From a young age, politics has been a fundamental aspect of my life. I was born amid civil unrest in Algiers and as a child I learnt that my grandfather – a former politician – had been assassinated. Naturally, this sparked my interests in politics, as I wanted to understand why people were willing to kill and die for their political beliefs. As a teenager, I got involved in politics as Treasurer at my local council – which involved designing and presenting a budget to secure £10,000 of funding for youth projects – and as a delegate at the Model United Nations. I have also spoken in parliament as an unofficial representative for various Arab youth community groups.
My involvement in politics so far has very much been within the ‘official channels’, but I am also interested in understanding politics outside that framework. One experience which made me question the conception of politics as simply about lobby groups, parliamentary bills, and ballot slips – a conception that I feel was promoted by the A-Level syllabus – was when I was invited to speak on behalf of the Arab Advice Bureau at a Foreign & Commonwealth Office anti-terrorism event. The event was dominated by an Israeli ambassador, and although we were supposedly there to have our opinions heard, it was clear that the agenda was fixed in advance, and that this was essentially a clever PR exercise to give an appearance of ‘consultation’. This made me think about the ways that power can be operating even in apparently free and open discussions, and also made me interested in the ways that historical power-structures can change as a result of political actions which do not go through ‘official channels’.
For example, I want to understand more about the historical dynamics which recently enabled people to overthrow what seemed to be very well-entrenched regimes in the Arab world, all well as to understand the power which propped up those regimes in the first place. I am also interested in comparing the ‘Arab spring’ with last year’s riots in the UK. One obvious common factor is the global economic crisis, and the growing numbers of young people feeling they are bearing the brunt of the ensuing immiseration. Another parallel is the sense in which the riots and the revolutions were responses to authorities – police, government – which were perceived as corrupt and abusive. I am also fascinated by the way that a single specific event – the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, and the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham – seemed to trigger, or serve as a catalyst for, such major events. I would say that my main motivation to study politics comes from a desire to understand how power structures are able to influence the integral parts of our lives.
As well as being strongly motivated to study the subject, my extracurricular activities have taught me skills that would help me make the most of university. As the winner of multiple public speaking competitions, I am a confident communicator, and my experience as a rugby player – I ranked in the top 5 nationally for my position in the 2010 national awards – I have learned to perform well under pressure, and to work as a team. Without a doubt, I believe that I am shaped for politics.