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'When You're a Refugee, the Power of Education Is Very Strong'

26/06/2014 11:02 BST | Updated 24/08/2014 10:59 BST

The news is terrible from Iraq right now, but it was in 2009 that things got very bad for me and my family. First, my dad was kidnapped, then the same thing happened to one of my brothers, who was also tortured. They were released - though my brother was kept in captivity for 53 days. They threw him out into the street and left him like a dog to find his own way home. We were forced to move to a different area of Baghdad.

Several of my relatives have died in the violence in Iraq. Close friends have been killed, too. One day before we left, I was messing about in the street and a car came careering around the corner full of bullet holes. My dad was driving and he had been hit and badly injured. I was just 15 years old. There was no one around to help; me and my friend had to get him to hospital.

Then when I went back to school, I was attacked and my attackers put me in the boot of the car. I was so scared. I am there squashed up in the dark going over what I should say to these people when they ask - should I say I am Shia? Should I say I am Sunni? What should I say? It's not like being questioned here; they use their fists. I was released after a week, but it left me really fearful of what the future might hold for us.

I just wanted to live in peace and get on with my education, but that wasn't going to happen.

My dad thought we'd had enough. He said we have to go to England and get an education. He told me that British qualifications are highly regarded all over the world.

So we eventually got out, via Syria, and arrived Britain in 2009. I haven't got refugee status, although my mother has. I'm being sponsored through the Government's Family Reunion scheme.

Straight away when we got here, I wanted to continue my education. Now, at 22, I'm at Croydon College studying IT. My ambition is to go to university and become a computer programmer. I want to make the best of myself and succeed in the world now that I've been given this opportunity.

I'm also a Young Refugee Ambassador and I'm a member of the Refugee Group at college. All the time I'm thinking about people made homeless through war and conflict. I talk to classes at college about refugees. This work is so important to me. I want to help young people who have gone through experiences like mine and to make other people aware of their suffering.

My message to other young refugees is to be strong and confident. I also tell them about the power of art and education and, understanding. On the whole, people are accepting of me. But because I'm a Muslim, some people think I walk round with a bomb in my rucksack. I find it crazy that some people have this view of Muslim people, but most don't and judge me as an individual.

At college, I get a lot of pastoral support in addition to my academic studies. The staff give me confidence to do things like going round the campus to give talks on what it's like to be a refugee and what it feels like to have to leave your country. The teacher who gives me pastoral support never says, 'you can't do that'. She always says that I can!

I'd say to other young people who come here as refugees that England gives you a lot of opportunities. But you have to learn - and you have to work. I feel safe here In England. I am trying hard to do well at my studies.

I tell other refugees that you have to push yourself and you have to be strong. I tell them that it's important to speak the language and to be serious about their studies. I tell them that they need to teach themselves, too.

I've had to do different jobs to support myself, including being a kitchen porter in a fish and chip restaurant. Working in a kitchen is a tough job physically and the hours are long - I feel exhausted and so sweaty at the end of a shift, but if that's what it takes, that's what I must do. But I think it's important to work before you go to university. You have to learn to work. That's a really important thing for refugees to know when they come here.

My work as a refugee ambassador has taken me to Parliament to meet the Speaker and to tell him about my experiences. That's quite a thing for a boy from Iraq to do - to visit this important man at the Mother of Parliaments. It's such a grand place. I felt extremely proud to think that I, as a refugee, had made that journey.

I've still got two brothers and a sister at home in Iraq. They want to get out, but I don't know if that will be possible. Things are definitely going to get worse in my country.