By Bonnie Klap, Editor in Chief
In our series of interviews with spouses of Diplomats, this month I sit down with Mrs. Besma Fayed, wife of His Excellency Dr. Saad Ibrahim Al Ali, Ambassador of Iraq. She welcomes us in their residence, which is arguably one of the most spectacular residences in Wassenaar.
Q: You are yourself a highly educated woman holding a degree in biochemistry. What can you tell us about women-participation in higher education in Iraq?
A: “Women play a major role in education at all levels in Iraq. In higher education 40-50% of the students are female and 35% of the teaching staff are female, so that gives you an idea of their participation. Most females prefer the fields of science, medicine or engineering, and the proportion of females in science colleges is higher than it is in the areas of the humanitarian fields. I myself chose the field of biochemistry because it is very broad and provides many career possibilities.”
Q: Of course there are big differences between Iraq and The Netherlands, but can you also name one or two similarities?
A: “Certainly there are many differences between any two countries and Iraq and The Netherlands are no exception, but you cannot say that there are big differences. It is better to rephrase your question, what are the differences? I will say that there are many differences, such as the open society, freedom, democracy, infrastructure, technology and so on. Social life, even in Iraq, varies between different places. Life differs from very conservative to liberal. There are places in Iraq, where people live the same way as is the case in the West and some are not. What I like in The Netherlands is family life. In the weekends when we go to restaurants, we see families together, grandparents, parents and children. There is respect for the elderly. I love this. The other thing that I appreciate most is Dutch tolerance and respect for non-Dutch people and we are always treated well by the people here.”
Q: What is your favorite place(s) in The Netherlands?
A: “I like everything! It is a beautiful country, but we always enjoy going to Giethoorn and the seaside at Noordwijk, Katwijk and Scheveningen. I also love Delft and enjoy taking boattrips with the Spido-boat through the harbor of Rotterdam. Just yesterday I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam with a friend. It was magnificent, but I have to go back, because I could not see it all, it was so much. Of course we will also visit the Tefaf, which is a big experience for me to learn more. The PAN was wonderful as well. Everything is beautiful and we, as a family, are very happy here.”