Iraqi refugee, Ihab Basri, is a freshman at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. His life story is a powerful one—a story of war, of family, of survival, and of hope that peace is coming to Iraq once again.
Ihab says that he remembers a time in Iraq when everything was peaceful, when no one was afraid to walk down the streets of Baghdad. He says that when he was a child and even up until the invasion, no one cared about whether their neighbors were Muslims or Christians. Everyone lived in peace. Now, no one can walk down the street without risking his or her life. Everyone is afraid because everyone is a target. “Right now,” he says, “We don’t want food; we just want peace.”
Everything started for Ihab Basri in 2007, after some unknown men attempted to kidnap him on his way to his university. He was in the first few stages of medical school there in Baghdad. Ihab does not know why he was the target; although, he speculates that it might be because he is Christian. After this traumatic event, his family decided to move out of Baghdad to Northern Iraq. Life was very difficult there: no one accepted them because they were Arab, the cost of living was high, and there was no work for them. In July 2007, they escaped to Syria as refugees, where they were still not allowed to work. Ihab says that they had to renew their residency every two months, and they were in constant danger of being expelled from Syria. Ihab was forbidden from continuing his studies at any of the Syrian universities, even if his family had had the money to pay the steep university fees.
That’s where the Iraqi Student Project came in. They helped him improve his English, guided him through the college application process, and sent him to the United States to finish his studies. He says, “They have been here with me every step of the way. They are like my family.” They continue to help him with life in the United States; he even has an internship this summer at a New York hospital through them. All they ask of him is that he “remember them and make the most of his opportunities to help his fellow Iraqis.” This, he says, “I can do.”
Even now that he is at Dartmouth College, life is still hard for him. He is not allowed to leave the United States until he has finished his degree. His family, including his two younger sisters (ages 9 and 19), is still in a refugee camp in Syria, unable to work or provide food for themselves. His parents have applied for immigration to Canada; although, that process often takes up to five years.
But Ihab is hopeful and adamant that he will make the most of his time here in the United States. Ihab is currently attempting to set up a direct liaison between Dartmouth and Iraqi refugee students who have had their studies interrupted by the war. He believes that the Iraqi students are the future of Iraq; they will be needed when peace prevails once again in Iraq. Until then, he suggests that students across the United States make people aware that the violence has not stopped in Iraq and that millions of innocent citizens are suffering everyday because of it.