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The Root of the Science Podcast - Episode 31

I am humbled to have been featured by The Root of the Science Podcast, hosted by the phenomenal Anne Chisa. With her permission, I've transcribed our conversation for accessibility purposes, with minor edits for clarity, as indicated by []. Listen to the full episode here: https://rootofthesciencepodcast.buzzsprout.com/809081/4500674-dr-asma-bashir-post-doc-fellow-in-neuroscience-founder-of-her-royal-science-podcast


Anne:

Hi, Asma. Welcome to the show!


Asma:

Thank you so much for having me today.


Anne:

Ah, it's lovely having you; I'm so excited to talk to you and for everybody to just get to hear more about you.


Asma:

Oh, as am I!


Anne:

Alright, let's get into it. So please give us an introduction about yourself. So, you know, where are you from, where you're currently based, and what you're currently doing.


Asma:

Sure. I am, I guess, American; born and raised in the United States, but actually moved around quite a bit growing up. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm just American; I'm also Canadian! We can talk more about where I was raised a little bit later on. I'm currently based in Scotland though. I'm working at the University of Edinburgh and specifically at the UK Dementia Research Institute. I've been here for the last [six] months or so.


Anne:

Oh, lovely. So, you had touched on it already and this is going to be my follow up question, you know, before we get into the science and why you are here. You have a very interesting background, which I love. Your parents are both Ugandan; you were born in the US. You also identify as African-American. However, you also lived in Kenya, Zimbabwe Qatar, England, Canada, like what a passport you must have! (Laughter) Tell us more about this.


Asma:

Well, that's all thanks to my mother. She was quite the nomadic human being and she fostered that within our family. She wanted to expose us to as much of the world as she could; myself and my brother. That's why we ended up living in so many countries around the world. Both my brother and I were born in the United States, but when we were about five to seven years old, that's when we moved to Africa. That was partially because we were living in Texas at the time, and my brother and I are Black kids – we identify as Black kids – and she didn't want us to have to grow up, at least at that age, with the feeling that our race was a bad thing, the way we looked was a bad thing, and our skin colour was a bad thing. She thought surrounding us with people that resembled us would actually delay that feeling. If we were to [be in] the States, it would be a conversation that would have to happen, but at least we could be kids for a little while longer. And that's why we went. We were, like you mentioned, in Kenya, [and] we were in Zimbabwe - in Harare - for about a year. And then we moved back to New Jersey before moving to Canada.


Anne:

Wow. That's beautiful. I love that you said your mom wanted you guys to be kids and not let your skin colour be something that is inferior or something that you're not proud of. That's a very, very important. In one of those places, if you can remember as far back, which one of the countries, [would you] say was your favourite?


Asma:

That's a hard one, only because I liked most of them. I really enjoyed living in Zimbabwe when we did. It was before the economy really took a hit, so it was nice to be there. We loved our school. My mom was a teacher at the school that we attended, so that was really nice. And we had friends that we enjoyed playing with. We made quite a few connections there. Then living in the US was, you know, cool too, as was Canada. The only place that I can say that I had a disdain for, or a dislike for – we can talk about this, if you're interested – was living in Qatar, in the Middle East, because there were a lot of social dynamics that I wasn't terribly happy with.


Anne:

All right. You can expand! So how old were you when you were there?


Asma:

I was 14 when we moved and I stayed there for two years. Upon completion of my O levels, my IGCSEs, I basically told my mother that I was not happy there. And I was the child that said, "well, I'm leaving. You are more than welcome to join me." (Laughter) We had spoken at length about the stratification of human beings that is so accepted over there, that I just was not a fan of. And I thank my mother for instilling that feeling of justice and equality within me that saw that as wrong. Because it wasn't that I didn't benefit from the culture; it's just that I saw how unfair [it was] and the inequality was acceptable [there]. If you don't mind me explaining it a little bit further: the three sort of ‘layers’ are the Qatari nationals and then the ex-pats, which are basically just immigrants, but we call them ‘ex-pats’ because they come from the US, Canada, Australia, et cetera. And then there’s the other immigrant population that for the most part comes from India, the Indian subcontinent in general, and the Philippines. And it's stratified in that manner with the Qataris at the top and the immigrants from the Asian countries that I mentioned at the very bottom. And we were somewhere in the middle. At times, we benefited from a little bit of Arab privilege as well. But for the most part, we were expected to feel okay with the fact that there were people in our surrounding society that were less than us. We were supposed to feel like that was acceptable because, well, they're coming here by their own choice anyway. We're paying them more than they would make in their own home countries. So what's the issue? And I would like bang my head against the wall, figuratively. Like, what don't you understand? That is unethical! You treat people like they're sub-human; that is not fair. So I had a lot of these conversations with my mom and I'm like, "I don't like this. This does not fly with me. Especially given everything that you've instilled in me, I want to go." And she [said], "okay, your dad can't leave right now, contracts," [etc.]. But thankfully, there was an element of privilege in being able to go back to Canada on my own, which I was able to do when I was 16. And I finished my secondary schooling there.


