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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 15:45 GMT
School Day 24: Baghdad-London
Composite image of some of the Baghdad and London pupils taking part

The BBC Arabic Service linked up students at a girls' and a boys' school in Baghdad with pupils at a school in London to share their experiences and discuss the issues they face as adolescents.

Question from BBC News website reader Alisha, Redlands, CA, US to the pupils

Given the current attitudes and past events, in both the US, London and around the world, have you ever been scared, shy, resistant, worried, and/or ashamed to be a part of your culture? Or to share and express parts of your culture publicly and to your friends? Why or why not?

Salam
Salam, 17, Arab Association School, London: I don't feel any shame because of my culture. I am trying to share some aspects of my culture with my friends. We should not be too Arab because their way of thinking - my native British friends - is different. Sometimes they don't accept us smoothly. They are victims of the media which highlight wars in the Middle East instead of the normal daily life of the average person.

Omar, 14, Arab Association School, London: All my friends here in London know I am an Iraqi. I don't feel any shame to tell them I am an Iraqi and Arab.

Sara, 15, Arab Association School, London: I am proud of being an Arab. I don't feel any shame.

Nour
Nour, 15, Arab Association School, London: On the contrary, I have no problem disclosing my identity. My native British friends show understanding of the fact that I am an Iraqi and Muslim. Our values are not always similar. Sometimes people tend to develop stereotyped perceptions that all Muslims are terrorists.

Question from BBC News website reader Jon Brookstone, Bethesda MD, US to the pupils

Do you think if you had the chance to visit the US, people would think you are not different from them?

Ali
Ali, Sharqia School for Boys, Baghdad: We have many points in common with the Americans. If I had the chance to go there, I would adopt some of their good values while preserving my own traditions and values - the accent, language and some of my values may make me feel different, but we share many common values.

Hibatoallah
Hibatoallah, Sharqia School for Girls, Baghdad: There are no major differences between us and the Americans. We have the same ambitions and dreams. We share the same aspirations for the future with all students in the world.

Question from BBC News website reader Brian Reece, Derbyshire, UK to the pupils

What do the pupils think can be done and how would they best effect change of people's perception? What should be done in Iraq as expected by the next generation?

Nidaa
Nidaa, Sharqia School for Girls, Baghdad: Though the situation in Iraq is not good, pupils and students are expected to defy their difficulties and be more determined to succeed in life by hard work. With regards to how to improve our image as Arabs in the West, we as students should work very hard to be excellent academic achievers.

Question from BBC News website reader Harris, Manchester, UK to Sara

What do you mean by students are not treated as they should be in the Middle East?

Sara
Sara, 15, Arab Association School, London: I meant that children in the Middle East don't have enough freedom as enjoyed by their peers in the UK. They can't behave as they please. If they choose to behave the way they wish, society won't tolerate their behaviour as there are limits to be observed. However, in Britain children do have more freedom. The meaning of respect in Arab countries is different from that in Britain.

Omar
Omar, 14, Arab Association School, London: We respect our parents here in Britain. However, the meaning of parental respect differs from one child to another. We can't generalise about all children here.

Salam, 17, Arab Association School, London: Arab children respect their parents more than their native British peers who believe that the freedom they enjoy after reaching the age of 18 liberates them from the authority of their parents. Therefore, they don't respect their parents as they should.

Sara, 15, Arab Association School, London: For me, there are Arab children who don't respect their parents as there are British children who don't respect their parents.

Nour, 15, Arab Association School, London: As Arab students, we respect our parents more than our native British friends.

The same question was then addressed to the Baghdad students but was rephrased as follows: Is there any contradiction between personal freedom and parental respect?

Ali, Sharqia School for Boys, Baghdad: In Iraq we do respect our parents. Unlike Britain, even when students reach the age of 18 and go to the university, they remain with their parents. We are not obliged to respect them but we feel an instinctive feeling to respect them.

Nidaa, Sharqia School for Girls, Baghdad: Respect for our parents is a must even if we grow older. We respect all people, we don't sacrifice it whatever happens.

Question from BBC News website reader Syeda Jabeen Shah, New York, US to the pupils

Do you hope that Iraq will rise again to its former glory?

Salam, 17, Arab Association School, London: I am very optimistic. I have the choice to stay here in the UK or return to my parental country.

Omar, 14, Arab Association School, London: I am optimistic. I have many potentials that I may have the chance to realise. For the time being I don't wish to return to Iraq.

Sara, 15, Arab Association School, London: I am optimistic for the future.

Nour, 15, Arab Association School, London: I am optimistic for the future... When Iraq stabilises, I will go there for a visit.

Ali, Sharqia School for Boys, Baghdad: I am optimistic and hope the situation in Iraq will improve. I hope our colleagues in London will be able to visit us here in Iraq.

Fahd
Fahd, Sharqia School for Boys, Baghdad: I am optimistic, and as young people we have a wide future waiting for us.

Hibatoallah, Sharqia School for Girls, Baghdad: I am very optimistic and have sweet wishes for my future and that of Iraq.

Nidaa, Sharqia School for Girls, Baghdad: I am optimistic despite the fact the situation in Iraq is not stable now.


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