In the sea there are crocodiles

Sent On: 
Tue, 2019-09-17
Newsletter Number: 

I love interns who take initiative, and South Korean intern Junghoon Lee was such an intern. He assisted with the launch of our Learning Center for youth who lack access to opportunities elsewhere in Egypt to obtain the British International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). We have chosen this diploma because it is internationally recognized and therefore represents the best secondary school education for lower income migrants and refugees in Egypt.


The consequences of a lack of education are evident in Egypt. South Sudanese refugees have formed gangs in Cairo that target other Africans due to their lower status in society. Members of these gangs are generally uneducated and have no income. Lori Lawson, the principal of our Learning Center has addressed this issue head on after instances of harassment against a number of the Eritrean refugee students attending our Learning Center.


The best method to keep refugees from joining these groups is to provide them access to education. Egypt is not unique in regards to these challenges. Junghoon Lee has written two articles about Korea addressing issues related to Muslim immigrants. Please click here for the link to the newsletter on these two interviews.


Junghoon was deeply moved reading Fabio Geda’s book ‘Nel mare ci sono i cocodrilli’ (In the sea there are crocodiles), which details the successful integration of Afghani political refugee Dr. Enaiatollah Akbari (1989) into Italian society and views this case as an example that Korea could follow in order to work towards the integration of refugees into Korean society. Dr. Akbari came as a 15-year old to Italy and was fortunate to continue his education there. Thanks to the support of former intern Hyeonuk Park, Junghoon arranged a meeting and was able to fly to Italy to interview both Dr. Akbari and Mr. Geda. He was received in Milan by Italian journalist and friend of AWR Giulia Cerqueti, who directed him to Turin, where the interview took place.



   Junghoon received by Italian journalist Giulia Cerqueti  Junghoon during the interview with Dr Enaiatollah Akbari


Dr. Akbari now speaks Italian fluently and has fully integrated in Italian society. He is grateful for what he has been able to achieve and wants to encourage others to accept one another’s differences.


“I want to show all human beings how big this universe is. Starting from the moon, Mars, Jupiter… than out to the solar system… We should realize how big and mighty this universe is, and we are all sons of the universe (Perche tutti siamo figli delle stele). Pitted against the mightiness of the universe, how petty and childish it is to discriminate and hate each other just because of differences.”



From left to right Dr. Enaiatollah Akbari, Junghoon and Fabio Geda


Dr. Akbari argues that integration of refugees is possible when those individuals work to become good citizens of their host country. “I believe every nation needs new citizens and every nation wants hard-working, diligent and honest people. Therefore, I think what migrants can show to the new society would be being happy, smiling, being generous, and out of all, achieving something great out of their life. Immigrants could and should do their best to make the society that accepted them a better place to live for both immigrants themselves and the original residences who embraced them.”


Please read the full text of his interview here.


While obstacles (or crocodiles) certainly exist, we can overcome them, and quality education is key in meeting these aims. Dr. Akbari is a positive example of what education can do for refugees. For this reason, it is essential to give the refugee children in our Learning Center a chance. We are seeking support, whether financial or in the form of volunteers. The truly beautiful moment in this journey will come as we see these students, many of whom have suffered from a lack of opportunities to further their education, go on to graduate and become meaningful actors in society, regardless of the country where they ultimately settle.



Cairo, September 17, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report