Mateen Duhoki: The Refugee Situation in Kurdistan

Mateen is medical student from Kurdistan, and describes living in a region with the highest population of displaced refugees. One particular heartbreaking incident ignited his passion to serve in the health and humanitarian sector. He wants everyone to know that “what we want for ourselves is what we should want for others.” This story was recorded in partnership with StoryCorps and MALA with the Benedictine University MEPI 2016 students.


“I’m from Kurdistan.  Kurdistan is like a region in Iraq in the northern part of Iraq.  Kurdistan has been divided from the 15th century on four country which Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, and Syria.  I’m from the Iraqi part of Kurdistan which is the most independent part compared to other parts of Kurdistan.  The only part of Kurdistan that we have our own government, our own president, and parliament, and it’s more independent region than other parts of the Kurdistan.  We don’t have like very diversity in my country.  Here it’s very diverse.  People here are very friendly.  They really love each other.  This is the point in our country people don’t love each other like they always–how can I say–they just want to bring you down and here they are surprised when like when you open the door for someone they get sorry and they apologize.  We just do apologize for when we do something very bad or wrong.


I’m surprised about that and the other aspects that educations here are very expensive specifically college education.  A college education is free and another difference is that health insurance here is very expensive and health services but in my country all health services are for free. Even you can apply for public hospital if you have a like every severe disease and you want an operation, the operations are for free; everything is for free.  So there are other difference in some aspects and they are pretty similar in other aspects.  This is my project that I’m going to do a conference on the basis on the health conditions of refugees.  And the reason behind that is why I choose this topic is because of the refugee condition in my country. And what we’re gonna do in the conference is that gathering up and the NGO’s that work for the refugees including medical students since I am a medical student.  And then we are gonna discuss the refugees and how we can improve that situation.


The first time that I went to a camp, I met a woman.  She had one son and she was waiting a long time to have a daughter.  And just 8 days before she escaping from ISIS, she delivered a daughter, a girl, and they were escaping from the ISIS.  Imagine like her daughter died in front of her eyes because of thirsty and she is an 8 day year old girl.  She died because of thirsty and starving and that case surprised me a lot and actually that was the main reason that I decided to work in the humanitarian sectors and do a lot of projects for the refugees.  Specifically for the refugees, I want everyone to know that whatever we want for our self, you should want for them to have as well because they are the same like us and difference is that they escaped from their country; they left their land because of the conflict and political issues and everybody should respect that and should work for them for a better life because they are the same like us.”

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