A video of 25-year-old Syrian architect Nour Machlah delivering a moving speech defending refugees is garnering huge online attention and applause this week.
At the European Parliament's Youth Event in France on Saturday, Machlah spoke out against the prejudice refugees face and the perils Syrians brave in pursuit of safety and a better future.
"I was born Syrian, I didn’t choose to be Syrian and I’m proud to be Syrian. But it’s a fault to be Syrian? It’s a mistake?” Machlah says to fervent applause.
Machlah's impassioned speech came after an earlier address he made at the event suggesting solutions for the migrant crisis. Machlah told HuffPost Arabi that at least one participant "rudely" interrupted him during his initial remarks.
“He complained about unemployment and blamed refugees for coming to Europe looking for money, not peace,” said Machlah, who is also a public speaker.
"I asked if I could reply, and I started talking, without any preparation," Machlah told The WorldPost.
The video, which Machlah posted on his personal Facebook page, shows how he responded by speaking up for Syrian refugees and highlighting that fleeing one's country is not an easy choice.
“What do you know about Syria before six years ago? Nothing," Machlah says in the footage. "Why those people who are trying to come to Europe now didn’t try to come before? Why all those people are coming now? Because there’s a war.”
Machlah left Syria for Lebanon for a brief stint in 2013, before heading to Turkey. He was then awarded a scholarship to study in Portugal. Machlah now works with the Erasmus Student Network, a European Union student exchange program, where he focuses on helping students integrate into Portuguese society.
"Portugal is my new home, people are amazing and they are always trying to show me that I'm part of them, that I have a new home there," he told The WorldPost. His family is scattered across Syria, Turkey, Egypt, the U.K. and the U.S.
We lost everything. People are losing their souls.
Machlah says that he was invited to speak about migration-related issues at the European Youth Event, such as the question of whether Europe should receive refugees.
"I went to the EP not to represent Syrians, I went there to tell them about the pain inside of me," he told The WorldPost. "When I introduced myself, I told them I'm here speaking for millions of people around the world searching for peace and better life -- Syrians, Arabs, Muslims, or whatever they are."
In his speech, Machlah states that he shares a lot of Europe’s values, and that he fears for the European Union’s future just as much as everyone else does.
But Syrians have “no place to go,” he maintains, lamenting the failure of Arab countries to welcome the people fleeing Syria.
“Do you think it’s easy for us to cross the ocean and to risk our souls, our families?” he asked at the event. “We lost everything. People are losing their souls.”
“You want to be rational? Stop the war,” Machlah said.
He also wanted to emphasize that migrants may not be European, "but we are also educated, we have dreams, we have history, we have lives, and we deserve a chance to live in peace like everyone else," he told The WorldPost.
The two-day European Youth Event on May 20 and 21 featured more than 7,500 young participants from 39 countries. Besides the migrant crisis, discussions focused on other challenges facing Europe such as climate change, unemployment and extremism.