Secularism and Liberalism in the Middle East: Conversation with Ahed Al Hendi (Syria) and Faisal Al-Mutar (Iraq)

February 10, 2015

L to R: David Keyes, Faisal Al-Mutar, Ahed Al Hendi. CREDIT: Gusta Johnson

Introduction

DAVID KEYES: Welcome, everyone, to the Carnegie Council. Thank you, Joel, for hosting us.

This is a special event. We are going to be talking about secularism and liberalism in the Middle East, what the free world can do to support human rights activists on the front lines.

My name is David Keyes. I'm the executive director of Advancing Human Rights.

We have two very interesting guests today.

To the far left is Ahed Al Hendi. Ahed and I have been working together for years. He fled Syria in 2006 and traversed around the Middle East, spent some time in Jordan and Lebanon and a few other places. He was jailed under Bashar al-Assad. You will tell us a little bit more about your own experience coming to America and what you are working on today.

Faisal Al-Mutar is relatively new to Advancing Human Rights and Movements.org. He founded the Global Secular Humanist Movement and he recruited over 300,000 followers on Facebook to his movement. He is a big fan of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and a defender of atheism and secularism in a place where those ideas are all too rare.

First, Ahed and Faisal, thank you for joining us today.

Remarks

DAVID KEYES: Faisal, we'll start with you. What I'm curious about is both of you grew up in illiberal societies. Both of you grew up under dictatorships. Tell us a little bit about what brought you to where you are today, what influenced you, and tell us a little bit about your personal journey coming to America.

FAISAL AL-MUTAR: I came actually just two years ago to the United States as a refugee under political asylum, after losing my brother and my cousin in the civil war back in Iraq. I lived under the two main phases, Saddam's dictatorship when I was a child and when the civil war happened, after the blow-up of the al-Askari Mosque, between Sunnis and Shias.

What motivated me to be an activist has actually little to do with the losing of my brothers and more to do with the Iraqi elections. When the first Iraqi elections happened in 2005, I was immensely worried that if a group of people who are filled with revenge, namely the Shia Islamic parties, were going to take over power in Iraq, they would be discriminating against the rest. So I was very much in favor of inclusive secular government. Iraq has a long history of many different factions and many different sects. I thought then—and I still do, obviously—that secularism and separation of religion and state is the best way to protect people and religion together. So that has been my main motivation for being an advocate and vocal pretty much since 2005.

Obviously, being a secular activist is not easy at all. Once I received a death threat from a Sunni and a Shia in the same week. Then I wrote an article and I said, "I am a uniting factor in Iraqi society. I brought all sects together."

If you look at what is going on now with ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and the discrimination that Sunnis face from the government and Yazidis from the government, as well as ISIS, you will see that the need for secularism is much more than it was, and we have to push as hard as we can for it, without losing part of our tradition and part of our religion, but still maintaining values that can put all people together. What would be uniting us is shared common values versus our sectarianism.

DAVID KEYES: Ahed, you grew up in a neighboring country. What got you in prison in the first place, what got you out, and tell us what happened after that?

AHED AL HENDI: First, back to your first question, about how we came from an illiberal society. I would say that we do have some significant segment of the community in Syria who are liberals. But the problem is they are voiceless, they have nobody to help them, they don't have any type of technique of how to organize themselves. I believe this is why you could be playing a big role in helping them, organizing them in that.

About my personal story, I was a student in Damascus University. We had, let's say, the dream of expressing our thoughts. Our ideals were simple, to just be able to say something in public without being harassed, without going to prison.

So we founded a small group called Syrian Youth for Justice, at Damascus University, for two reasons. First, we were against the Assad kind of dictatorship. The regime of Assad was leaving the campus in Damascus free for groups like Hezbollah, like Hamas, where they were able freely to express their thoughts, they were able freely to recruit other people with the support of the government. We saw that there was a sort of theocracy, like these type of thoughts and ideas were flourishing under the control of the government, while we, the secular students and the liberal students, were sent to prison.

The reason that I became an activist is because my friends, eight of them—all liberal, from different Syrian sects—were sent to a military prison. We didn't know their whereabouts. They were denied access to a lawyer, no visitation. We thought they were dead.

