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For the exhibition World City: Refugee Stories (on until 16 September) we have been extremely lucky to have had the support of three Student Ambassadors from Kingston University London. Find out more about their own stories below.
Arrived in UK 1991
Studying International Relations
“Eritrea was at war with Ethiopia and my family had fled to Sudan. My mother left for Saudi Arabia, working to support the family. She met my father there, who was Lebanese. When she fell pregnant, she decided to leave Saudi Arabia. She didn’t want that life for me - one of instability, prejudice and racism.
I see myself as a citizen of the world. I’m a refugee, but London is all I know. I’m English in my mannerisms, thinking and taste. When people ask ‘where are you from?’, my answer is never simply ‘here’ or Eritrea or Lebanon. Neither of these places really accept me – I’m still an outsider.
Whilst studying international relations, I’ve learned about nationalism and the state system. Notions of state identity are based on arbitrary borders and fragile histories, manipulated for political gain. The only defining factor of a person should be culture and character, rather than a passport or skin colour. What creates an identity is culture, which is made up of music, food, dress, traditions and language, not political borders.”
Arrived in UK 2006
“I am an Ahwazi Arab, born in Ahwaz in south-west Iran. On 15 April 2005, I participated in a series of protests, sparked by revelations that the Iranian regime was planning a land confiscation programme in which Arabs would be forcibly displaced from Ahwaz to other regions of Iran. It was also the 80th anniversary of occupation of Ahwaz by Iran.
I was arrested, held in detention for 28 days and badly tortured. I was released on bail, as there was no evidence against me. To escape the watch of the Iranian state services, I travelled to my aunt in another city. My home was raided and my uncle killed. The guards also arrested my parents and 80 year-old grandfather, as well as other family members.
I realised I had only one option - to leave Ahwaz. So I escaped from Ahwaz to Turkey, and arrived in the UK in autumn 2006. In 2010 I began studying geography at Kingston University. Sadly my 19 year-old cousin was killed in January 2012. Two other cousins are still in detention.”
Arrived in UK 1994
Studying Politics and International Relations
“I am a British Iraqi - my mother is Baghdadi and my father is Turkoman and I go by three nationalities. I came to the United Kingdom with my family three years after the Gulf War erupted. My entire life has been affected by living in the Diaspora. At times I find myself grappling with the question of where I fit in best, and this makes me aspire to become an anthropologist.
Torn between east and west, my identity is a prevalent struggle in my life, but this has also provided me with the ability to adapt. My narrative is one amongst a sea of narratives; an additional voice that can shed greater understanding upon a complex history. The current exhibition by the Jewish Museum on the stories of refugees is highly relevant to my interests. I too have a story or insight into this world - where I can affiliate or share parallels with the stories that others care to share. I really appreciate being involved and contributing with my input and dedication.”