20 Years Old in the Middle East

by Megan Connolly*

“It’s been two months since the fall of Baghdad, in countries bordering Iraq, young men and women have returned to the universities, same crowds, same questions. Everything appears normal, although nothing is as it was before.”

These are the first few lines from a documentary entitled 20 Years Old in the Middle East, a documentary that succeeds in helping Western college students understand the lives and feelings of Middle Eastern students. The only English speaker is the narrator, while the rest of the film is in subtitles.

As 20 Years Old in the Middle East travels through Jordan, Syria, Iran and Lebanon, we hear the voices of college students as they are asked questions concerning political issues.

Russia, a Jordanian college student, explains how after the fall of Baghdad, not a single teacher brought the subject up.

Abbud, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian studying in Jordan states how he has the desire to have discussions about political issues in class, but discussions like that are extremely rare. Abbud sadly proclaims that, “We’re reduced to silence here, we can’t speak freely.”

The film makes its way into a medical lecture in Syria, where talking politics is a no go. The students are asked if the presence of the U.S. worries them, and as expected, a heated discussion explodes. As the professor battles for the continuation of class, he reluctantly joins the political discussion.

Kamal, a student in Beirut, is interviewed along with his father. Kamal states, “Look at my father’s eyes, isn’t it the look of disappointment and sadness? It’s because of all the wars. It’s a hard, terrible burden.”
20 Years Old in the Middle East is a film that demonstrates the frustrations and hardships of students in the Middle East.

It is also a film that reiterates the power of youth, as it closes with a poem by Andree Chedid, “Youth, thrust you into the jungle of worlds, don’t dissipate under every cloud, don’t bend under each load, don’t let you’re dreams be unraveled, nor your vision reduced, youth hear me, your dreams are not in vain.”

20 Years Old in the Middle East plays an essential role in explaining the similarities and differences in both western and eastern youth culture. After watching this film, a Western college student will have found a better understanding and respect for their counterparts in the Middle East.

*Megan Connolly is a Moraine Valley student, who writes a regular column, “In the LRC,” for the student newspaper The Glacier. In this column, Ms. Connolly reviews and highlights new additions to the library’s collection. This article has been reprinted with permission.

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