A Young Boy



I was driving through the streets and observed a young boy. He looked so cheerful, full of joy and life. Untouched by all the harshness around him and his country. He looked like any other free young boy I had seen in other countries, who are just about to enter the life of adults. So I was wondering if his feet were not on this particular soil, but on another, how then would his life unfold?

So here is the story of a young boy.

Young boy has just turned fifteen. He is on his bike driving along a two lane bridge, under him the flowing water. He can hear the water clashing on the shores gently, but steadily. He feels the soft spring breeze playing with his hair, on his face and skin it feels like a tender touch in one second and a fresh blow in the other. He is wearing colourful shorts and a loose t-shirt. It is the best time of the year, neither hot nor warm. Nature is waking up everywhere, flowers and leaves are growing. The air smells gentle and takes on the notes of the surrounding. The area of the bridge is lively, many cars and motorcycles, pedestrians, nearby restaurants and the air carries all their scents in them. The young boy is driving his bicycle over the bridge and remembers how he got to receive the bike. It is his second bike, his dad just bought if for him as he had grown out of his old bike. It’s not new, but it drives well, better than his first one. His dad said, it will do for the next few years. The boy didn’t ask his dad what will be after the next few years. The boy closes his eyes for a second, breathes in deeply, enjoying the atmosphere with an almost shy smile on his face. When he opens his eyes he can see the palm trees playing in the wind. The leaves look funny, as if it was a head with hair shaking slowly. He continues his chill ride.

But is it one young boy? It seems like there are two boys, Ybib and Ybic, both having the exact same experience in this very moment. But in reality they live in two very different places and none is aware of the other. And until this very moment their lives seem very similar, but as each continues the ride, things will unfold.

One of the boy’s name is Ybib.

Ybib is fifteen, he is driving his bike around his city. He is happy in this moment. He is just growing up. Ybib does not know much about life. Slowly slowly he is starting to understand things. He is yet between the world of a child and that of a man. He still can understand the children and is just starting to hear what the adults are saying.

Ybib was born in 2003, he was just a few months old when the war broke out, his parents tell him. He was lucky that he was not born a few months later, because his mother might not have been able to go to a hospital then, when the war broke out and people came to overthrow the old president. Ybib has an older brother he is twenty, he is in the army. Ybib hasn’t seen him for three weeks now, but is eagerly awaiting his return in a few days. Ybib’s brother has been fighting for the last year and Ybib hears that the war is very dangerous for his brother. Ybib also has three sisters, the oldest one is 22, she went to school for a few years then she got married, she has two small children now. The other two are in primary school.


Ybib is in the 9th grade. He is a good student. He listens carefully and learns all the school texts by heart for the exams. He wants his father to be proud of him. He has heard many stories of his father, that he always dreamed of going to a university, but he could not go because of the war and the old regime. Ybib would become a well respected member of his family, if he studied. Maybe one day he could become a doctor or an engineer.


But he also hears his father often say that you cannot become anything in this country unless you become corrupt and work with the powerful. Ybib does not know what being corrupt really means or who the powerful are and what powers they have. But he knows that they must be somehow related to politics. Ybib still wants to study after he finishes his school, but he knows he must be one of the best in his class in order to study medicine or engineering, and then he hopes that he will find a good job with the government, in the city’s hospital or in a ministry.


It was his father’s dream and his brother’s dream, but they both could not make it, Ybib hopes he can be the one to fulfil this dream. Ybib’s brother who is in the army has told his father that he wants to leave the country. Ybib is very sad about that. Ybib has two uncles who live outside the country with their families. He knows that many more people of his country live outside and most of them have left long before Ybib was born. They only come back to the city when something bad happens, like when a close relative dies.


Ybib knows that people still leave the country, like three of his friends in school. Their parents sold everything they had and Ybib knows after the spring break his friends will not be in his class anymore.

The other boy’s name is Ybic.

