I was born in the city of Kirkuk, in the north of Iraq. My family and I escaped Iraq in 1986, a month before my tenth birthday. It took us fifteen days to travel by foot to reach the border with Iran in the hope that we would be granted political asylum.It was in the middle of winter, in freezing conditions and limited food and shelter. We barely survived the journey. After spending about a year in a detention centre, we lived through 2.5 years in community detention and many restrictions in Iran, including no rights to work and study. We knew settlement in Iran was not an option, and turning back was a dead road. After seeking out our options, we were given a pathway to Australia through the Refugee Humanitarian Program and arrived in Australia in 1992.
Arriving in Australia
It took about a week for everything to sink in after arriving in Australia. I cried for a year, begging my parents to take me back to Iran at first. Everything was completely different in Australia. I felt alone and isolated. My studies suffered from the trauma I had experienced during my childhood experiences of war, displacement and uncertainty. These experiences took a major toll on my wellbeing. Being a teenager and completing my studies, learning a new language and having to sit for my Higher School Certificate exams all seemed so much to deal with. I failed my Higher School Certificate and wasn’t able to go to university. After school I juggled jobs to contribute and assist my family. I later went on to complete a Diploma in Community Services and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences majoring in Youth Work.
I have been working in the resettlement of refugees since 2006 in both government and non-government organisations. My focus has been on young refugees, instilling my passion in education and better pathways in settlement for young people so they can have the opportunities I never did.
My involvement in the Refugee Council of Australia’s Face-to-Face program gives me the opportunity to engage with the wider public on many levels. After experiencing the reality of derogatory and harmful comments directed at refugees, I sought to showcase the human stories behind refugees to the broader public – the highs and lows, the destruction, the suffering, and mostly the resilience – to help build empathy and understanding. By channeling my own experiences and empathy, I am dedicated to making change through acceptance and education.