Students step out on to the dirt road by their pre-fabricated campus, in the middle of industrial parks, residential buildings and camps for internally displaced Iraqis. Erbil’s skyline fades into the horizon.
“You know the word jihad? It means struggle and strive. All this, it is our jihad,” says Mustafa Hameed at the end of the first day of his final exams, the most important time of the academic year. Hameed, who was born in Baghdad but displaced to Erbil amid the rapid advance of fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), is one of the students at Hamdaniyah University, a new and independent institution that has risen from the ashes of Mosul’s academic system.
“We should not stop teaching and studying because we are displaced,” says university president Muzahim Alkhyatt. “Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, Sunnis, Shia are living in a peaceful way, as if they were one family. This is the goal of the university. If you think education is only for certain people, you will fail.”