Anne:

Wow. So you went back to Canada on your own to finish your school and the rest of your family was left over in Qatar?


Asma:

Yes, my mom, my dad, and my brother were still in Doha and I was in Mississauga, which is a suburb of Toronto, in Canada to finish. I had one more grade to do: Grade 12, and then I finished school and I moved to London for university. So I never went back to live in Qatar. It was a big no-no for me.


Anne:

(Laughter) I can tell! And you know, you've got such a strong sense of belief, which is very important. And that helps me ask this question. How do you think your background, growing up in Africa, growing up in Qatar and the injustices that you saw, how do you think this has affected you in terms of how you view life? Number one, and number two, in terms of your journey and your career and to where you are right now?


Asma:

That's a beautiful question, I must say. I don't think about this as often as I probably should, but I do know that it plays a huge role in how I live my life. I am undoubtedly a citizen of the world, so I think I connect with a lot of different groups of people just based off of that. Oftentimes, I've lived in a country nearby someone else's country, or maybe we have a language in common or, you know, something small like that, but it does bridge gaps. I also am very cognizant of the fact that as someone who is currently studying dementia and dementia related work, that the work that I'm doing sometimes only benefits of a privileged group of people: people who have access to healthcare – specialized healthcare – and individuals who have a trust of the healthcare system, that [doctors] have their best interest at heart, which is not the case for everybody. And that feeling is very legitimate. People [of colour] have heard the stories of people before them, or even people in really recent history, maybe parents or siblings or uncles and aunts and grandparents who have undergone awful treatment simply because they belong to a different ethnic group. Going to the doctor is not something that a lot of people [of colour] do casually because they don't know what they're going to be met with. I keep that in mind, when I think about the work that I'm doing, because dementia is often associated with elderly, white people, but we all grow old. Like, my grandparents are in their seventies, almost eighties! And, my friend's parents, their grandparents are also very old, but we don't think of our African grandparents as people getting dementia. We only think of a particular population. I think expanding that definition, [and] being vocal about that expansion is something that I take very seriously.


Anne:

Yeah. I love that. And it's funny because I spoke to somebody who's also studying dementia as well, and they spoke about how [with] people of colour, there's just that stigma that, especially with neurodegenerative diseases, there's not a lot of work done on them. And even with us, we, as a society, especially the people of colour, we don't know about these things because of how people were treated in the past, especially mental illnesses and all of that stuff. There's so much stigma and it's really good that there are people who are demystifying it, in particular for Africans or for people of colour. So it's really great, the work that you're doing. I'm going to skip why you got into STEM. I'm going to come back to it. You recently completed your PhD in Neuroscience and you started a post-doctoral fellowship in Scotland. But first, tell me about your PhD and then we'll go into what you're doing now in Scotland. So what did you do your PhD in? What was the research about and why was it so important?


Asma:

I did my PhD focusing on traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion. I was interested in what happens to the brain after it sustains a hit, and you can sustain a hit through a car accident or through playing sports, or you can sustain it falling down. That's actually one of the [the most common] causes of head injury, just falling down. I was interested in what the consequences of a traumatic brain injury were. And that's a field of investigation that is somewhat new. I'd say concussion research started being of [serious] interest in about the eighties and nineties. People started talking about it with respect to boxers a long time ago because, boxers getting hit in the head over and over again would generate a phenotype that was called a punch-drunk syndrome. So in addition to having an aggressive phenotype, they were more impulsive and a number of other characteristics. That was, I'd say, the first mention of 'hitting your head is a bad thing, especially if you do it a lot', but it really became interesting for the masses with American football and rugby where these 300 pound individuals are running at full speed, at each other, and ramming each other in the head.


