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Iraqi student hopes scholarship will help boost education for Yazidis

by Heba Kanso | @hebakanso | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 6 September 2017 13:08 GMT

Aido Khiro Omar poses for a photo at UWC Dilijan in Dilijan, Armenia, August 2017. Aurora Prize/Supplied

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"The children study in tents, and are also living in tents they have nowhere to go to do their homework ..."

By Heba Kanso

BEIRUT, Sept 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Yazidi boy who fled persecution by Islamic State in Iraq hopes his scholarship to study at an international school will help him to improve orphans' education in his war-ravaged homeland. Aido Khiro Omar, an 18-year-old student from Mosul in northern Iraq has started his first week at United World College (UWC) in Dilijan, Armenia - an international boarding school that hosts students from 82 countries.

"It was really a golden chance for me to get a good education in another country ... because the education in Iraq is very poor," Omar said in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Omar wants to create education opportunities for orphans in Iraq, where learning has been severely disrupted by conflict and displacement.

"The children study in tents, and are also living in tents they have nowhere to go to do their homework ... Many Yazidi girls do not complete their education and go to school as it is dangerous for a girl alone," he said.

Islamic State insurgents overran the Yazidi religious community's heartland in Sinjar, northwest Iraq, in August 2014, systematically killing, capturing and enslaving thousands of Yazidi inhabitants.

U.N. investigators estimate more than 5,000 Yazidis have been rounded up and slaughtered and some 7,000 women and girls forced into sex slavery.

Iraqi forces recaptured the city of Mosul this year after months of fighting to wrest it from Islamic State's control.

Omar is the first recipient of an annual Lamiya Aji Bashar Scholarship. Bashar is a Yazidi rights advocate who was among thousands of women and girls abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Islamic State fighters after the militants rounded up Yazidis in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar in 2014.

The scholarship was established by Aurora Humanitarian Initiative (AHI) in partnership with the activist.

"This scholarship is the opportunity of a lifetime for young people from my community," Bashar said in a statement.

Omar wants to study biology, chemistry and global politics in the two-year International Baccalaureate programme.

(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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