An Arab League ambassador, teen author and medical student, he believes in the importance of education

Mr Amir Fehri believes in the importance of education as a force for advancement and tolerance. ST PHOTO: NG WEI KAI

SINGAPORE - By the time he turned 18 last August, Tunisian Amir Fehri was finishing his sixth book, at the tail end of his third year of medical school and had already served a stint as an ambassador for the French-speaking world.

In 2018, at age 15, he flew as part of French President Emmanuel Macron's delegation to the Francophonie Summit, a biannual diplomatic summit gathering political leaders from French-speaking countries.

Mr Fehri has drawn thousands of followers on social media apps such as Snapchat, where he posts about what he does in English, French and Arabic.

He is hoping to use his influence to give voice to other youth, especially those whose interests are sidelined or overlooked, and is working to ensure their access to education.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the Embassy of Kuwait in Newton on Thursday (June 2), Mr Fehri said the Covid-19 pandemic and other global disasters like Russia's war on Ukraine have impacted the ability of young people around the world to realise their dreams and aspirations.

He said: "People often talk about the political side of conflicts and how they are violations of international law but we do not talk enough about the youth who are suffering on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides.

"In places like Afghanistan as well, people are no longer talking about things like girls' access to education."

Last year, the United States pulled its military out of Afghanistan after 20 years of armed conflict, leading to the return of the Taliban, who had previously restricted women's education in the country.

Mr Fehri is the son of an Iraqi mother and a Tunisian father who worked for the World Health Organisation.

He said he believes in the importance of education as a force for advancement and tolerance that can bring people of different beliefs and backgrounds together.

To this end, he has been working with the United Nations to open the first international school in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq. The city has been rebuilding itself after it was left in ruins in 2014 following fierce fighting as the Iraqi government and its allies retook it from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group.

The school is scheduled to open by 2025 and will give Iraqi students access to school programmes from both Arab countries and the European Union.

He is hoping to build a similar school in the Ivory Coast in West Africa, he said, and will also be visiting Ukraine and Russia by the end of June to look at what can be done for the education of young Ukrainian refugees sheltering in Romania, he said.

Mr Fehri did very well in school, skipping several grades. He published his first book at age 12 - an autobiographical story about the experiences of being bullied. He writes in French but his books have been translated into various languages.

At 15, he enrolled at the Côte d'Azur University in Nice, France, to study medicine. He will qualify as a doctor at age 24 as it takes nine years to get a French medical degree.

He has finished his sixth book, titled Journal d'un jeune ambassadeur or Diary Of A Young Ambassador, which details his experiences working in diplomacy at a tender age.

Mr Fehri is now an ambassador for the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation and is in Singapore for an overnight visit, where he is meeting diplomats from countries such as Kuwait and Japan who are stationed here. He is also scheduled to meet President Halimah Yacob and other Singapore officials.

The Arab League is an alliance of 22 states in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula including countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Mr Fehri's native Tunisia.

He is on a tour of Asia for the release of his latest book and to promote his message of education as a force for peace, he said. He will be flying to Taiwan on Friday.

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