So we came up with this idea. We were unfortunate that the regime found out about our activity. I got arrested. The fortunate part of that is that I came to the United States. I was jailed in Syria and I was granted refugee status later to come here. I spent 40 days in a prison. I was one of the lucky ones, because usually in Syria you would spend a couple of years. There was some pressure that led to my release.

But I couldn't handle it after they released me. Every week I had to go to the station of the intelligence in Syria to report about my activities, what I'm doing. I stayed in this situation for three months. I was able to flee to Jordan. I stayed in Jordan for a month, then to Egypt, then to Lebanon. Finally, I was granted refugee status to the United States. I have been living here for five years. I'm working on Movements now trying to help activists who are like me, in Syria and others.

Back then I would say, if I would have a platform like Movements, for instance, or I would have a network of people in the West to help me and help our group—how to organize ourselves, how to do messaging, how to do media campaigning—I think that would be a great thing. I would never have thought to see such a thing back then.

DAVID KEYES: A lot of people, when they look at the years after the Arab Spring and the revolutions in the Middle East, one of the claims that I hear most is that there are no liberals in the Middle East, that it's a choice—and it's a binary choice—between militarists like Sisi, and Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, and it's either a dictatorial Saudi king or it's supporters of bin Laden.

What do you say to that claim? Are there liberals in the Middle East in any significant number? If not, why?

AHED AL HENDI: Of course there are. I know hundreds of people in Syria, also in Lebanon, and Faisal knows people in Iraq. The problem that we face as a secular or as a liberal in the Middle East is that nobody is backing this community.

If you look in Syria, for instance—I'm following it closely—the Islamists are supported either by Saudi Arabia or by Qatar. The secularists, the liberals—even the State Department programs—I have seen a lot of State Department programs that are funding groups inside Syria, and unfortunately a lot of them are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. These groups are already getting funds and support from countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and also businessmen in the Gulf. Also, they were able to get some funding from the State Department.

The other thing is, Islamists in Syria have a good network with other Islamists in the United States and Europe. For instance, I know a lot of stories where Islamists in Syria would communicate with other Islamists here in the United States who have been living in the West, have gotten a Western education. They help them in how to write, for instance, proposals, how to apply for grants, while the secularists don't have this network of people who could help them.

In our country, we have been living under a dictatorship for 40 years. We don't have any education about how to organize ourselves, how to do campaigns, how to organize protests or campaigns. This is a big problem. The people there need help from people in the West, people who have Western values, believe in democracy, liberalism.

And don't think that people there either follow dictators or radicals. No. I believe a lot of people there are liberal. They watch American movies. They care about Western culture. They read John Locke, John Stuart Mill.

DAVID KEYES: Sometimes Jon Stewart himself.

Let me challenge you, Ahed. It's nice that you know hundreds of people, but leadership matters. It's not just about knowing some people. Amongst this democratic opposition, are there people you know that you think could be leaders of secular and liberal movements? What's the status of leadership in the Middle East today of these democratic forces?

AHED AL HENDI: Any secular leader who enjoys popularity—it's not an accident. If you Google their name, you would see a huge attack against them by the regime and by the Islamists, a huge campaign.

Recently, for instance, we had a story and, I think, a movement to help a secular leader in Syria called Kamal Labwani. He spent 10 years in prison. There are a lot of photos and YouTube videos of people holding him on their shoulders in Syria, celebrating him. We helped the guy to publish an article in The Daily Beast speaking about the idea that in Syria—in all the Arab world—they always say that our problem of reform is because we have an enemy now, we have a war against Israel, which is all lying.

Kamal Labwani came and wrote an article publicly and he said, "No, we don't have any problem with Israel. We need to live in peace. We need to live in a democratic country. Israel is our neighbor." After he wrote this article—this is brave to happen in the Middle East—Kamal Labwani visited Israel. He went there and he met with members of the Knesset. Hundreds of people were saying, "It's great, what you have done, because this is a breaking of the taboo."

It's not only visiting Israel. For here, it's a very normal thing. For us, in a country like Syria, when a leader would go and visit Israel, this is a huge and major thing, because he's breaking this taboo, this ideology that we have an enemy: "The reason we are not progressing is because we have an enemy, and the enemy, which is Israel, all the time they are conspiring against us."

This guy was brave enough. He went there and he challenged all of these Islamists. He spoke from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem, and he said, "No, this is not our community; this is not our society."

