Growing up in Egypt, I’ve long been familiar with the normalization of violence in the Middle East.
I have always been immensely proud of my Middle Eastern background. My Egyptian heritage gives me a sense of identity that I take a lot of pride in. And for good reason, as the Middle East is known for many incredible things: its great food, remarkably friendly people, extremely rich history, and so much more. It should remain known for these things, however, and not for its familiarity with violence.
Growing up in Egypt, I’ve long been familiar with the normalization of violence in the Middle East. International media outlets don’t seem to place emphasis on specific acts of violence throughout many nations in the Middle East, such as the bombings of Coptic Churches in Alexandria and Cairo. The persecution of Coptic Christians has been a documented issue in Egypt for quite some time, with specific incidents in the modern era dating back to the 1980s. My father’s side of the family are Copts, and lived in Cairo during this time with fear of torment and mistreatment. For almost a decade, hundreds of Copts have been killed in confrontations. Homes, local business and churches have been dismantled. In Minya, a city located in Upper Egypt, there have been 77 cases of targeted attacks on Copts between 2011 and 2016 . And yet, due to a failure by the Egyptian government to hold those accountable for these hate crimes, religious intolerance in Egypt continues to grow to this day. With no action being taken locally, it is up to the rest of the world to truly educate themselves on these matters and not let stereotypes portray these otherwise beautiful countries.
My mother is from Lebanon, a beautiful country that is unfortunately no stranger to tragedy. Every waking moment in her childhood was plagued with anxiety due to the civil war ongoing at the time. The war lasted 15 years, a long period of time which seemingly gave Lebanon a vulnerable identity to many on the outside looking in.
The perception and stereotyping of the violence in the Middle East is really such a shame, and whether or not matters are changing is somewhat relative. Take the absolutely tragic explosion in Beirut, which happened not even a month ago. While the world heavily discussed and mourned Lebanon when it had just happened, especially through social media outlets, the discourse seems to be dying out. And as far as efforts on social media go; while incredible nonetheless, cannot be the only thing done. Extensive research and reaching out to people close to the incidents; truly educating yourself, is far more important than a mere Instagram story.
The people of the Middle East have experienced many types of violence in its rawest form, and it’s up to the rest of the world to understand the magnitude of it all. The fact that violence in the Middle East is more common than other places in the world does not degrade the severity of it. This normalization of violence in the Middle East simply cannot go on.