My name is Iman Boukadoum. I am a peace activist and a human rights lawyer. I was bullied – a lot! It often had to do with my name “Iman” and because I never fit in. One painful experience, I remember vividly: I was on the school bus coming home from school. It started with a jeer coming from the back seat. “Chris” was considered the cutest guy in school. He wasn’t actually cute. But he did have an arrogance and mystery. Always coiffed with copious amounts of gel, he wore the newest trends sagging off of his skinny, cold body. He shot a spit-ball at me from his back-seat. Then his brother joined. Before I understood what was happening, the entire back half of the school bus was hurling spit- balls chanting cruel names at my plump, heavily side-burned face.
It still hurts. Cruelty and bullying are real and stay with survivors forever. Sure, it toughened me. I cultivated an understanding that I needed to build armor around my soul. “Being yourself,” as is often said, was not an option for so many years of my life. I lacked the space to be myself without external comments stifling self-discovery. Today, I am grateful to my parents and sister for supporting me and for loving the sweet, soft side of my personality. Bullies do not get to kill that special side to me.
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