May 14, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 9
Back Issues
‘Our Students Lead Us’
‘Child of war’
Pasha will return home and help rebuild Iraq
Sullivan Award-winners
Part of the fabric of University life
Curiosity drives Mitman’s pursuits
‘Reverend Nurse:’
At 52, Valley minister feels call to care for the whole person, spiritually and physically
Leap of a lifetime:
Athlete Kim Turko jumps a formidable hurdle — life-threatening illness
He’ll be back:
Adult education graduate studies adult education
‘Hungry to Help:’
Student refugee wants to improve the lives of Burma’s forgotten children
Revitalizing Main Street:
Jill Nolt’s plan for her hometown high school makes front-page news
Peace Corps bound:
Business major trades fast lane for slow pace on Tonga
First in her family:
Angela Caldwell, a Native American, overcomes community attitudes to become lawyer
From Crane’s love of the cosmos comes new era for stargazers
A history of Finals
Sharlotte Bolyard is flying high
A ministry of medicine

Bombay bound:
Darden grad to apply best U.S. business practices to family company in India

Peer educator looks beyond educating:
Health advocacy is next step for Alyssa Lederer

No ‘cookie-cutter’ solutions:
Family expert Charmaine Yoest says creativity, flexibility are keys to resolving work/family issues

Reflections on the road to enlightenment:
Thirteen years, one class at a time, but who was counting?

‘Connecting communities:’
Presentation on African-American history at U.Va. gets students thinking, talking
‘Child of war’
Pasha will return home and help rebuild Iraq
Rebeen Pasha
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Rebeen Pasha drew on his own experiences as a child of war to reach out to other University students.

By Elizabeth Kiem

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq last year, Rebeen Pasha, an Iraqi Kurd, was glued to the television. Pasha’s interest and concern, shared by many, were more direct and personal than most of his peers. He was watching an assault on the regime that he says murdered his father in 1992.

Eight years later, Pasha, a member of one of the world’s largest homeless minorities, found a temporary home at the University of Virginia. Here, he has combined his interdisciplinary major of politics, anthropology and health evaluation sciences with his own life experiences.

statue of Saddam Hussein
Photo/Wide World Photos
A statue of Saddam Hussein (above), head of the regime that Rebeen Pasha claims murdered his father, was toppled in downtown Bagdhad on April 9, 2003.

Pasha’s father was a member of the Kurdish opposition that rose up against the Hussein regime in 1991, only to be overrun by Iraqi troops fresh from their defeat in the Gulf War. The elder Pasha was shot by gunmen on his doorstep in Suleymania, a city within the U.N.-sanctioned “safe haven” zone.

The traumatic event was followed by years of civil strife as rival Kurdish factions struggled for power, but Pasha’s family did not abandon their home until 1996.

Pasha has returned to Suleymania only once, in 1999. Now he wants to return for a closer look, specifically at the health legacy of Hussein’s 1988 chemical attack against the Kurds, which was estimated to have killed up to 150,000.

“The consequences of the chemical bombs are really going unnoticed,” Pasha said. “It’s only recently, with the war, that missions are slowly going there and trying to evaluate the people and see long-term effects.”

Pasha’s commitment to his ethnic community has not eclipsed an interest in his new home and peers. In his four years on Grounds, he participated in Student Council, Amnesty International and the U.Va. year book; he served as a resident adviser and a student member of the Board of Visitors Selection Committee; and he was a Lawn resident, a member of the Pre-Med Society and a spokesperson for diversity awareness.

Pasha said his most emotionally engaging activity was the “Children of War” program, in which U.Va. students who share a war-torn childhood convey their experiences to other students. Pasha has taken part in all three annual panels and served as the organization’s president.

“He spoke very movingly,” recalled Children of War sponsor, Professor Michael J. Smith. “He has tried to stay true to his core beliefs, raising doubts about the capacity of war to solve deep problems.”

Pasha has been accepted to graduate programs at the University of North Carolina and at Columbia University.

“Not enough focus has been given to refugee populations,” he said, “and the [study of the] effects of forced migration and post-traumatic stress disorder … is also a new thing. There was some research being done on the Vietnamese refugees and Cambodian refugees in the 1970s and ’80s, and then it stopped.”

Eventually, Pasha plans to follow his master’s degree in public health with medical school. In the meantime, he wants to use his academic experience to “help rebuild the public health system” in his homeland.

It’s a goal that his adviser Smith lauds: “What’s most important [about Pasha] is his commitment to learning and placing his experience of war into a framework of scholarly understanding.”


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