Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare. But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.
And he didn’t even tell his parents.
Hassan’s dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend…
… Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on Dec. 11.
His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.
Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father’s background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in.
But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth _ he speaks no Arabic _ his true nationality would have betrayed him.
Traveling on his own in a land where insurgents and jihadists have kidnapped more than 400 foreigners, killing at least 39 of them, Hassan walked straight into a death zone. On Monday, his first full day in Iraq, six vehicle bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding more than 40…
… Dangerous and dramatic, Hassan’s trip has also been educational. He had tea with Kuwaitis under a tent in the middle of a desert. He says he interviewed Christians in south Lebanon. And he said he spoke with U.S. soldiers guarding his Baghdad hotel who told him they are treated better by Sunni Arabs _ the minority population that enjoyed a high standing under Saddam Hussein and are now thought to fuel the insurgency _ than by the majority Shiites.
His father, Redha Hassan, a doctor, said his son is an idealist, principled and moral. Aside from the research he wanted to accomplish, he also wrote in an essay saying he wanted to volunteer in Iraq.
He said he wrote half the essay while in the United States, half in Kuwait, and e-mailed it to his teachers Dec. 15 while in the Kuwait City airport.
“There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction,” he wrote.
“Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help. Unfortunately altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will.”
Read the whole thing. Someone get this kid a blog!
Hat tip: Reader and friend Richard D.blog comments powered by Disqus
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