Forming part of JEF Malta brings with it numerous international opportunities. Last November, I had the fortune of spending an entire week in Lyon, receiving training in informal teaching methods so as to be better equipped to deliver EU-centric lessons in schools here in Malta.
During such opportunities, however, the official training delivered by JEF (Young European Federalists) Europe is but a tiny portion of the experience. Attending any international JEF seminar or training allows you to experience the true JEF spirit through the different people present. People from different countries and cultures congregate with one common aim in mind – that of promoting and creating a more united Europe.
In Lyon, I met Qais Hatefi, a 25 year old European Cultures and Society student at the Europa Universität, in Flensburg, Germany. Qais was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, but in January 2015, at the age of 22, he fled to Germany to escape the horrors of the war. Coming from such a different background, I was intrigued by his experiences and what led him to become part of JEF.
Having been born and raised in Afghanistan, during a time of incessant turmoil, can you talk about your memories of this war?
War is a man-made hell. As someone born and raised in Afghanistan, I vividly remember all its atrocities… Hunger, illiteracy, homelessness. Innocent lives never really seemed to matter. It is very difficult to forget the feeling of foreboding every single day, knowing full well that nothing is guaranteed, unsafe in the knowledge that each second could very well be your last.
Having said that, however, I also remember hope and resilience – people rising from the ashes and overcoming all their fears to fight for what they believe in, and to protect the people they love.
How is the situation in Germany different to the one in Afghanistan?
Germany is a clear example of peace and prosperity – a place where new ideas aren’t targeted, and creativity is encouraged. I fled to Germany almost three years ago, and I now consider it my second home. The level of freedom and education available here has always fascinated me, as an outsider from a totally different atmosphere. It is only here that I have been fully able to understand what almost seven decades of peace can create!
What inspired you to join JEF, and what does this organisation mean to you?
I joined JEF because of the values that it stands for. I believe in the importance of inclusion, diversity, and unity – despite all our differences. I am also a strong proponent for the fight against populism and nationalism. Forming part of JEF has given me a further sense of belonging.
Do you consider yourself a federalist?
Although the word ‘federalist’ often has negative connotations, I believe in the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ in Europe, in all aspects, but especially on the bases of peace, equality, and justice. So, I guess I do consider myself a federalist if this encompasses within it such values and beliefs.
Do you feel that your experiences in Afghanistan have contributed in any way to you joining JEF and being pro-European?
Yes, definitely! I firmly believe that Afghanistan is rotting away because of regional issues concerning geopolitics, and not because of internal conflicts. I think it is worth fighting and advocating for a union that has maintained peace and removed the unnecessary barriers that used to divide countries and their people. It is worth fighting for the values that bind the people of an entire subcontinent together, despite all of their differences and diverse cultures. This is why I consider myself to be very pro-European – ‘United in Diversity’.
The European Union has managed to maintain security and stability within the region since its establishment in 1950. Coming from a war-torn country like Afghanistan, that is something I cannot fully wrap my head around. JEF has provided me with an outlet to be better able to work towards the unity I hold so close to my heart.