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Ilyasse’s photo went viral: ‘It was quite a bizarre week’

It was meant as a joke for friends and family. A quick snap of him with his bags packed while watching the exit polls of the Dutch general elections. But the photo of our colleague Ilyasse El Boujadayni soon found its way around the entire country and before he knew it, he was being invited by national media to tell his story. El Boujadayni: ‘It was quite a bizarre week.’

‘I often pull pranks like this with my friends and cousins,' says Ilyasse, Business & Project Controller at Leiden Law School's Financial and Economic Affairs Department. 'So I asked my wife to take a photo of me standing in front of the television. By now, she's used to me doing weird things like this but she did warn me the photo might go viral. Turns out she was right!'

Just a few minutes after the photo was posted on Facebook – and prompty removed again – it started popping up all over the internet and even being shared by Dutch celebrities.

Photo: Ilyasse El Boujadayni
Photo: Ilyasse El Boujadayni

‘I’m not going anywhere’

'With the exception of one racist remark, the response has been really positive. But some people didn't realise I just meant it as a joke.'

And so Ilyasse decided to devote a LinkedIn post to it giving some more context. Late-night Dutch talk show Op1 then invited him to the studio and he told his story on RTL Nieuws.

'I've never experienced anything like it. I received a message from NPO's editors that the video had already been viewed more than 2.5 million times. It's great that a photo I posted as a joke at least encouraged people to talk to each other. Almost all reactions to the photo have been positive, and they've come from all sorts of people. Some of my colleagues recognised me and wanted to drop by to chat about it, which is nice. Humour can take the sting out of a discussion. Let me just be clear: it really was a joke. I’m from Leiden, I enjoy working at the faculty and I'm not going anywhere at all.'

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