Anne:

So insane! (Laughter)


Asma:

(Laughter) Oh, I know! We could get into that too! It's wild because people didn't think that doing this over and over again would cause a number of not only behavioural changes, but neuropathological changes, protein changes in the brain that could have even greater consequences later on in life. So one of the things that I was interested in doing [was] helping to develop a model of traumatic brain injury because you can't go and hit people on the head and go, "okay, let's see what happens." Instead, what people in my group did was we developed an animal model so that we can study it in a very regimented and scientific manner. We did that in three animal models and the project that I was doing was looking at inflammatory changes within the brain. It was also looking at axonal damage. Your axons are these super important information highways, [or] pathways, that send messages throughout your brain. And when these axons get damaged, then the signals can't get sent as well. So I was looking at the pattern of that axonal damage: when it started and how long it lasted [after the traumatic brain injury]. I also looked at the behavioural changes that could be pinpointed in our animal model so that they could be correlated with the human being. People who have hit their heads [sometimes] report memory deficits, and we wanted to see are there memory deficits in the animal model of traumatic brain injury as well? We found out that yes, there are memory deficits. We ticked off as many behavioural and neuropathological boxes as we could to validate this model so that other people can use it. And in the future, hopefully they can develop therapeutics that can be tested in these models before we go into human beings.


Anne:

Wow. That's so fascinating! What animal were you guys using, when you say you developed animal models?


Asma:

We have a platform for mice, for rats, and for ferrets.


Anne:

Oh, okay. That's very interesting. So this was the PhD, right? And you did this in England?


Asma:

No, I did this in Vancouver, Canada.


Anne:

Oh, Canada, my bad. So you did this in Canada. Now, in your nomadic lifestyle, clearly you've taken [to] that! (Laughter) Now, you are in Scotland for your postdoc fellowship, where you'll be working towards understanding blood vessels and their specialized cells within the brain; so still in the same field of neuroscience. Tell us more about this. You said that you started this [six] months ago, right?


Asma:

Yes, but with COVID, things have been incredibly slow and we haven't been able to go into the lab for the last [four]-ish months. So I had only been working for, I think it was six weeks before we were relegated to working from home. In terms of animal work and progress, there has been none. We've been working on some other projects on the side, but as for my actual postdoc project, no, we haven't really made much headway. (Laughter) But I can definitely talk about it in a little bit more depth if you'd like!


Anne:

Please! What would you have been doing if this did not happen? And you know, the significance of this research?


Asma:

For a little bit of background: the brain is very energetically expensive, which means it requires a lot of nutrients and sugars, and it also requires a lot of oxygen. And you need a delivery system for all of these nutrients. That's what the blood vessels are there for. But not everything that's in the blood directly goes into the brain. There's this very specialized barrier called the blood-brain barrier, because scientists are not very creative. (Laughter) And so what this blood-brain barrier does is make sure that the influx of these nutrients matches what the brain needs. If more oxygen is needed, more oxygen is delivered; if less is needed, less is delivered. And one of the very important cells that mediates this process, this homeostatic process – making things stay healthy, things stay normal – are astrocytes, and astrocytes are these beautiful cells. At times they have projections that go from the brain side to the blood vessel themselves. And the connection is actually through the end-feet. So these astrocytes have basically a 'hand' that holds the vessel and makes sure that – based off of changes within the brain – that the blood delivers whatever it needs. So what I'll be interested in looking at is how the astrocyte changes with aging and with dementia. [In other words], how good is the astrocyte at its job when someone grows older? Does that mean that the astrocytes are not as good at recognizing that the demands of the brain have increased, thereby encouraging more of that delivery of the nutrients that I was talking about before so that the brain can get exactly what it needs at any point in time? Or is it overcompensating? Is it delivering too much of the wrong thing? Those are the types of research questions that I'll be asking.


Anne:

Wow. That's fascinating! It sounds really cool. And I love how you explain it in such great detail. So here you are on this journey, you've taken all of the steps and in most cases, in terms of the academic journey, you've reached - in inverted commas - 'the end' in terms of the post-doctoral fellowship. I'm saying this in inverted commas, because I suppose it's either industry or you become an academic in terms of a professor. So in essence, you are at the end of this whole long journey. How did it all start? You mentioned that you moved around a lot when you were growing up; what were some of those influences that you were like, “okay, this is something that I want to get into. The science is what I wanted to get into.” Was it something that you actually always wanted to get into or were there specific people that actually helped you get you where you are right now?


