The conflicts in the Middle East are thousands of miles away, but Izzeldin Abuelaish thinks North Americans need to take responsibility for them anyway.
“What is happening in the Middle East impacts the whole world, and we need to open our eyes to look around, to ask and to learn. What can we do?” he said. “It’s time for all of us to look around and to work collectively because it’s our [collective] world. We need to learn about what is happening there — not to [place] blame, but to take responsibility.”
Abuelaish, founder and president of Daughters for Life, will give a lecture titled “Preserving the Middle East Through Philanthropic Initiatives” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.
Daughters for Life seeks to promote peace and stability in the world through the support of women’s education in the Middle East. To that end, the organization provides scholarships to young women of all religions who are citizens of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel, among others, and who plan to pursue undergraduate and graduate education in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Bangladesh.
“Women are the main pillar and the main agent of change in any community,” Abuelaish said. “Women and women’s education is the stabilizer and equalizer in promoting understanding.”
The organization was founded in memory of three of Abuelaish’s daughters, Bessan, Mayar and Aya, who were killed when an Israeli tank shelled his home in the Gaza Strip. According to their website, Daughters for Life “honors their love of life and learning” by promoting Middle Eastern peace through the empowerment of women.
“Women’s education is vital because we can’t equalize between the one who knows and the one who doesn’t,” Abuelaish said. “If you go to any country, and you want to see the development of that country, ask to see about the level of women’s education. Don’t ask about the GDP, about the income, about the military power. Ask about the level of women’s education and women’s role in decision making in politics. The more we have women, the more that country is developed.”
Abuelaish is also a physician and author of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey.
Through his work and experiences in Gaza, Abuelaish has come to see the education of women as the most effective means of ending the kind of violence that killed his daughters.
“The safety of our world, the freedom of our world, is the responsibility of all,” he said. “We look forward to all people coming to join this holy message of supporting education of girls and women in the Middle East and the world, because it’s the most efficient and effective means for the change to make the world a free and healthy and happy one.”