Zanyar Salih, a young Iraqi leader, dared to dream beyond borders and his homeland.
Now residing for over a year in Germany, Zanyar has embraced new paths and experiences while seamlessly navigating between his Kurdish roots and his routine in Koblenz, Germany.
Living between two worlds brings a blend of emotions and perspectives for Zanyar, who has a degree in medicine.
In this piece, he reflects on his decision to move, overcoming challenges, his journey toward leadership, and what inspires him.
He recalls an inspirational moment from almost eight years ago when he traveled to the United States for the first time with an exchange program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This breakthrough gave him a firm will to immerse himself more in helping the community. A willingness that led him to engage with MCW Global and its diverse global community.
Outside of his leadership role, Zanyar, who firmly believes in the power of dialogue and small acts of kindness, nurtures a deep love for nature walks.
For more than a year now, you moved to Germany. Can you please take us through why you moved from Iraq and what your days have been like recently?
I have always had a deep desire to explore the world, immerse myself in different cultures, and broaden my horizons beyond the borders of my homeland, the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Living in Iraq poses particular challenges, with limited opportunities for international travel and cumbersome visa procedures. Consequently, the idea of moving abroad has been prevailing among many Iraqis, including myself.
I had been contemplating the idea of relocating for quite some time. Upon completing my education, I weighed my options carefully and ultimately chose Germany as my new home. The decision was based on several factors, including Germany’s remarkable medical advancements. Moreover, being situated at the heart of Europe, Germany offered a unique blend of cultural richness and opportunities for personal growth.
Language initially presented itself as a significant barrier to overcome. As a native Kurdish speaker, I encountered numerous challenges in learning German, as the two languages share limited similarities. However, my prior experience in learning English proved invaluable during this transition. With proficiency in four languages, including my mother tongue, Arabic, English, and now German, I have managed to adapt smoothly to my new linguistic environment.
Since my relocation, much of my time has been dedicated to readjusting to the German way of life and mastering the language. As a result, I have taken the opportunity to explore Germany’s beautiful sights and landmarks. Throughout the past year, I have embarked on a journey of discovery, venturing across the country and experiencing its rich history and cultural diversity.
How would you describe living between two worlds?
Living between two worlds is an experience that holds a profound significance for me. The essence of this unique situation lies in my family and friends residing in Kurdistan while I am physically present in Germany, establishing a new life. I am constantly engaged in keeping up with the happenings in Iraq as the country grapples with political and environmental challenges. I remain deeply connected to my loved ones, ensuring that I am aware of their well-being and the state of affairs in our homeland.
Navigating between two worlds is undeniably peculiar as I simultaneously navigate the complexities of two distinct cultures. On the one hand, a part of me remains firmly rooted in my homeland, cherishing the rich tapestry of my heritage and the memories I have cultivated there. On the other hand, I have embraced Germany as my new home, eagerly preparing to embark on my professional journey here.
This duality creates a fascinating blend of emotions within me. It grants me the ability to embrace diverse experiences. While it can be challenging at times, this interplay between two worlds fuels my personal growth, broadens my understanding of the world, and fosters a profound appreciation for the intricate complexities of life.
Can you share with us your journey into leadership? How did you start, and what motivated you to make a difference?
It is difficult to pinpoint how I started, but [my leadership skills] took root during my college years when I actively engaged with an organization in the medical field. My main objective then was to contribute and play my part in improving the community’s well-being.
However, it was in 2015 that a transformative turning point occurred. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program, which allowed me to spend time in the United States. This was an extraordinary breakthrough in my life, as visiting the US alone was a significant challenge, let alone studying there. I vividly recall sharing the news with my brother, who was astounded and repeatedly asked, “What do you mean you are going to the US? How are you going to afford it.” Such occurrences were rare in our circumstances.
During the intense and enriching five weeks in the US, I was exposed to many remarkable experiences and encountered exceptional individuals. I was surrounded by brilliant minds, sharing their insights on various subjects daily.
Subsequently, my life took a significant turn when I became involved with MCW Global. This wonderful organization exposed me to diverse individuals from various countries, all driven by a shared commitment to effecting positive change within their communities.
What do you believe is the best way to overcome challenges?
Open and constructive communication is the most effective approach. Throughout my life, I have placed great faith in the power of dialogue and engagement with others to navigate obstacles and resolve conflicts.
While I acknowledge that not every challenge is easily solvable, conversing with individuals with whom I may vehemently disagree can yield valuable insights and perspectives.
Admittedly, there are situations where dialogue may require considerable time and effort, and it may not always lead to immediate resolutions. However, talking remains the most successful strategy overall. One of the most formidable challenges arises when individuals perceive the world through different lenses, often resulting in contrasting perspectives. In such instances, dialogue becomes even more crucial.
What do you do to relax and have fun?
I find comfort in surrounding myself with nature. The beauty of the natural world played a significant role in my decision to reside in Europe, where the landscapes are truly captivating. Whether strolling through lush forests, embarking on a hike, or simply spending time outdoors with friends, being in nature allows me to disconnect from the demands of daily life and find peace in the beauty surrounding us.
Another source of joy for me lies in engaging in conversations with people. These discussions need not always revolve around weighty matters; instead, I relish the spontaneity of random encounters. Engaging with individuals I meet by chance on the street or striking up conversations with friends enables me to explore different perspectives and reflect on our unique ways of perceiving the world. Traveling is also a passion of mine, as it provides an unparalleled opportunity for personal growth and learning.
Is there a book that has profoundly impacted your life or leadership style?
It is indeed challenging to select just one. However, if I were to recommend a single book to anyone, it would be “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. This remarkable work delves into the history of our species, providing profound insights and a fresh perspective on our origins and journey as humans.
Reading it has fundamentally shifted my understanding of the past. While we often learn about history through school, family, and friends, the knowledge we acquire may only sometimes be up-to-date or presented comprehensively. Harari’s book offers a unique narrative that synthesizes historical events and their relevance to the present day. It clarifies how the past has shaped our current realities, unveiling the intricate connections between different eras and how they have influenced our present circumstances.
Moreover, “Sapiens” illuminates our past and offers insights into the future. Harari explores potential paths ahead and emphasizes learning from past mistakes.
You have been cooperating with MCW for five years now. What is the greatest lesson you gained from the MCW family?
The greatest lesson I have learned from the MCW family is never to underestimate the power of small acts of kindness and positive words. Witnessing the transformative effect of even a five-minute conversation on someone’s life has been genuinely impactful, especially during my time as a mentor.
This lesson has become a guiding principle in my life. Regardless of the scale, I believe in acting and pursuing even the most minor acts of goodness.
Additionally, I want to share a symbolic message with everyone reading this: let us not give up on anyone or any community. I urge everyone to continue fighting, acting, and engaging in positive endeavors. Over time, these right actions will significantly impact and be visible to those around us.