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Scholarship offers life changing education for Kurdish refugee

Student standing on the mountain

After years of living in limbo, a young man forced to flee his homeland was given the chance to transform his life.

When Mostafa Faraji looks up at kunanyi, the ancient mountain dominating Hobart, it reminds him of home.

The geological mass provides a deep and visible connection to the rugged mountainous region of Iran that he was forced to flee.

Mostafa is only 22, but he has spent most of his life fighting: for freedom, safety and basic human rights.

He is one of up to 35 million Kurds spread across Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle East, but they do not have a nation state.

“For generations Kurds have been persecuted,” Mostafa said.

He said their language was outlawed, their identity denied, their lands seized, and violent chemical attacks occurred.

“I suddenly realised I had no rights, no voice and no future.”

At 15, he left his homeland and loving family behind and began his journey as a refugee. He arrived in Australia in 2013.

“Being in indefinite detention is like being in jail for a crime you didn’t commit.

“To cope many of us would stay awake in the night and talk to each other and sleep in the day.”

Mostafa now lives in Hobart on a Safe Haven Enterprise visa, which allows refugees to temporarily work and study, but only in regional areas.

The visa presents challenges: work can be scarce, studying costly – as they don't qualify for financial support – and many refugees live in limbo, scared they will be sent back.

But in 2018 he received an opportunity that will forever change his life.

He became a student at the University of Tasmania, thanks to the Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Scholarship.

It was established in 2016 after the University saw the need to provide access to higher education to asylum seekers and it became part of the Refugee Council of Australia's Education for All Campaign. A year later, a generous anonymous donor saw the scholarship on the website and expressed interest in offering further support.

Together with the donor, the University supports up to three asylum seekers a year, providing them with the opportunity to study an undergraduate degree for free. There are 19 universities around Australia offering similar scholarships that waive tuition fees.

“I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have been given,” Mostafa said.

“To be able to give back to the community is something that I want to do, and this is helping me do that. It is a great honour.

“I have witnessed so much in my life, but I’m thankful there are people who stand up for human rights, who want to make a difference so that refugees can be seen and heard and can contribute to society.”

The scholarship’s highly engaged donor is updated regularly on each student’s progress to ensure that the $10,000 living allowance provided is alleviating their individual barriers to study.

Mostafa has chosen to study the Fast Track Bachelor of Nursing. He wants to help others.

“My goal is to be a physician one day, but for now, I would like to be a nurse for experience purposes and give back to my newly adopted home Tasmania.”

His only wish now is that every refugee had the same opportunity to pursue their dreams and give back to the community.

Nine young people from some of the most troubled parts of the world received a Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Scholarship between 2017 and 2019. To help us support students through scholarships, visit: https://www.utas.edu.au/giving

Photo credit: Sara Glaoua

Published on: 15 Oct 2020 9:24pm