Asma:

No, this was not something that I always wanted, but not in a bad way of, Oh, look at my life and it's everything I didn't want it to be. No, not in that sense at all. I just think I was a very weird kid and I liked a lot of things. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot, and I also wanted to be a dentist. And I also really liked music and I liked maths. I was weird in the sense that I didn't have one thing that I was very passionate about. I think I was just passionate about life. I think I still am. Hopefully that'll stick around for a few more years! (Laughter)


Anne:

I don't think you should feel bad. I think as a child, that's the best part about being a child. You've got so many things that you want to do. It's just unfortunate that as you grow older, the world or society forces you to pick one. But I'm just thinking, for example, I have a 10 year old sister. Every time I ask her what does she want to be, she literally has got five things, that she currently [wants] to be, and she's trying to merge all of them into one. (Laughter)


Asma:

That's my girl right there! (Laughter)


Anne:

I think that society really [forces] us to pick just one. I just want to say that maybe it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't think you were weird. I think that's normal for a child, so please continue.


Asma:

Thank you for saying that! It's weird; I think at this point in my life, I'm surrounded by people who knew they wanted this, and I feel like I'm always the odd one out because this is not something that I had at the top of my to do list. What I need in life: Postdoc. (Laughter) That wasn't it for me. I don't know. It just wasn't the thing I thought about. I can't really explain why [it wasn’t] because it's hard to go back into my 10 year old self and think about what I considered as a profession I wanted to do then. But there were some very pivotal people who made science an option, who presented ideas in such a way that made me excited to learn even more. And some of those people include my biology professor at Richmond [the American International University in London]. To explain the nomadic nature of my life journey even more: I did my first year of my undergrad in London, in the UK, and then moved to Boston for the last two years. My Richmond biology professor was the one who was super wacky, amazing biology teacher, and just made you excited to learn. He was great. And then my neuroscience professor at Boston University, Dr Paul Lipton, I think, can receive all the credit for this neuroscientific journey that I've been on for the last, I guess 10 years or so, maybe a little bit less than that. He opened my eyes to the world of the brain and I was so intrigued. This was a class that I had taken basically midway through my undergrad. And I thought, oh my God, I think I might have to change my major because I love the brain! I was doing psychology [at the time] so I was still trying to learn about the brain, but I was learning about it from a different vantage point. I decided that I would finish up my undergrad as quickly as possible and I would just pursue graduate school in neuroscience. And that's what I ended up doing. [Dr Lipton] deserves a lot of credit for where I am right now. And then in the sort of big picture scheme, Dr. Mae Jemison. She was the first Black woman in space, and seeing her face – her face resembles mine in many ways – made me know that being in science was possible and it was cool. And she was cool. My mother's the one who showed her photo to me and I just thought, all things are possible in this life. And I know that's such a privileged thing to say, to think that nothing was unreachable for me, but it's crazy that just seeing her photo opened up that entire world. That was the first domino.


Anne:

I love it. You know what they say, that it's very hard to imagine something that you've never seen. So I think you are so right in giving her that credit that you saw somebody who looked like you, because it's very hard to imagine yourself in these spaces and these places. I love your story too. And I relate to it because I also don't think I wanted to be in science. It's funny whenever I ask people this question, because I always think about it. I'm like if I had to answer this: science was never really the thing that I thought that I'd be at and where I am. It's crazy that I'm even here. So it's really great that they are people who are like, “you know what, I didn't actually always know that I wanted to be a scientist, but I'm still here and I'm thankful.” I think that's why I love this question because not everybody knows what they want to be at 10 years old. And it's very hard to [know], or even at 16 and even at 18. So it's perfectly normal to not know. And like you said, even you went from psychology and then you went into neuroscience. So even then you still were like, “I don't know what to do, but I'm going to finish this!” It's a beautiful, beautiful story. So when I was asking you about your postdoctoral research, you said that a lot of that didn't happen because of COVID and, you know, generally we are currently going through so many historic events. We've got the COVID-19 pandemic and recently in America, where you are from – where you were born rather – we [have] the Black Lives Matter Movement that [is happening]. And I'd just like to hear some of your takes on these events, primarily touching on how you personally dealt with this and how it affected you mentally, emotionally, and socially. I think it would be wrong of me not to bring this in because we are all currently living through it and it's all affecting us in very different ways. I just wanted to ask you your take on that.


