This year an American, Russian and Pakistani team have been competing together in the Karl Popper Debate Championship. They met for the first time on Tuesday: “We have stereotypes about different countries, and their positions on certain issues - and as yet none of those stereotypes have been removed,” Alishba Ali reported after the first day of the competition.
Ali, 15, is from Lahore – and the only student attending this year from Pakistan. She came to the Youth Forum with her mother who is a university professor, and a former journalist. Ali has enjoyed being in Turkey – a country which has a warm relationship with Pakistan. “Pakistan is often misunderstood abroad,” Ali said, “We are concerned about issues like migration, but people have to understand that internally Pakistan is a country very preoccupied with its own development. Last year we had a devastating flood, we have to fight terrorism and, even though we are a conservative country with a long history and traditional way of doing things, we are also moving forward in the modern world.”
Ali has been competing with teammates Ethan Sheffield from the USA and Evgeniy Aferin from Russia. “As a team from different countries we have to overcome the fact that we prepare in different ways and we think differently about the issues,” said Aferin. “Ethan likes preparing value based cases and I like building policy cases.”
Aferin, like Alishba Ali, wants to study political science at university. He is an internal migrant in his own country, after leaving his home town in Siberia to further his education in St Petersburg. Now he lives with his brother: “My parents send me money of course, because I am still at school – but they think I am old enough to make my own decisions.” Aferin said Russia has a very different experience of migration to add to the debate: “In Siberia we have a lot of Chinese people, and of course Russia as a whole has a lot of immigrants from the former USSR countries. Now there are young people who want to leave and get jobs abroad, so I’d find parts of New York that are as Russian as Moscow.”