Ybic is fifteen, he is driving his bike around his city. He is happy in this moment. He is just growing up. Ybic does not know much about life. Slowly slowly he is starting to understand things. He is yet between the world of a child and that of a man. He still can understand the children and is just starting to hear what the adults are saying.

Ybic was born in 2003, his mother has many photographs and belongings of the time he was born, even a piece of a local newspaper that announced Ybic’s birth. His mother said it was one of the happiest moments in her life. Ybic has an older sister, she is twenty, she lives in a bigger city and studies Art. Ybic hasn’t seen her for three weeks now, but his family is planning to visit her in a few days. Ybic’s sister has been studying for the last year and Ybic hears from his sister that the big city is very exciting and that there is so many things to do. She also tells Ybic that she is working in a restaurant on the weekends to pay for her studies. Ybic only has one sister, they are two children in the family.


Ybic is in the 9th grade. He is a good student. He enjoys most of his classes. Some are boring but that doesn’t bother Ybic much. His parents tell him he can become anything, if he wants to. He knows his parents allow him to chose any job he wants. He has heard many stories of his father, when he was young. Ybic heard about his travels and many wild things his father had done in his youth. Ybic’s parents say that it is important to find a job you love, to be healthy and to be happy.

Ybic does not really know yet what he wants to become, but his school offers orientation programs where the students can test their interests and learn about different jobs. But he also hears his father often say, that you can become anything in this country, if you work hard enough for it and if pay your taxes. Ybic has understood that you have to work for something if you want to have it. Ybic also thinks about studying after he finishes his school, he might go to the same city as his sister, but he knows he can also study in another country in this world. His father studied in Spain and his sister’s dream is to go to America.


Ybic has most of his family living in his city, but some also live in other countries. He has one uncle who lives outside the country, he comes back with his family to visit Ybic’s family every summer. He knows many people of his country leave their city for a few years when they study, but most of them come back or they don’t leave at all, because Ybic’s city is a very nice place and many people from other countries come here for vacation or to live here forever. Ybic looks forward to spring break, because he will visit his sister and he will tell his school friends about his adventures in the big city after the break.

Ybib is a Young boy, he will soon learn that being born in his country is not a good thing for him, he cannot study what he likes, and what he likes will depend on what people tell him to like. He can hardly travel and the places he can travel to are not much better than his own country. He will soon learn that he lives in a traumatized society that has abandoned many laws and where the rules are made by politicians, who seem to be all too powerful and seemingly around forever. He will soon be taught that there are many differences between him and the other people in his country or in other countries.

He will learn to hate them and to fight them, because at some time, before Ybib was born, they had done harm to his family. He will learn that the only mechanism to protect his rights is to be part of a special set of powerful people. He learns that he has to obey and that people under him have to obey him. He will learn that money and weapons are the most powerful things in the world and he will learn that if he is unhappy, then there is no room for him in this country. He will grow up learning to distrust humans and will have little hope in his own future. He will learn to live day by day, because he cannot really plan his life, he will learn that everything in his life can change any moment to the worse, because his environment has been very unstable, ever since his father was born.

Ybic is a Young boy, he will soon learn that many of the world’s resources are open to him, he can study freely and he can travel freely. He lives in a good society that has laws and rules. Politicians will only rule for a few years and then the people will vote for new people that are nothing like the old people.

He will learn that there are many mechanisms to protect his rights as a human and as a citizen, and he will learn that he has to pay taxes for this service. He will learn that he can participate and make a change, he will learn that he can organize likeminded people, if he feels injustice is happening in his country and he will know that there is a law and that he can ask for his rights in the courts of his country. He will grow up trusting live and he will grow up with hope. He knows he can build up and plan his life and he knows that his dreams will depend on his efforts, because his environment has been very stable, ever since his father was born.

Ybib is a Young boy in Baghdad and Ybic is a Young boy in Cannes.

Original Foto: Yannis Behrakis (1960-2019)/Reuters

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