“Hi, everyone! My name is Aya Elamroussi. I am currently a third-year journalism student at American University in Washington, D.C.
“I enjoy writing poetry and creative fiction. I’m also fascinated by the role of language in society as whole. The past two years have been a huge eye-opener for me in regards to how I think, see myself and those around me. Being at American University has availed me the opportunity to open my mind and my ears to ideas, cultures and beliefs different than my own. As a result, I am challenged to expand on what I don’t understand and not only tolerate those ideas but also accept them as a different point of view, not the wrong point of view -- even though I may not agree with them. In the future, I aspire to be a journalist because I believe I have something to say worth hearing. I believe news is something someone wants suppressed, and I strive to bring that to light.”
Aya Elamroussi began wearing a hijab when she was 16 years old, in part because she didn’t like the way men were looking at her.
“I was constantly looked at, ‘Oh, she’s pretty, she has a pretty face, she has pretty hair.’ And to be honest, I did not like that at all,” Elamroussi said.
“I don’t like attention just because of how I look. I would rather get the attention for how I think, how I talk, how I debate about certain topics.”
At the time, her parents were concerned about her decision. But Elamroussi says there was no immediate problem until the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Orlando, Florida.
“I would see backlash from people in the street saying hateful things,” she says.
But Elamroussi, a journalism student at American University in Washington, D.C., and a VOA news intern, says she understands why some Americans, particularly anyone who has never met a Muslim, may believe negative stereotypes.
“I understand why you may feel that way. I understand because where would you get a positive idea about when all you see is negative?” she asks.
She says mainstream media has a lasting impact on history, which can be both good and bad. In the case of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, she says he has skillfully played the mainstream media to his advantage.
“If money is what the company is looking for, then you will always chase whomever is saying the most dramatic thing,” Elamroussi says.
Elamroussi’s Choice: Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton
Elamroussi believes Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is the only viable candidate remaining. But like many liberal millennials, her source of motivation derives less from excitement and more out of fear of a Trump presidency.
“It’s not exciting for first-time voters, because we don’t have much choice,” she says.
Elamroussi doesn’t believe Trump is racist but is concerned that his rhetoric — and what she describes as lack of social responsibility — can spark violence among his most ardent supporters.
Top five issues for Aya Elamroussi
5. Refugees. “It’s not surprising to me that government officials are turning a blind eye. We saw how America did the same thing with Holocaust. Can we do better? Yes. But, will we? Probably not, because America is already suffering with having to tolerate Muslim-Americans who have been living here for decades. It’s unreasonable to expect Americans to be okay with Syrian refugees given the sentiment toward Muslims in the U.S.”
4. Education. “Tuition increases every year due to ‘inflation.’ Yet, inflation isn’t happening nor are the salaries increasing to combat that increase.”
3. Economy. “The unemployment rate right now is good. However, I wonder if making labor markets less flexible would enable people not in the labor force to get a job. The idea here is that maybe employers should be faced with greater burdens like having to pay bigger severance packages so employers don’t fire employees easily, and possibly stricter laws against laying people off.”
2. Gun control. “I understand that people may feel the need for guns if they feel like police forces may not protect them from a certain danger. However, people don’t need guns that can commit a massacre in less than 10 minutes. The issue with gun control isn’t whether citizens should have them at all, but it’s what kind of guns are we availing the people and what purpose/ function should these guns serve.”
1. Criminal justice. “I can’t believe this is my number one issue, but it is. It’s unbelievable because I knew that systematic racism exists, but with the Brock Turner case [former Stanford University swimmer who was given a six-month sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman], I saw an actual proof that being rich and white literally gives one a free pass to break the law and get away with it. And, that’s only one case. Who knows what else happens that doesn’t get media attention?”
In light of recent cases of police brutality and misconduct, Elamroussi says criminal justice reform is the most important issue for her this election.
“There’s a glaringly obvious issue with the criminal justice system due to recent cases such as the Brock Turner case [former Stanford University swimmer who was given a six-month sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman] and police brutality,” Elamroussi said. “Something as basic as getting a fair sentence when breaking the law is next to impossible if a white person is the man in question.”
As a young voter, Elamroussi says she wants to see her next president lay out a specific agenda on these issues in a way that will affect her on a personal level.
“I want to feel that if I am put in the shoes of the hundreds of girls who get raped, that I will have a justice system that will stand by me and support me,” she says.
Elamroussi says America suffers from xenophobia — and argues that it won’t go away by denying it. “There’s an international relations theory that argues people’s identities and beliefs are the reasons why people go to war. Well, I believe this theory applies right here in our backyard,” she adds.
July 11, 2016, 1:24 PM
“Criminal justice in America is a serious problem right now. Not only do the recent [shooting] events in Baton Rouge [Louisiana], Falcon Heights [Minnesota], and Dallas show that but also cases like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Rumain Brisbon's speak volumes to the dangerous racial issues that exist in America.
“I don't think this is a Black v. Blue lives problem; it's a race v. law enforcement system as a whole. The system is broken. I'm sure most cops become cops so they can truly serve and protect. But it is possible that once one does become a cop, the environment she/he is placed in forces certain behavior that is violent toward people of color, especially black individuals.
“What happened in Dallas [five police officers shot and killed] is not at all surprising to me. If you kill one of them, they will come after you, even though that's not justified. But, justice went out the window when white cops killed black civilians and walked freely.”