During His Majesty King Abdullah II ’80’s surprise visit to Deerfield Academy back in September, the Deerfield community had the opportunity to learn about the challenges facing the Middle East. After His Majesty’s visit, the recent events in Iran feel all the more relevant to Deerfield students and the broader Deerfield community. The conflicts with Iran and the tensions developing in the Middle East have brought up the question of how this will impact Deerfield’s relationship with our sister school, King’s Academy in Jordan.
King Abdullah II spoke about how oil is the chief export of most Middle Eastern countries and a highly valuable and contested commodity. In May 2018, President Trump not only abandoned the nuclear deal, but also reinstated sanctions against Iran, leading to an Iranian economic recession. In June, the U.S. tightened sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, exacerbating an already strained relationship. Iran retaliated by shooting down a U.S. military drone. The U.S. countered by assassinating the second most powerful leader in Iran, General Qasem Soleimani.
As a result of these conflicts, some members of the Deerfield community began to wonder if the biennial trip to Jordan and King’s Academy would be cancelled, as the geographical location is quite close to Iran. However, the trip, led by the Center for Service and Global Citizenship (CSGC) is happening as scheduled. Students will be visiting the country to immerse themselves in the Jordanian culture and meet students from King’s Academy. The focus of this year’s trip revolves around the issue of food and water in a country where agriculture and access to potable water is a serious problem.
Associate Director for the CSGC Heather Brown said, “The trip is on and we are excited to host students in Jordan.” Mrs. Brown also mentioned that Deerfield works with a company called International SOS which analyzes data to deem if a trip is safe or best suited for that group. According to International SOS, “There is no risk assessment change for Jordan after events in Iran.”
Commenting on the common misconceptions on the political and social environment in Jordan, Head of School of King’s Academy Peter Nilsson stated, “It’s important to begin with an understanding that Jordan is a nation that actively promotes peace and is proud of, and ever vigilant about, the stability and security it has achieved. As a result, the people here in Jordan do not feel the same sense of unease that others might imagine exists in a country so close to Iraq, Syria, and other neighboring nations.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Alesia Radzminski ’21 of King’s Academy said, “Campus is exactly the same. It feels very safe in Jordan. Besides, a threat posed to King’s would mean one to the royal court, which is highly unlikely.”
Sharing her own perspective, Gabriella Hu ‘21, head of the Muslim Student Alliance said, “It can be frightening living in the Deerfield bubble and not having much knowledge about what is going on in the world. This is definitely something that we will talk about in our upcoming meetings as well.”
Head of School Dr. John Austin concluded, “Jordan is an incredibly resilient country. Recent events may have an indirect impact, but will not directly hinder day-to-day operations.” When asked about how these events in Iran may impact Deerfield, Dr. Austin said, “These events won’t cast a huge impact on our campus unless, of course, a full war ensues.”
Dr. Austin shared hopes that Deerfield will be able to educate students more about the Middle East and demystify some common misconceptions.