In the middle of 2006, a civil war began in my hometown in Iraq. I was 18-years-old and in my final year of high school. My family moved to the Kurdistan Region and I was obliged to finish my final exam at my grandfather’s house. It was really hard for me, I witnessed a shooting and the use of an improvised explosive device (IEDs) during my exam. Moreover, the family at my grandfather’s house worried about me being kidnapped, or anything bad happening to me. Eventually, I finished my exams and joined my family, but I could not imagine that I would go to university abroad. I was focused on enrolling at a university that is close to my house.
I faced many challenges in my new area, Mosul. It had many conflicts and its citizens are from various sects, ethnic groups, and religions, and there was severe persecution against the minorities. In fact, I was escaping from one place to another, hiding from extremists who were with me in the dormitories. This happened due to my overt Bahai identity and because I came from a different province. With a huge volume of suffering, including murder in the streets and unstable circumstances in Mosul, I hardly passed the first stage of my undergraduate degree. I then tried to move to another university in another district in the Kurdistan Region. I was not accepted due to a delay in the transfer process, which occurred between the Ministry of Higher Education in Iraq and the Ministry of Higher Education in the Kurdistan Region.
I felt extremely disappointed because I was refused by all Kurdish universities that I applied for, including the private ones, because we did not have sufficient funds to pay for them. At that time, I did not know what I should do. Should I repeat the same conditions that I had in Mosul at another city? All cities were under civil war. Some militias installed fake check-points to kill people who were not from their ethnic groups. There were kidnappings of university lecturers and people who speak a different language such as English, specifically the interpreters, or those who worked at major companies. After thinking it over, I postponed my studies in order to help my family financially. It was so hard for me, but I had hoped I would return to college and continue on my path. I worked in many jobs and cried and cried when I saw students who go to school daily.
After a year, at the end of 2008, I was accepted at a university in Baghdad. In Baghdad, I gradually forgot about the things that happened to me by making good friendships with classmates and holding many events. I was elected as the best student in my department many times. I participated in my department’s monthly magazine which conveys the ideas of students. I conducted interviews with the deans of other colleges and made puzzles and awarded a prize to the students who were able to solve them. We also performed Hamlet, which was the first drama in our department. All of those events motivated me to not give up.
Difficult situations gave me so many lessons on how to overcome my doubts. I have become stronger than ever before due to patience and self-reliance. I truly believe that I couldn’t have been able to understand the value of triumph without all of the challenges I faced.