At the shocking age of 29, Abdalhadi Alijla is both director of the Institute for Middle East Studies in Canada and Regional Manager of Varieties of Democracy Institute in Sweden. But for those who know him, he is simply Hadi, the young Palestinian who never got tired of knocking on doors for peace in his country.
Born to a family of 11 siblings in rural Gaza, Hadi struggled from a young age to become one of the leaders that changes the history of Palestine. At 18, he was working as a guard to support his studies. He taught children during siege, and coordinated relief programs for youth. And, four years later, he left Palestine for an academic career that would lead him across Italy, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, where he still pursues his Ph.D.
Now, he has an innovative idea to further development efforts in the region: the first Latin American studies center in the Arab World.
Why Latin America?
We have more in common with Latin America that we actually think, especially in terms of our colonial history. LA is also a growing power culturally, economically and politically, so I think such a center is a must.
You are very excited about it; but why is academic collaboration important?
We should learn and analyze the history of LA as part of our struggle for freedom and independence. How many Arab universities or scholars have been to LA? Very few. How many Arabs have studied LA? I bet none. We have much to learn from each other, especially in terms of good governance.
So you are saying we need more South-south cooperation.
No. I do not like these labels, because south-south implies categorizing people into southern and northern. We have different cultures, even though we are south. We have different languages and a different history. All of this cannot be captured if we call it south-south.
And what would the center’s activities be?
It’s not about teaching languages, it is about studying similarities in language, politics, societies, and history. My aim is to get Arab scholars to know more about LA and to raise a new generation of social scientists who can research possible intersections. This is about gaining knowledge about the other and studying things from different lenses.
For more information: Follow Hadi’s Facebook Page.