DAVID KEYES: I should also say that on Sunday I wrote a piece in the Washington Post with Natan Sharansky, and we quoted Kamal Labwani. In reading his letters from prison, it's striking to see how accurate his predictions were. At a time when Western leaders were talking about Syria as a beacon of stability and John Kerry, in 2010, was talking about how Syria was taking good-faith measures and was going to be closer to the West and was a force of stability, from within his prison cell, Labwani was warning that Syria was headed towards civil war, that the dictatorship was extremely brutal, and mass death and chaos would be the result of the Assad dictatorship. It turned out that he was a lot more accurate than the so-called wise men of the West.

Faisal, what is your assessment of leadership amongst these—what I hear from people about atheists in the Middle East is, "Sure, you can find a handful of them, but they have no chance against Qatari-, Yemeni-, and Saudi-funded Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They are bound to lose, so why even back them?"

What do you think about that?

FAISAL AL-MUTAR: I'm actually much more optimistic. When I started the Global Secular Humanist Movement, I started having connections with a lot of activists from the Middle East. There are actually, especially within the young generation—the percentage is rising. Now, with the rise of Islamic extremism and so on, there is a lot of pushback. Many people are realizing that religious fundamentalism can lead to terrible consequences.

Yes, the battle is so difficult, and many people are realizing—but at the same time, I would say, the zeitgeist—even in Iraq, people are very much disappointed with the religious leadership when it comes to al-Maliki and his continuous failures, as well as with the Sunni extremists, when they sided with al-Qaeda and ISIS. Al-Qaeda now, by the way, are the new liberals in the Middle East. ISIS are the extremists, and al-Qaeda is saying, "Whoa, these guys are too crazy." That says a lot about what ISIS actually believes in.

But when it comes to leadership, that is actually a very good question. One of the main problems is that there is a little disorganization within these liberals and secularists, and they need to be brought together under one leadership. Also, one of the main things about atheism is that it's not a cult and atheists are much less likely to follow someone as their leader. Everybody thinks of himself as a god, just like cats.

But at the same time, when people like Iyad Jamal Al-Din show up and Ayad Allawi, who is the leader of the Iraqiya political coalition—when he tries to speak about inclusive society and Sunnis and Shias brought together and so on, you will see that there are a lot of people rallying behind somebody who actually gets this done, brings all the people together. This is our coalition. You will see that there are a lot of people saying, "You know what? This is what we have always believed in. Here's a party that I'm going to vote for."

But the main challenge, as Ahed was mentioning, is that you have the Islamists, the Sunni and Shia parties, the Sunnis financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the Shias financed by Iran. They are pretty much the two actors of evil. Iraq and Syria and Lebanon are countries stuck in the middle between these two major battles.

Unfortunately, while Islamists have pretty much a mosque in every district that they can utilize as a venue to preach their own ideology, the secularists don't really have this venue. One day there was a secular conference in Baghdad that they had in a hotel where the entrance fee was $500. The Islamists have their mobility. They can make a free event for anyone in the district to come and eventually vote for them.

What is generally needed for these secularists is organizing, and they have to also have a sense of support, of solidarity, from the Western world—and not necessarily from the Western world, but sometimes from the Eastern world, who probably don't know that the other guy actually exists.

When I started writing and publishing about my secular values, I thought that I was the only one. I thought I was the crazy one. But then I started getting emails from many people, "Look, this is what I also believe in," and things of that sort.

What they need is a sense of solidarity and a sense of support. A case like Raif Badawi has also been a proven case of—leave aside the campaigning done by us when we published his wife on The Daily Beast or Amnesty International always making protests about it. There are a large number of Arabs rallying around Raif Badawi as well. Raif Badawi is kind of a symbol for liberty and liberal values and reforming Islam in the Muslim world.

There are lots of people in Iraq and Jordan and Lebanon also protesting over there. They realize that there are more than them, and now they are getting organized.

DAVID KEYES: For those of you who don't know, Raif Badawi is a young Saudi online activist who has been sentenced to lashes and prison time for essentially being a liberal and for writing against theocracy and dictatorship. His wife lives in Canada. One of our board members, Irwin Cotler, who was justice minister of Canada and a serving MP [member of parliament] in the Canadian government, is now his international counsel and meets frequently with his wife.

