A Boy Without A Country This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   While at Cape Cod this summer, my friend, Ahmed, lost his country. Each summer he, his sister, and father come to Osterville to escape the heat of their homeland, Kuwait. During the summer, Ahmed and I play tennis, waterski, go to the beach, play Nintendo, and see movies. At the end of August, they pack up and return home, where Ahmed and his sister go to school and their father is a businessman. But, at the end of this summer, there was no packing, and there was no trip home. On August 2, while Ahmed and his family slept peacefully on the Cape, their homeland was invaded by Iraq. This act of aggression put an end to Ahmed's carefree summer.

The rest of August was spent under a pall of worry and tension, as the family and staff waited to hear word of relatives in Kuwait. Ahmed's father flew to Washington, London, and France to meet with world leaders and important Kuwaitis, and to work to raise money and gain support for his country. Ahmed and his family sat by the TV and phone, listening to news reports. Ahmed's home in Kuwait, a very large "palace" by our standards, was taken over and his father's office was bombed. It was clear that Ahmed and his sister would not be going to school in Kuwait.

Although they have homes in New York, London, Paris, and Morocco, they wanted to stay in Boston. Aside from their home in Osterville, they had an apartment in Cambridge, and so my mother helped them find a school nearby. Ahmed is now a freshman at an independent school in Cambridge and his sister is a senior there. They moved to a larger apartment in Watertown to accommodate their staff, since no one could go home. Naturally, this is a hard time for Ahmed, as matters in Kuwait degenerate, and concerns for family and friends increase.

I spoke to Ahmed recently and asked him about his feelings, concerns and adjustments. When I asked how he felt on the morning of August 2, when he first heard the news of the invasion, he said, "This can't be true! Iraq is our country's best friend. It is really weird." Despite all the turmoil, Ahmed feels that in two to three years, he will be able to go back to Kuwait, but he is not sure what he will find that will be familiar to him. Many buildings and shopping areas have been bombed. His own house, which is located in Kuwait City in front of the Al-Salaan or "Peace Palace," was invaded, and most of the family's possessions have been stolen. His grandmother was able to salvage some of the antiques, but most were confiscated.

With pride in his voice, Ahmed speaks of an organized underground resistance in Kuwait, in which one of his aunts is quite involved. Consequently she is one of the "Most Wanted Women" and Ahmed says that if caught, she will be put to death.

Others in Ahmed's family have been affected by the invasion. An aunt's house was burned, and two of Ahmed's Moroccan housekeepers were captured, blindfolded, and forced to witness Kuwaiti boys being tortured. This information is smuggled out of the country by the resistance and faxed to Ahmed's father. He is very active in finding ways to help his countrymen. He is a bright man, who has devoted much of his time and money to help Kuwait, and is setting a fine example for his children about loyalty and commitment to freedom.

Ahmed and his sister are adjusting quite well to their new school. They are both good students and speak perfect English (as well as French and Arabic). They have spent a lot of time in the U.S. and are relatively familiar with Western ways. Their course load in Kuwait was heavier than it is here, because religion and Arabic were part of the daily curriculum. Ahmed plays soccer here as he did in Kuwait, and is working on his school newspaper. He enjoys the casual dress, commenting that in Kuwait it was a little more formal, and at certain times (usually during holidays and for formal affairs) he wore his traditional robe and headcovering. Once, he explained and demonstrated how the different Arab countries wore their headcoverings.

In Kuwait, Ahmed would be a Senior 3 (their classes are designated Senior 1- 6, which correspond to our grades 7-12), and he would be in school with all his friends and cousins. Right now his family and friends are scattered throughout the world, with some in London, Morocco, Switzerland, and France. He misses them and, although they all try to stay in touch, he misses his former life.

Ahmed and I have been good friends for many years, and we have learned about each other's cultures and religions. We care a great deal about each other and have come to respect our differences and enjoy them. This will be a very hard year for my friend. He will have to do much adjusting and will need a lot of support. I hope he does not have too difficult a time and I hope he is able to retain his own ways, and to share them with his new friends. I am very happy to have Ahmed and his sister here with me this winter. For the first time we will be able to share football games, skiing, and school vacations - and our telephone bills will be much less!

I hope that my friendship will help Ahmed feel comfortable here in Boston, and that he will soon be able to return to a free Kuwait. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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