Asma:

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, I think, for most, if not all people, because nothing is as it was. Things are all very, very different now. Beyond just a professional standpoint of me not being able to do my work in the lab or whatever I had planned to do over the last six months, I have this feeling of the loss of life being very weighted. It's a weighted experience for me. I don't even know what the number is right now, but it's an excruciatingly high number of people who've passed away because of COVID; people's parents, people's partners, people's children, people's friends, just loved ones are not here anymore because of this virus. It was very hard at the very beginning for me to wrap my head around that, that's something like this was even possible in our lifetime. I think there were discussions about it that, there might come a point in the future where viruses or some sort of bacteria spread around the world. I mean, there are movies made about it all the time, but we go, oh, it's never going to happen. And then it does and we go, oh my God, what are we supposed to do? And then we do all the wrong things. (Laughter) But that's another story. The issue that I was dealing with mentally was that. Just coming to terms with the fact that so many people were dying in such a sad manner, dying from COVID. Dying from anything is excruciatingly awful, but there was something about the way people were losing their lives in that situation: being on ventilators, not being able to say goodbye [in person] to the people that they love dearly. That was really hard for me. And it still is. I still have moments where I [think], I can't believe this is happening. This is absolutely unfathomable. And then it's simultaneously happening with the Black Lives Matter Movement in the United States, and essentially around the world. I think we can admit that there've been many dominoes that have been hit because of what took place in the United States with the death of a number of people. It was largely triggered by the death, the killing really, of George Floyd and the fact that that was captured on tape and shared, so that people could actually see what we were talking about. This is not something that we didn't know was happening. We have been talking about this forever, that there have been inequalities that people of colour and particularly Black people and – one layer added to that – Black men [have been] on the receiving end of. We have been talking about this, but it took such a ruckus for people to actually take notice of it. And that is a mixed bag of emotions [for me] because I'm happy people are taking notice, but I'm also kind of annoyed that it took so long, that it took all of these events – this cumulative traumatic experience – for people to see that there was suffering taking place. There are people for the first time in their lives that are acknowledging their privilege; that in of itself is a massive privilege! [They] are in [their] twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties, and people hadn't acknowledged that privilege. That's kind of wild to me; but again, there's positives and negatives. The positive is that this could be a propelling movement for change. At the same time. I'm not going to get my hopes up until the change is actually effected. At this point, I don't think enough has happened. We've started the conversation, but it's going to take years for us to really see the effects and the product of all of the effort that's being put in at this point in time.


Anne:

You're right. You're right. It's like you said, it's crazy that it had to be until now for people to be like, 'Oh, this has been happening to you guys.'


Asma:

Yes! Because I [think], do you not watch the news? I stopped watching the news a very long time ago because I found it a bit too traumatic, but even without that, and even without being in the United States at all times, I still was very much aware of those instances. I do want to add in something that I forgot to mention before. Though I am Black, I am not the descendant of [enslaved individuals] from North America, people who were brought over from West Africa during the slave trade, and who've been in the United States for 400 years. There is a history there that I cannot speak on fully. However, I will speak as an ally from that vantage point and from the shared experiences of having Brown and Black skin in the United States, because we don't often get treated differently, but there is a historical privilege that I have because my parents are immigrants to the United States. I just wanted to make sure that I put that out there.


Anne:

Yeah, true. Just like you're saying that there's a lot of inequalities that people of colour face, and this also extends into science as well, with minority groups [and] lack of representation. And that brings me on to this question. I know that you started a podcast, in fact, that's how you and I met! I reached out to you... Just a little quick story here. I reached out to you and I was like, 'Oh wow, you have a podcast, that's called Her Royal Science.’ I'm not going to explain what it is about, but when I read what it is about, I was like, this is something that I relate to. And that's when I reached out. So I just want you to explain to us what, Her Royal Science podcast is about, [which] you started last year. What is the aim and who do you feature in these podcasts?


Asma:

Her Royal Science is especially made for underrepresented groups in STEM, - STEM, being science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Underrepresented groups typically are minoritised populations, so it's not that they're not that many of us [around the world], it's just that oftentimes, there are hurdles put in place to keep us from entering these spaces. So what I wanted to do was have conversations with people who resembled me at some points – oftentimes they didn't and I simply was there as an ally – to give people the opportunity to tell their stories in a safe space. I'm noticing it a lot with the Black Lives Matter Movement [that] people say that they're creating a safe space, but [then] there's often ridicule and reproach in that space. You share your story and someone goes, "I think you misread that situation. I don't actually think that person was being racist." All of a sudden you've taken away that safety. What I wanted to do was say, "okay, we can't force people to create safe spaces for us. I'm going to create it for us. And if you don't feel like you are being represented properly, here's your opportunity, tell your own story, using your own voice. And you can also tell the world about your journey in your profession". Usually it is STEM related. We just want to give voices to people who might not be offered the microphone.


