Hayder Salam: Change Begins Through Accountability

In his poignant story, Hayder, originally from Iraq, shares a unique perspective on how change can become tangible by accepting responsibility and taking accountability. He explains how war, turmoil, and conflict has shaped his views on society, and where we can all begin to make a genuine difference. This story was recorded in partnership with MALA, StoryCorps, and Benedictine University’s MEPI 2016 Program.


“I just finished my university. I studied dentistry so now I’m partly official dentist. This is actually my first visit to the United States. It was really amazing, the whole experience and the whole program and the many cities and states that we have visited in the United States. Actually, I think we’ve learned a lot, so this experience is going to be one in a lifetime. Because, for example, in my country, in Iraq, when I was born till now we always had conflicts or corruption and everything like that so this is like my first chance to see how the usual, normal countries who doesn’t have conflicts, war can live. What’s the state of health, what’s the state of education, and all of that, because those things are very important.

I think the first thing that we should do is that we should stop blaming the other countries for our own problems. For example, any bombing that occurs in Iraq, the first thing that everyone would start to think is that this specific country is responsible for this. But the main problem is the Iraq people themselves. Even if they are not involved in those bombings, there is some person, there is some police officer, there is someone, there is some soldier in the army who allows for those things to [recede] to Iraq. So I think the first thing that we need to do is that start blaming ourselves for our own problems because if you want to change something, you need to acknowledge the problem first. So the first thing we need to do is acknowledge that we have a problem. We have a big issue in Iraq. After that, we can start to change.

My opinion, despite all of the killings and all of the misery back home: I think it’s normal condition. Because during history there were many countries that had this sort of corruption and this sort of misery and damage. Then, they would have healed within time. For example, there was a huge injury or scar or lesion that the Iraq people themselves that was hidden by the past reign of Saddam Hussein. Now, this injury is starting to show itself, there is a huge conflict between the people. For any reason, the major reason I think is their religion. Each one want to force you to join them. But they don’t think of you as an equal. Each one thinks that he is the better one, and the others are bad. This is one of the most important problems is that we need to believe that we are all equal. Even if I don’t believe in my heart that you are not equal for me, which is a bad thing, I musn’t show you this feeling. I musn’t spite you or hate you just because you are different from me.


Start to acknowledge the problem. Start to think of yourself that you might be the reason of the problem. Each day before you go to sleep you start to reconsider what did you do within your day. You should start to think: did you do something good? Did you do something bad? Is there something happening? When you start to acknowledge the problem, you start to find ways of how you can solve your own problem. It’s okay to ask other people for advice. It’s okay to ask others to help you, but it’s not okay to ask for other person to do your own work. You need to be the change. You shouldn’t wait and sit around in your place and waiting for someone to do the change for you.”

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