You mentioned Iyad Jamal Al-Din, who is a Shiite theologian. He served in the Iraqi Parliament for several years and survived at least seven assassination attempts. One of the things he told Ahed and me is that when his house was blown up by extremists, he felt that he didn't get the support that he needed from the free world.

I want to put the facts that you have presented in the broader context of geostrategic relations. First of all, do you feel that liberals and secularists in the Middle East have been betrayed by the free world? Do you think they have been abandoned? Do you get upset when you see these certain political alliances that people say have to happen for oil or for arms or for stability? What role should the free world be playing in backing people like you in the Middle East?

AHED AL HENDI: I wouldn't say betrayed, but I would say that a lot of countries, Western countries to be precise, did not care about the liberal communities there. I'll give you an example.

I once was in a briefing with the State Department and we put together a strategy for how to support liberal groups inside Syria. Then the response came that "No, we don't support certain types of groups or certain types of ideologies." We said, "Okay, fine." Then when we looked at the names of the organizations that they are supporting inside Syria—there is a TV station supported by American taxpayer money, and all the programming that it has is Muslim Brotherhood propaganda. These people don't need support. They already have Al Jazeera. They already have a lot of channels to do that.

A lot of the European and Western governments did not care about these liberals. They think we don't exist. They think that we should maybe work with the Muslim Brotherhood because they are powerful. I think by doing that, by just thinking that the Muslim Brotherhood is powerful, they are empowering them, maybe with intention, maybe without intention.

I think you could do a lot for these people. You could help them with how to organize themselves, how to write about themselves. As I mentioned, Kamal Labwani, when he just got the chance to write in American media outlets, The Daily Beast, he was able, weeks after that, to go to Israel and make his case public and speak about what he believes in.

With a little support, we can make a big change, by supporting these people. I believe there are plenty of them in the Arab world.

FAISAL AL-MUTAR: I would go further. I would say that liberals in the Middle East have been betrayed by the liberals in the United States, in the free world and have been left out. Maybe one of the reasons is because many people don't think that there are liberals to begin with—also because there is already an established Islamist party, so they think, "You know what? We're going to go with the safe bet. These guys are already organized, and we're going to go with them and listen to what they say."

I don't know if you are familiar with the debate that happened between Ben Affleck and Sam Harris on Bill Maher's show. Obviously, Ben Affleck has good intentions and everything, but at the same time, what he was trying to stop was what Sam Harris was generally talking about, which is that we should support reformers and moderates in the Muslim world. You see that many of the liberals stand against that, even though that may sound very common-sense. We should support people who hold the same progressive values as we do. But at the same time, they either deny that there is a problem to begin with or they always try to shift the blame from people who we should actually help, and they seem to think it's all our fault, and we should not mingle in this region, we should not help anyone over there and let things sort out by themselves. That, I think, is a very wrong approach to things.

The people who are fighting on the front lines right now need our help and need support of the people who hold similar principles. But, unfortunately, that's not the case.

DAVID KEYES: My last question to you guys is, 10 or 20 years from now when we look back and people like you are trying to build more tolerance in the Middle East, trying to empower reformers and moderates, what, in your mind, is the solution to get there? It seems like America is damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they get involved, people say, "You are too interventionist." If they don't, they say, "How come you weren't standing up for the right people?"

In order to build liberalism, in order to confront theocracy and dictatorship, what is needed, practically, in your view?

AHED AL HENDI: It's a huge question. For instance, what people over there need, the first thing is, support with media. It's essential. In the Arab world, people rely on media, primarily the TV stations, to get their information. So far we don't have any liberal TV station that airs into the Arab world. Even Alhurra TV, which is a station supported by the State Department—it's American propaganda, let's call it this way—they are so shy to host a liberal or they are so shy to host a secular on the TV station. These seculars or liberals speak in American values. They would say, "No. If we do that, we'd look like we're mingling or intervening in your affairs," or "It looks like we're supporting one side and another."

So I think media, campaigning—help them in how to organize themselves, how to write proposals, for instance. In Movements, we receive tons of requests from people.

For instance, in Syria, there is a women's group. They want to establish a group to empower women in Syria. They came to Movements and they posted their request. I contacted them. "We don't know how to write proposals. We never had this education. We don't know how to do it. Could we find someone to help us do that?"