Anne:

I love it! And for anybody who knows what my podcast is about, we have the same vision. And it's really exciting for me to meet people who have that vision and who have that goal. Because, I mean, mine is Africans, but yours is more on a wider net. There's so many people who are doing so many amazing things, but they just don't have that platform. And I think it's so important to create that platform. And I like how you said ‘create a safe space’, because sometimes we get tokenised to be that African or [any other] particular group because of our identity. It's really great to create a space to say, “no, this is for us”, not saying that it's not for other people as well, but it's for us to be like, “listen, we are talking; this is what you're doing, pay attention to us”. So I, I definitely love the work that you're doing. How can people listen to your podcasts? Where can they find it? How can they connect?


Asma:

They can find it on most platforms, streaming sites. That includes Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, [Overcast], and player FM, or you can just go straight to our website, herroyalscience.com. You can play it from our podcast player. In terms of connecting with us, you can write to us via our website, or you can connect by a social media on Instagram, @her_science and also on Twitter, same handle @her_science.


Anne:

Fantastic. I just have to say that on her website, how she's saying that [you] can send her a message – she responds so quickly! That's how I got hold of her. You know how sometimes when you write emails to these 'send us a question' or 'send us an opinion' and it takes forever! You even forget that you sent an email (Laughter). But yeah, she's very, very prompt. Just FYI. Check out her website, it's really, really great. Take a listen to the podcast really, really great as well. Just to wrap it up, I just want to ask you finally, what is some advice that you'd give to somebody who's listening, about getting into STEM, or just your journey into neuroscience?


Asma:

Ooh, I don't know if I'm good at giving advice, but I'll try my best… Okay, this is really corny, but bear with me for a second. "Be the truest and most authentic version of yourself." I can't take credit for that. My mom's the one who says that all the time to me. "Just be your true, authentic self. Show up as yourself, and if they like you, they like you. If they don't, whatever, they'll have to get over that emotion because you're already over it. You've already moved on. Your life is already at full speed." You can't waste time thinking about what people think of your true, authentic, kind, beautiful self, when you're already doing the work to try and be a good person; someone's going to critique that work? They're going to critique that effort? No, I think you can learn and you can grow from other people, listen to people. I think part of being your true, authentic self means that you give other people the platform to also speak their own truth and listen to that truth. It's not really relevant to science exclusively, but I think that advice has carried me through most of my life. That just being myself is enough. Yeah. I got to go call my mum! I got to go thank her.


Anne:

Yeah! Kudos to your mom! That transcends into everything in life. I think sometimes society or people or our friends just want us to be a particular person and you tend to doubt like, am I really this person? Can I do it? But although that advice is good, sometimes it's hard. It can be hard because sometimes being yourself means that you'll be by yourself. You know?


Asma:

Yeah, absolutely! You kind of have to get used to that. I think I had to get used to the idea that people weren't always going to like the way I did things. There were a lot of people who disagreed with me leaving Doha the way that I did. People thought that I was being a little bit, you know, unrealistic. “How do you expect an entire society to change just because you dislike something that's going on?” [they would say]. But in my mind, I thought, okay, I can't change you. But what I can do is say that I disagree so much, that I'm willing to get up and leave my family. I'm willing to say, "okay, I'm washing my hands of this, but this society and the way it is structured is so disgusting, and I do not stand for it. I'm going to get up and I'm going to leave and you will know that I do not agree with any bit of it." So yeah, I ended up literally being alone, but sometimes those are the sacrifices that I feel people are afraid to make for the greater good. I think if a hundred thousand people did what I did in Doha, things would have to change. People would go, “wow, all the ex-pats are leaving. Maybe we have a problem here.” But no, unfortunately we get comfortable in our privilege and we [say], “Oh, I really don't want to rock the boat. Well, I mean, I'm fine. If I was able to find a place where I'm catered to and I have these sets of privileges, then why can't everybody else?” But that's not how the world works. I don't agree with that standpoint. I think recognizing your privilege and using your privilege for good is the only way we can make our society better. Literally, the only way. That's the only way I see us recovering from everything that's been going on.


Anne:

True. And this can be said to so many other places in the world, not only Qatar.


Asma:

Agreed.


Anne:

I think this is a great place for us to leave it and just to say, thank you so much for chatting with me. This was so lovely. And for taking the time! I really enjoyed chatting with you.


Asma:

It's always a pleasure. Hopefully we can do it again some time.


Anne:

Definitely. And to everybody else, who's listening: thank you once again, for tuning in and listening to the Root of the Science podcast with your girl, Anne with an E; until next time. Bye!

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