By Reem Abdul Majeed and Mohamed Altaji, Palestinians living in Doha
Whenever asked about my favorite experience, MUN always comes to mind. The rush of the students, the excitement of the newcomers, and most importantly, the diversity of the participants all contribute to numerous experiences that will never be forgotten. This past January, the fifth annual THIMUN Qatar (TQ 2016) was added to my list of MUN conferences! However, we can get to that later. Allow me to start by introducing myself; I am a Palestinian girl living in Doha, Qatar; currently a junior at Qatar Academy and doing my first year of the International Baccalaureate (IB). My name is Reem Abdul Majid.
MUN became my single and sole passion at a young age. I always had the vision of sharing it with others with the hope that it would open their eyes as it had done to mine. One of the most memorable conferences of my MUN career so far was THIMUN Qatar 2015 (TQ 2015.) This specific conference was special to me because it had hit me in the soft spot of my heart the way no other conference had done yet!
It had taught me what it meant to be Palestinian.
Living outside of Palestine, I never had the opportunity to simply sit down and have a cup of ‘kahwe’ (traditional Palestinian coffee,) with teenagers of my age that live in Palestine. Residing outside of ‘el-bilad’ (my home country) meant giving up that right instantaneously… Until now. During TQ 2015, a Palestinian delegation graced us with their presence in attending the conference, and for the first time in my life, I learned what it meant to be from Palestine. It was even more interesting as this specific delegation came from within the 1948 borders. The Palestinian delegation came through the Online Model United Nations program (OMUN). There were only seven delegates, but this was more than enough to change my way of thinking and for that I thank THIMUN Qatar.
Now fast forward to TQ 2016. I began counting down the days down to this conference as soon the gavel hit the platform to signal the closing of the final day of TQ 2015. The days went on and on and finally, at around 120 days left for TQ 2016, I was called into my MUN Director’s office (Ms. Lisa Martin) along with my classmate and very good friend Mohamed Altaji. Mohamed is Palestinian and is also very active as an MUNer.
We were offered to mentor a Palestinian delegation of 7 delegates coming to TQ 2016 through an organization called “Seeds of Peace”. It took me by complete surprise and took me less than a few seconds to make up my mind and agree. I left the office with a feeling of euphoria asking myself questions like ‘is this real? Is this it? Mohamed and I were ecstatic. This was really happening. We could finally drink our tea and coffee with Palestinians living in Palestine.
We instantly began planning for their arrival. Two of the seven delegates were coming from Gaza, while the rest came from parts of the West Bank and Israel. Mohamed and I decided that social media was the only and best way to communicate with the delegates. So we created a Facebook group. This allowed us to introduce ourselves to the Seeds of Peace directors and the delegates themselves (the seedlings.) Through Facebook we were able to post information on how to write a policy statement and resolution. For some of the delegates, it was their first time debating in MUN so they received their first training on an online course provided by Mohamed and I. We were able to answer plenty of their questions questions and offered feedback to each piece work prior to the conference.
However, beyond MUN, Mohamed and I decided that we wanted to take it one step further and really get to know the delegates. We wanted to make friends in Palestine. So when all the planning was well and done, and the the activities booked and ready, we waited for the Seeds of Peace to arrive to Doha.
26th of January 2016…
This is a date I will cherish for my lifetime. It was the day we met the seedlings.
Mohamed and I greeted them in their hotel lobby the morning before the conference began. Hamada, Kamal, Waleed, Lisa, Mysoon, Dana and Raghad. We finally met them. We introduced ourselves in person, sat down and had breakfast with them. Instantly, stories began to be traded faster than freshly baked Palestinian fatayer (homemade baked goods) with the neighbours. They were the most amazing stories… their journey to Doha, their everyday lives, pastimes and hobbies… it did not take long for me to realize how similar, but also how very different our lifestyles were.
When we were all well fed we set off to get the day started. Mohamed and I took the delegation bowling. It is a rather common activity in Doha, but it did not seem like it was in Palestine. A bond was instantly formed. Later in the day we took them to Aspire Park, one of the parks in Doha. There, Mohamed’s family welcomed us and showed tremendous amounts of love to the delegation. Of course we had to show them Doha’s giant skyscrapers and marina, so we brought them to the corniche. As there was very little time before sunset we hopped on a dhow and took a cruise around the corniche. I will never forget the look on their faces, especially those who came from a place where visiting the beach was denied from them. We ended the day with dinner at Souq Waqif a traditional market located in the heart of Doha. In this dinner we combined the Online Model United Nations delegation, which had fifteen Palestinian delegates along with the Seeds of Peace delegation as well as each groups mentors and supervisors. This was something phenomenal! Everyone was making new friends!
The conference itself passed by in a blink of an eye. The seeds engaged in valuable debate on the important issues of the world today. Most had gone up to the podium and presented their opening speech in front of more than a hundred delegates. I would say that they were pretty popular in their committees. This was rewarding for Mohamed and I to hear. The last day of the conference ended with a cultural night hosted by TQ. It included cultural music, activities and dinner. We all danced along to traditional khaleeji music as well as the traditional Palestinian ‘debkeh’. It was a bittersweet moment.
I can now say I did drink my kahwe. However, I did not make friends from Palestine like I had wanted to…
I had made a family. And it was this that made all the difference in the world.
“THIMUN Qatar was a very unique experience for me. Getting to debate the most heated issues the world is facing and having to come up with solutions to limit and hopefully end threats to international security was both challenging and exceptional. From past experiences I thought that MUN is all about sticking to your country’s policy statement and fighting for your country’s objective; however, THIMUN Qatar showed me the importance of collaborative work with other delegates of the house even with countries that are considered “enemies” for the greater good. THIMUN Qatar motivated me to think that politics can also be done in a human way.”
– Hamada Najjar from Tulkarem, West Bank
“I’m grateful that I attended this international conference in which I made new life friends. I also learned a lot about different cultures; specifically the Qatari culture. Being Gazan was the hardest part of THIMUN. I was asked many questions about the situation and the conflict and my life, but overall this awesome experience will never be forgotten!”
– Kamal Mashharawi from Gaza
“It’s amazing how a group of random people start off as strangers, turn into friends, and become family all within a time frame of five short days…”
– Mohamed Altaji, Palestinian living in Doha