Firstie Focus: Leen Rhazi ’22

Photo of Leen Rhazi ’22

Name: Leen Rhazi

High school: American School of Dubai

Hometown: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Major/possible major: politics and the Nexus concentration in law, public policy and human rights

Why Mount Holyoke: Where do I even start? Mount Holyoke is unlike any college I have come across because everyone is included in the mix. The College gives its students multiple platforms to voice their opinions, which contributes to the growing love of learning evident within each of the faculty members and scholars. I am so grateful to be attending an institution that is both inclusive and empowering.

Favorite places so far: I haven’t visited campus yet, but I am so excited to be in nature. I’m a Dubai kid — greenery is foreign to me.

How I spent the summer: My older sister lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, so I took many long strolls along the Charles River and bought loads of winter essentials on Newbury Street.

In 10 years: I want to be settled in a city I adore, working on numerous poetry publications, with a law degree under my belt. I honestly have no idea if my aspirations will change over time, so I hope I never lose my strong sense of activism.

Career aspirations: I aspire to be a human rights lawyer and novelist in both the United States and the Middle East. Arab and Muslim immigrants in the United States are a marginalized community that deserve representation and inclusion. Similarly, many injustices still occur in Arab communities, and as a Moroccan-Palestinian, it would be my moral duty to bring upon change by practicing law and publishing novels on Middle Eastern inequities.

A noteworthy interest/talent: I love to write poetry, read old novels, photograph unconventional things and discuss injustice.

Proudest moment: This year I was amongst a group of students who organized Jordan’s first Women’s March in Amman. In the Arab world, women’s rights continues to be an issue. Many women in impoverished areas simply do not have the right platform to speak up for themselves, so there is a rising need for activism amongst middle-class citizens. Advocating for these women will definitely be my proudest moment so far.

Volunteering in a refugee camp: In the fall of my junior year, I was fortunate enough to visit Tioman Island. Located off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the island accommodates multiple beaches and areas of preservation, attracting tourists and environmentalists. Whilst driving to the airport on the last day of the trip, my chaperones stumbled upon a run-down school three hours away from the island.

The school housed Rohingya refugees and their children who had fled to Malaysia from Burma to escape the ongoing crisis. Since 2012, Burmese security forces have been carrying out a large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Mass killings and sexual violence list amongst many of the crimes committed by the Burmese security forces in an attempt to annihilate the Rohingya. Under the 1982 citizenship law, the Rohingya have been denied citizenship, making them a stateless population. In our visit to this school, I became attached to a group of three young girls. They immediately gravitated toward me in the beginning of our spontaneous visit, and I found myself listening to their stories of sexual assault and violence in Burma. One of the girls expressed her disappointment with the rest of the world, as there is little discussion about the crisis in schools and news outlets.

At the end of our visit, I realized that had I not listened to the girls’ narratives, I would have never known about the severity of Burma’s situation. I grasped that humanity has adopted a “turn a blind eye” technique to issues that are deemed less entertaining — a strategy that endangers those in need.

Influencers and social media accounts: Mimi Elashiry, Cartia Mallan, Maximiliane Hansen, The Messy Heads, Paolo Raeli, Imaan Hammam, Sjana Elise Earp, FitGurlMel, Fenty Beauty and The Artidote. If you follow any of these pages, you will surely be blessed.

Hero: Ahed Tamimi

Quirkiest thing about me: My long, curly hair. People call it “the lion’s mane.”

Favorite book: “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

Favorite TV show, movie, music: Miguel, Miguel and … Miguel

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