Reflections on Activism, Identity, and Hope: ETMU’s role in advocacy

Lukuaika: 3 min.

Author: Hibo Abdulkarim

Dear reader, I had to revise my text completely, due to current events, and while I will do my best to stick to a point, bear with me while I make several. 

6/2020 ETMU released a statement titled ” ETMU Stands in Solidarity with the Palestinian People”. Over 3 years later, we are again or maybe still, in a situation where this statement is relevant.

Slight intro first

I was brought to Finland as a refugee in 1990, as a toddler. I grew up outside of the capital, which meant growing up not only being a minority, but often being the only visible minority in the spaces I was in.

At home, my parents worked hard to instill in us pride about our culture, our religion and our roots, so we could stand firm when society tried to instill in us shame about every single thing about us that made us us.

My teenage years were spent trying to find myself, which meant a deep dive into hip hop and everything it stood for. Regardless of learning about the struggles black people had to face before and living with what we faced in 90’s Finland, my earliest memories of civil activism had surprisingly nothing to do with racism. Not directly anyways.

Activism and me

I don’t remember how old I was when I first learned about Palestine and its history, but a lot of my teenage pictures show me wearing the keffiyeh around my neck. I remember the first time my mother asked me not to wear it outside, for fear of my safety. And I remember how proud I felt when at university I got to attend my first pro-Palestine demonstration, wearing my old keffiyeh, and chanting in solidarity with the people of Palestine, demanding peace.

This week, over 20 years since my mother asked me to stop wearing the keffiyeh, because she was aware of the risks involved, I attended my first demonstration for Palestine in Finland and I felt nothing but grief. I briefly marched along side a woman old enough to be my grandmother, who is Palestinian and while she cried, I couldn’t help but cry too; at the cruelty her people feel and have felt for over 75 years.

ETMU and the future

ETMU gives me hope. To see a wide network of academics and researchers, who work to produce studies that Finland and Europe at large, greatly need, give me hope. To have people who study e.g.: migration, refugee’s, racism, apartheid and discrimination and want to make a positive change in this country and in this world is valuable beyond words.

As a black, muslim refugee, I’m used to being discussed in different public platforms as a problem. In the work/papers I have gotten to know through ETMU, I see discussions about minorities and immigration, but in a scientific, neutral or humane way, where the subjects are still people, with right to dignity.

I hope that in the future ETMU gets much more space and recognizition in academics, not only for the value of networking, but how valuable these discussions are specially for those who do not work with the topics ETMU does.

In a time where we still have to justify the need for antiracism in universities and in workplaces, ETMU could be beacon of light that the academics absolutely needs to show us the way.

Despite being a medical doctor, I don’t regard myself as a true academic, since my experience actually doing research is very limited. However, while working in the antiracism field for the last few works as a stressful but necessary “side hustle”, I welcome any and all research based information we can get to further equality and human rights.

Especially in situations, where things are not black and white, the importance of terminology and accuracy is amplified and researchers have one of the most important roles in producing means to fight injustice.

I stand with the oppressed, with the discriminated, with the occupied, because I stand with the right of every single human being to be treated with dignity and to feel safety. 

Happy 20th ETMU!

Hibo Abdulkarim,
medical doctor, antiracism specialist, social media [health & equity] influencer

Over 30 years in Finland, but still identify quite strongly as Somali first and Finnish second. I work as a doctor and in the antiracism field, mainly in medicine where I work to advocate for minory groups and their rights while teaching about racism and training professionals on all thing’s equity. Most of my activism is done through Instagram, where my husband and I create content about health, mental health and equity issues, while most of my teaching is done in person. I am planning to regain my identity as a “full fledged” academic, in the form of starting my doctorate soon, which will be focusing on the clinical impact of structural racism in medicine and healthcare. I look forward to graduating from an admirer of ETMU, into a member of it.