Norway has come very far in implementing multiculturalism: Seyran Khalili, Seematalent at Seema AS
Seyran Khalili is a research consultant at the NORMENT, K.G. Jebsen Centre for Psychosis Research, a Seema As talent program participant, and is currently doing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Oslo (UiO).
While at college (2010-12), she was involved as PR Manager of the Kurdish Student Union, at the UiO, as a student mentor for MiFa in 2010, and the initiator, author and editor of the student blog Live2Learn in co-operation with the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the UiO.
In the subsequent years, this 25-years old, who calls herself a Kurdish-Norwegian pedagogue, served as a contributor and subsequently editor of the student journal Pedagogisk Profil in 2014 and as an volunteer web-journalist for Amnesty International, Norway’s internship program.
In a brief interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’ Editor-in Chief, Hatef Mokhtar, this young human rights defender, expresses her views on human rights, extremism and on the multicultural life in Norway. Excerpts:
What does human rights mean to you?
Human rights to me are the foundation of a society. In the name of humanity, human rights reflect the most humble dignity entitled to every individual. One of the most interesting features of human rights is how the concept reflects humanity. Within the basic concept of the name, lie all the basic needs we as human beings need to live a worthy life. These rights shape the world, however right or wrong, they shape our society. As such, in my opinion, the foundation of a society should start by respecting each and every human being’s right to live a life of dignity. In the realm of human rights, one can basically pick and choose which right is more or less important, however, the real picture is much more vivid and tangled than this. What often happens is that we tend to separate the rights, for example when we talk about women’s rights, children’s rights, the right to education, equality rights, all these rights are actually submerged under one big category, namely human rights and this feature is forgotten. What is more imperative is how these rights are mentioned in debates and put into action. The word action to me also means responsibility. For those who put acts into action, are also responsible to protect, in this case the state, which is responsible for protecting the citizens’ human rights. So when talking about human rights, either on an international macro level or on a local level, the responsibly of ensuring and protecting human rights always lies on the states. The state is the protector of each individual and as such is obliged and responsible for ensuring that every individual’s rights is protected from violation.
How would you define extremism and what are your views on the rise of Islamic extremism in Europe?
In my opinion, extremism in any shape or form is unacceptable. Extremism is an unwise reaction against modernity and an ongoing injustice towards the people who live in those areas. The rising of extremist groups has opened a gap for those who are radical, which again gives false hopes of freedom to people where freedom already is an issue of debate. If there is more freedom, more democracy in the areas where extremism grows, these radical forces cannot take upon power. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing now is that people in living poverty stricken areas have no choice than to take a third road to freedom, which is going towards extremist groups and taking a third road towards freedom which does not fit with modernity. Because of poor education and knowledge, one may believe that this road is the right one. We need to send them books and educate the mind, as one of the young Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousefzai said. Send them books instead of guns. For example, religious and political extremism are a burden on humanity, globally. It is our duty to stand together in the name of humanity to protect the rights of the individuals. It is not tolerable to be a bystander looking at extremism from afar without taking action. Simply closing our eyes to what is happening is not justified. The world needs to take action and stand together against these extremist forces. The time of brutality has surpassed, it is now the time to introduce democracy and tolerance to win over the war against extremist groups. One of the strongest tools can be effective foreign diplomacy that can create intercultural dialogue among rising extremists groups and nations. Where a debate can spark and challenge their reasons for such cruelty, as well as to look for solutions that can create tolerance for their differences.
Growing up in Norway, how do you see the practice of multiculturalism in Norway, are you satisfied?
As a Kurdish female growing up in Norway, I can see that Norway as a country has come very far in implementing multiculturalism, but there is still much to be done. In the past 10 years, Norway has expanded its borders and become more and more international, however issues of integration had become complex. One of the most beautiful things about Norway is that it’s a country that gives you a lot of opportunities. I am very fortunate to grow up in this country and my background has given me the determination and motivation to work harder to achieve my goals so I can give back to the community. What happens in Norway is of great importance to me so my main determination is how I can be at service to be a good citizen and give back to the community, which already has given me so much. I ask, what can I do, instead of what can I get. I believe that upcoming generation has a big task and responsibility to guide multiculturalism in a positive direction. Intercultural knowledge and intercultural competence should be the driving forces, which can lead to creativity, innovation and exploration of new developments.
What do you think about the ISIS and its brutality?
I believe, as a human being to kill another human being is not acceptable at all. Violence is never the answer and war is not an option, even in the name of democracy, sovereignty, or any other factors. History has shown that violence has not been the best tool. In my opinion, reintegrating humanity through education and knowledge is the best instrument when dealing with extremist groups and individuals. The world needs to heal through democracy, diplomacy and through dialogue. One has to enlighten people and give knowledge. One must educate, and education should be the first step. People experience injustice in every corner of the world at any time, but when not knowing which rights they have, how they can fight for them ? By giving education, for example through the ongoing human rights education project Amnesty International Norway, one can go through with valuable methods to secure that the knowledge given can help build more elaboration about human rights.
Should the international community sit and talk with the Islamic state or another extremism group Taliban in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or in Somalia, or in Malaysia?
Negotiation and dialogue are good in every aspect of resolution. But we need to know how to communicate these issues to eradicate the kidnapping of children, rape, and the destruction of cultural heritage as well as the violations of the fundamental human rights.
Terrorist network try to use the lack of knowledge to manipulate a bigger following. Until there are people who are not educated abou
t what is happening, there will be possibilities of another extremist group or another terrorist network coming. We need to disarm them and then we can put them in the table of negotiation where they’re should be a rule of law and court where everyone has to pay the responsibility of their crimes. For me, ISIS, Al Shabab, the extremism in Somalia, those all network including Al Qaida, are the same type of extremist groups. The new generation will never accept any kind of extremism in any shape. Whether being political, religious, or cultural.
Today, the situation of many human rights groups in Ukraine has degraded, What are your views on this the situation of Ukraine?
As I know, the situation of Ukraine, as a young scholar I want to tell you that our time is a time of civilization, communication and dialogue among nations. But it is also not acceptable that either of the parts interfere with each other. Russia interfered in Ukraine, a sovereign nation and drags them to the civil war. This is not the time that another country goes in by force, the basic things is to communicate in the name of diplomacy. The Ukraine is a sovereign nation and Russia should respect their sovereignty and independence. At the same time, one has to listen to both parties and look at what they have to say. If there is talk abut interference, the only time the countries should interfere is when they wish to communicate and let both sides be heard.
Madame Seyran, can you tell me about your current job and what are you doing, which activities are you busy with?
At the moment I am working as a consultant at K.G Jebsen Centre of Psychosis Research, Norwegian Centre of Mental Disorders Research and also participating as Seema talent in the Seema AS talent program. Seema´s vision is to bring forth the strength and recourses in the diverse population, and that the workplace. Equality, equal rights and inclusive working conditions are Seema´s goal. Through the Seema talent program, we as seeing talents become better equipped to climb up and forth in the workplace and labor market, while at the same time the program works systematically with mentors and leaders in business so that they open doors for diversity.
What your personal and professional plans, as a human rights defender?
I think all of humanity has to focus on human rights and respect them. I work for the future of human rights, when you work for democracy its human rights, when you work for equality its human rights, when you work in research it’s also another form of human rights. My plan is to simply work for humanity in the finest way. First of all, to push humanity across the globe and not only expanded in some parts of the world. Second, human rights should be politically independent and should have a body of its own.
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