“It was like a Hollywood movie,” says Rami Mohammed on his journey of arriving at the Harsham IDP and refugee camp. Seven years ago, at the age of 16, Rami and his family left everything behind in their home of Mosul, Iraq to escape the perils of ISIS control and embark upon a new life in an unfamiliar camp on the fringes of the city of Erbil in northern Iraq.

In 2003, the terrorist organization ISIS emerged from the militant group, Al-Qaeda, in Iraq as a response to the invasion of the United States military. The group faded somewhat into oblivion until 2011 when they began to carry out more attacks. In 2014, the group carried out a large military campaign attack on Rami´s home of Mosul which is the second largest city in Iraq. Now with the recent emergence of ISIS-K, an Afghan affiliate of the central ISIS group, many refugees are in the same position as Rami.

Rami´s life before the reign of ISIS was one of normality. He lived in a large house with his mother and father, 2 younger brothers, one older brother, and one older sister. However, once ISIS took control “everything changed,” recalled Rami. He explains how the changes implemented by ISIS were gradual. It began with the banning of cellphones. Then, women were not allowed to leave their house unless it was for an emergency. Women were also forced to further increase the level of coverage offered by their clothing. The group then began taking money from those who owned shops. Food, oil, and other items started to become extremely expensive.

Rami was most shocked by the public beheadings, destruction, and overall gruesomeness of the group. “It was like a game,” he describes as he discussed how the chopped off heads of civilians would be used to play soccer, or put high up on buildings for all to see. Rami states that “day by day, everything changed.”

He has had a strenuous journey to get to where he is today, but Rami now focuses on the future and rebuilding his life. At 22 years old, he is optimistic about his path in life, and is eager to make a name for himself in his country. With all that he has been through, he still has a positive outlook on the future and is proud of his success up to this point. His perspective is representative of many refugees all across the globe, and reflects the true idea of seeing the glass half full.

The university student studying computer science is set to graduate this year, and hopes to develop a company focused on web design or data security. He also is open to the idea of having a possible position in the field of politics.

Whatever Rami decides to pursue, he wants to make sure that people remember his name. When asked about his motivations and his optimistic outlook on life, Rami states that “God saved [him] so [he] had to do something with that.” He looks forward to making an imprint on the world, and being the change in his country that everyone will remember.

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