkey as one of the hegemons within the region. Becoming more vocal regarding the plight of the Palestinians against Israel’s cruel unilateral occupation and suspicious ethnic cleansing, partaking to the Iranian nuclear talks, and the consideration of Arab countries in adopting a Turkish model for their transitional government phase from (military) dictatorships to democracies have all transcribed to reach an ‘insurmountable’ via media (middle way) between Turks and Arabs.
Consequently, there were explicit pluses and minuses transpired in the course of the congress. The important is I was able to share my thoughts and learn from participants whom I have the privilege to meet once and some twice including Rosen Dimov (PhD colleague I met from the Eurosphere program at Sabanci University), Vedat Yılmaz and Omar Aljuhani (fellow IMOICs, i.e. International Model Organization of Islamic Cooperation, I met in Kazan, Russia), Verena Walther (effervescent and beautiful friend from Germany), Gülay Kaplan (the workaholic coordinator and a role model for everyone), Wasif Wan (my Southeast Asian fellow), Eyüp Ersoy (PhD colleague from Bilkent University whose research is on the concept of ‘influence’), Mohammed Al-Shibany and Omar Alzwawi (two smart and suave Libyan delegates), Omar Abdurahman (with his undying and transcending principles), Tata Shengelia (and her beautiful Georgian dialect), Buğra Erarslan, Deniz Baran, Salih Gundogdu, and Ibrahim Nalcaci (they helped me in various administrative and technical things), and many honorable participants.
“We are surely proud to say that once this was just a dream, but now it has come true” as Zeyd Böhürler, the president of the organizing team, said in his speech during the closing ceremony. Definitely, this is just a beginning but a start of something big to come in the near future. I am looking forward to your future projects and youth advocacies.
More power and Godspeed!
|My photo taken by the Turk & Arab Youth Congress team,
which was posted in their official facebook account.
Nassef Manabilang ADIONG