For Arez Hussen, 22, a student at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, being a journalist in Iraq is more than informing the Iraqi public.
“The beauty of being a journalist is we’re constantly changing,” Hussen said during a morning discuss at Columbia College Chicago.
Hussen is one of the founders of the first independent student newspaper in Iraq, the AUIS Voice, and was Editor in Chief of the Voice for two years. He is an active member of the Kurdistan Journalism Syndicate. He participated in and arranged many workshops for training journalists and conflict resolution in Sulaimani, Iraq.
One of Hussen’s more recent stories was covering Iraqi refugees in the northern part of the country. He explained that much of the media attention is on Syrian refugees who sought out sanctuary in Iraq, and little on the original Iraqi refugees who are still dislocated in the northern part of the country.
“It is not a safe country,” Hussen explained. “Arab Sunni fled from the southern part of Iraq to the north for shelter.”
Most of the Iraqi refugees have been in the camps for 7 to 8 years and there are over a million refugees in Iraq.
Hussen explained the difficulties that he encountered while trying to report on the refugee camps.
“There are journalists who are not accurate and take advantage of the refugees,” Hussen said. “The refugees put journalists in a negative category.”
While attempting to report on the refugee camps, Hussen was verbally attacked by members of the camp, and was almost stabbed.
“I was on the verge of being killed by these refugees,” said Hussen.
The only way Hussen was able to escape the camp without being killed or injured was by coaxing a young boy—referred to as Angel—who read newspapers, into walking with Hussen, distracting the group of frustrated refugees.
“I had to switch from journalist mode, to survivor mode,” Hussen explained.
Hussen made it back to his car and drove as fast as he could out of the refugee camps. His work with the refugees would not end at this perilous crossroad. Hussen said he would venture back to the camp and try again, but for a longer period of time.
“Other [Iraqi] journalists go in and leave, I want to go in and stay with the people,” Hussen said. “I want to show them that I care and want to experience what their life is like.”
Hussen is majoring in International Studies with a minor is Business Administration. He is a director of public relation and an English instructor at the Margaret Institute in Sulaimani, Iraq. He also works as an English-Kurdish-Arabic translator and assistant editor for UNESCO.
- Iraqi Refugees Find A Complicated New Home In Mass. (wbur.org)
- Disease stalks Iraqi camps for Syrians: UNHCR (dailystar.com.lb)