We have individuals in the United States, in the West, to at least look at this platform, which is now getting really huge—a lot of people are signing up and posting requests—to see how can we help them, individual to individual. I could help you edit your writing. I could help you with your proposal. I could help you get published in an American newspaper.

This is how we could help them, I think.

FAISAL AL-MUTAR: To quote my hero, Thomas Jefferson, he said, "I'm a firm believer in luck. And I've found that the harder I work, the luckier I get." I obviously believe in the concept that working hard and empowering individuals is definitely the key.

Back to how the idea of crowdsourcing of Movements has been working very beautifully, back to the case of Raif Badawi, I know his wife personally. She sent me the article in Arabic. I'm a terrible translator. Somebody on Movements said, "You know what? I can translate from Arabic to English." She's Egyptian, and she translated it. Then there is a professor in linguistics who said, "You know what? I'm very good at editing," and he took that English article. Then we have a partnership with The Daily Beast, and The Daily Beast published it and it came on the front page for many days. It got thousands of shares.

Back to how we can help, I think that with the Movements platform, it's kind of different than what I call the trickle-down human rights approach, in which you have governments or organizations thinking what the activists there need versus listening to the demands of the activists. That's what we generally do through the requests. If you look at the website and you see the read stuff, you will see that you can actually connect to the activist himself or herself and listen to their demands. Many of the Americans who grew up in, thank goodness, the secular world, the Western world, are stuck in a different mentality or have different approaches to solve their problems versus what the activists there need, because they are in constant danger and so on.

With Movements—that's one of the reasons I joined this platform, the ability to listen to the activists directly and know what their demands are. Some of their demands can be approached from an individual perspective, that this person just needs editing, this person just needs a translation, this person just needs media exposure. "I'm a journalist and I write for Vice News, and I can make this guy famous." Unfortunately, most of the media makes terrorists famous. Most people, I think, in the street know more about Osama bin Laden than they know about Raif Badawi. Another Baghdadi—I'm from Baghdad—Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is more famous than I am. So you will see that the terrorists get a lot of media exposure, and other people are not well known. There is no sense of solidarity.

But look at the case of Raif Badawi, when there is so much media attention on this case and also Karim al-Banna  in Egypt, and these dictatorships. Raif Badawi was lashed 50 times, but when they saw continuous pressure and continuous protests and so much media coverage, even the Saudi Arabian government, which I put at the top of aristocratic dictatorships, started bowing to the continuous pressure. They're like, "Oh, we don't want to look like the bad guys to the whole world," and they started reducing the lashes, and afterward, after Friday, they stopped lashing him.

Imagine if we are going to make every activist famous and every leader famous, and they would get all this constant pressure, all this constant solidarity from the world, in which people like me who are standing up and fighting against al- Qaeda—al-Qaeda would think twice before they attack me, because they will think, "If we get this guy, if we're going to behead this guy, there is going to be that much media attention and the people in the Western world are going to care and we're going to face consequences."

But when these activists get killed and nobody knows about them and nobody is there to help them and they are left out, al-Qaeda is still continuing to do their killings.

AHED AL HENDI: All of these tyrannical groups and regimes, they also believe in conspiracy theories. When they see a guy being interviewed by CNN, when they see a secular movement all over the media, in the Western media, they would think, "Oh, these groups are important." They would really be more careful.

I'm not saying al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda doesn't give a damn. I mean other theocracies, other radical groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. I think they are one of the major oppressors in the region.

Questions

QUESTION: I'm Yaron Schwartz. I'm originally from New Jersey, but now I live in New York City.

You talked a lot about the pressure coming from Western media, but I'm interested in if you feel that there is also a great deal of pressure from other places within the Middle Eastern world so that when something gets picked up by Al Jazeera, that's when you see the conversation changing among authoritarian governments, or if you feel that the conversation is more influential when it's in the Western media.

AHED AL HENDI: Al Jazeera played a major role in mobilizing people. But mobilizing them to a good cause or a bad cause? I myself would say to a bad cause.

