The Girl that Changes the World

The pictures from that day are still vivid. The colors of the spring air did wonders for even iPhone photography. But I know it will only be a matter of years before the images become grainy. They inevitably do.

But one thing that I hope never fades is the impression that Ahmet Husein made on me in the middle of a bombed out hospital in Rabia, Kurdistan, Northern Iraq.

Ahmet had been the manager of the newly constructed hospital in Rabia, not far from Sinjar Mountain, when a group of men came in and told him he was being relieved of his duties. Ahmet left the hospital only later to learn that ISIS fighters had been the ones who greeted him and told him to leave. They overtook the hospital as their base of operations which not only gave them a great vantage point, but it also meant that the town of Rabia no longer had access to their much needed new hospital.

Ahmet, father of eight, had to make the call to take his six surviving children and escape by foot from the town. They made their way to a nearby village from which they were able to get in cars and make it to an even safer spot.

While they were away, the Peshmerga forces engaged with the troupe of ISIS fighters using the hospital. When I was there, you could see where the bombs had blown through the roof. You could see where ISIS snipers had set up their guns, where they had slept, which floor they used for eating, and what things they left behind in their death.

Ahmet has obviously returned home in the months since that clash had occurred, and when he saw us arrive at the hospital, he came to show us around and explain his side of the story. I was grateful for the tour, but what made even more of an impression on me was when he left for a while and returned with two of his daughters.

Bashayar (left) and Aemena (second from right) came up to meet me with their shy smiles. Ahmet presented them proudly and told me that he was excited for these girls and their futures. He was hoping that Bashayar would become a journalist, and Aemena a doctor.

These are high aspirations for a Kurdish daughter, for a daughter of the Middle East. It is a profession that commands more societal respect than teacher, or mother, or wife. They are professions that can only happen if these girls continue their education and are not married off at age thirteen or fourteen. If they are viewed as a person of inherent value rather than an item of monetary value.

Should they be a mother, or teacher, or cleaning lady, I believe that their father would still love them and be proud of them, but his hope that they would aspire for something beyond cultural expectations touched me deeply.

This, friends, is how societies and communities are going to change. This believing in the next generation, especially the girls, and supporting them in their dreams. It is helping them believe that they are capable of big things, things that will radically transform the community in ways it desperately needs.

Why can’t that little girl be a doctor? Why can’t she improve the maternal-fetal medicine of her country where shocking numbers of mothers and babies die in childbirth?

Why can’t another one become Prime Minister or President? The CEO of a tech company? New York Times Best-Selling Author?

Why can’t Bashayar be a journalist? Why can’t she share the real stories of her homeland in the living rooms of Western society? Why can’t she present at the U.N. real changes that her country needs? Why can’t she be the next Nadia Murad or Janna Jihad?

She can. But she won’t if no one tells her that she can. She won’t if she doesn’t know about the issues or how to find solutions. She won’t if she can’t read and think and ask questions.

But if she has a dad who believes in her, who champions her, who is proud of her and tells her so . . .

If a dad like Ahmet presented her with pride and proclaimed a future over her . . .

That girl could change the world.