By Dona Boulos
Sonia Verma, a foreign correspondent from the Globe and Mail, visited Humber College on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing issues in the Middle East, the Arab Spring revolution, and post-revolution realities, as well.
The lecture titled “Arab Spring/Arab Winter” was based on her experiences in the Middle East as a journalist.
Verma lived in Egypt for five years, witnessing the beginning of the Egyptian revolution. She also covered economic change in Latin America, issues in Afghanistan, elections in Haiti, and broadly covered the Arab-Israeli conflict while living in Jerusalem for three years.
Verma told Humber students and faculty her story of being detained during her arrival in Egypt. She said while being “journalistically paralyzed” on a curb, she realized that this new revolution would soon become a worldwide talked about headline.
The main focus of Verma’s lecture was the importance of the youth’s presence in the revolution.
“[This] generation is the majority,” said Verma.
She said that 60 per cent of the Egyptian population are under the age of 30.
Amid the uncertainty of the Arab Spring, Verma said she sees three reasons to be hopeful. First, the generation of influential young people, secondly the power of technology and social networking, and finally the involvement of women who have been silenced for many years.
“One woman I talked to in Cairo who lived in a little apartment said she sensed a sense of failure. She said ‘I feel like I’ve let my kids down, we were not able to achieve this,’” Verma told Humber News.
“It was interesting to me because she talked about the sense of fear but also the sense of guilt. Some people were completely amazed at what the young people were capable to accomplish,” she said.
“Things will change,” Verma said. “What I tried to explain in my lecture is this change has to be understood as more of a longer process.”
Being the sixth and last speaker at Humber this year, Ian Gerrie, one of many who helped organize this event and also a professor of philosophy and critical thinking, told Humber News that Verma did a great job in engaging students in a topic that is of general interest to the Humber community.
“I wasn’t surprised that we had a lot of student interest in this one,” said Gerrie. “I think part of that is the diverse backgrounds that we have in the student body and a lot of people are actually quite aware of the events happening over there.”
“I think it’s great for our series to have someone who can shed some light on events like the Arab Spring that are sometimes difficult to keep track of and to fully understand,” he said.
Verma told students and faculty about her experiences while living in Jerusalem, she said she hopes one day the Arab Spring will bloom in the Palestinian and Israeli territories as well.
“It’s an untenable situation, so things have got to change one way or the other,” she said about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“There’s been a lot of laziness on both sides. The leadership is old, its stale and I think that there will be a point when people will want change,” she said.
“Things have got to sort of give.”