In Egypt they played a big role in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. They played like a PR platform for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The same in Syria. In Syria they made horrible stuff. In Syria, at the beginning of the uprising I was interviewed a couple of times by Al Jazeera, the same as some other liberals. But when we were hosted on Al Jazeera, we always felt they tried to make us look like we're not credible people, while, at the same time, when they host Islamists, they give them a lot of time, they give them a lot of hours to go and speak. They do a lot of reports about them, and you would think from the reports like they are doing an election campaign for their election.

So, yes, the Arabic media played a major role, but I don't see it's a positive role; more like a negative role.

DAVID KEYES: To buttress what you are saying, Al Jazeera Arabic gives a weekly show to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is one of the most famous sheikhs in the Muslim world, and each week he goes on and he talks about why gays need to be stoned to death and why disobedient wives need to be beaten. That can't be good to tens of millions of Arabs in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Gordon Echenberg, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

My question is, I'm looking at the title, "Liberalism, Secularism, and Democracy." I understand democracy. That can be in any country if it has the political will. But when it comes to the Middle East, you have the history of language, culture, tradition, and a much more illiberal history than we have in the West. Are we really talking of secularism or are we more likely talking of pluralism? And what time period and what framework of time does it take to bring about this change, if you can get your foot in the door?

AHED AL HENDI: The way we understand democracy, as liberals, it's not only the freedom to elect someone. If you go and vote—because this is what the Muslim Brotherhood believes is democracy—if you go and vote and say, "I should kill Ahed"—if a few voted to kill me, this is how they understand democracy, the tyranny of the majority.

What we're talking about when we refer to democracy, we are speaking about the kind of democracy that we know here in the United States.

I know there is an illiberal history in the Middle East, for many reasons. We have been ruled by dictators for decades. All of these dictators, unfortunately, were supported by the West. Before that, we were under a colony.

It's true that the majority of the people suffer from illiteracy. A lot of people are not educated. But at the same time, we have a very important elite. They paid with their lives for the ideals of democracy and liberalism. We have a lot of people in prison, dying in prison. In a country like Syria itself, there are more than 100,000 political prisoners. It's wrong to think they are Islamists. Before 2011, the majority of them were liberal, people who believed in human rights and in democracy. We had people who, for instance, had always spoken about the West, how the West is great in governing, what democracy is, and they were tortured to death—"you are accused, you are a traitor, you are paid by the West"—just for believing in these ideas.

People are changing also. I'm sure you all see that there is a rise of the Islamists. There is a rise of ISIS. But at the same time, there is a part you don't see. There is a rise which is coming more as a reaction to the crimes of ISIS and al-Qaeda; there is a rise of liberalism in the country. A lot of people are very outspoken now. But we don't have a platform to speak.

FAISAL AL-MUTAR: Back to the history question, if you look at Europe 400 years ago, they used to burn Jews and atheists at the stake. So it's not like the Middle East has a different history than—what we are seeing right now is what Western Europe was 400, 500 years ago. It's just that that most important movement to the two Johns, John Locke and John Stuart Mill, and the rise of the Enlightenment, has been a game-changer, and the advancement of secular values has kind of pushed theocratic values off the table. What we are seeing now in Europe can be done in the Middle East, maybe through a different way.

But I don't think it's an issue of history as much as an issue of presence. If you look at Iran, before the Islamic fascists took over the government, Iran was one of the places that my parents used to tell me was as beautiful as Paris and London, and women used to wear as they do in the Western world. Even Turkey now is going in regression with Erdoğan. When I went to Turkey, Turkey was a success story of secular values within the Islamic world.

There is a lot of geopolitics that play a role. What is needed is a change of leadership. When we empower strong leaders with good values and they start a foundation of inclusiveness, as the Founding Fathers of America did, you will see the success over time. These are the people that I think we have to empower.

Back to the time question, it's not going to happen overnight, but it's definitely—now, with the power of technology and the power of crowdsourcing and the power of riling people up, technology amplifies much more than it did for the cases 30 and 40 years ago.

I didn't know that one day I would have 400,000 followers on social media, with 5 million reached. I can take my phone and post, and people from 150 countries can see this post. Look at the world that we live in right now compared to 20 and 30 years ago. A person like me, who is pretty much nobody—except I wear good suits—can actually change and amplify his voice so that many people around the world can listen. These are the people that we should support. Within a period of time, with a certain power, they can change things over in that region.

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