Meet the Greatest Young Leader in the Middle East

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni citizen, recently gained attention when he testified at a congressional hearing, denouncing and relaying his sadness at the massacre of dozens of Yemeni citizens who are casualties of ongoing U.S. drone attacks. The loss of Yemeni lives by Obama’s drone policy has left him saddened that the America he describes as “helping him grow up” would show such neglect toward some of the poorest people in the world. 

At 22, al-Muslimi is a youth activist worthy of immense praise. Hailing from a humble background, he has touched many as he professes his love for the American people, ever since he moved to the U.S. on a yearlong exchange program sponsored by the State Department. Today his activism continues, not just towards ending drone strikes in his native homeland, but also toward bringing change by working with various organizations in his country.

In his testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, al-Muslimi described the struggling circumstances that he bore while being raised in a remote village called Wasab. His parents are farmers who are barely literate and he is one of 12 siblings. He says his life changed when he was awarded a scholarship by the State Department for the Youth and Exchange program, which allowed him to study in an American high school for one year.

Describing his experience in America, he asserted, “The year I spent at Rosamond High School in Rosamond, California was one of the richest and best years of my life.” During this period he was made many American friends, excelled in U.S. history, and formed a close bond with the man who housed him, him referring to him as his “father” and “my best friend” in the US.

His admiration for American values and its people is unquestionable, yet his criticism of the current Obama administration has made him a prominent anti-drone activist. He describes the attack on his village Wasab last April a saddening event, a repeated occurrence throughout Yemen, that has become the “face of America” amongst the Yemeni people. He says, “It's raging people, it’s making a lot of people angry, and it’s becoming America’s main and only face in Yemen, very unfortunately."

His Senate testimony won him applause from many media outlets and helped him describe the Yemeni experience of U.S. foreign policy iin a regretful, but eloquent and articulate manner.

While al-Muslimi has come to prominence over the past few months, he had been for a long time an active member of several renowned organizations such as USAID and Resonate Yemen. At the mere age of 17, he was elected chairman of the Supporting Democracy Committee in the Yemeni Youth Consultative Council.

Al-Muslimi is the face of a the changing Yemeni youth that is demanding a genuine democracy and respect for basic human rights in Yemen, proving to the outside world, especially in the West, that they too espouse similar values. If all else fails, if all his activism comes to naught, al-Muslimi at the very least deserves tremendous applause for what he already achieved: proving that beyond politics, different cultures can come to respect one another.

For comments or suggestions, I can be reached @Usaidmunneb16