Research and Policy
College Student and Iraqi Refugee
The University of Chicago
Hazim Avdal, 23, is an Iraqi refugee living in the United States and studying computer science at the University of Chicago. Hazim grew up as a member of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq, which has suffered persecution at the hands of ISIS. At a young age, Hazim displayed a yearning for knowledge. He learned English around age 10 through reading an English-Arabic dictionary and taught himself computer programming between the ages of 16 and 20, even though he did not have regular access to the internet until age 20. Upon graduating from high school, Hazim was the seventh highest-scoring student in all of Iraq on the country’s standardized test for seniors. In 2013, Hazim graduated high school with honors and was accepted into the University of Mosul. But before he could attend, Yazidi students were purged from the college by ISIS, forcing around 2,000 students to drop out under threat of death. Shortly after, Hazim’s family narrowly escaped an ISIS attack on their village in which 530 of the population of 2,000 were killed, captured or enslaved.Upon returning from Turkey where his family found refuge in temporary camps, Hazim became involved in the non-profit organization Yazda, using his IT knowledge in service of other genocide survivors. Through his work with Yazda, Hazim became acquainted with the Clooney family. In January 2017, Hazim came to the United States as a refugee with the support and sponsorship of George and Amal Clooney and the Clooney Foundation for Justice, an organization dedicated to advancing justice is courtrooms, classrooms and communities around the world. After arriving in the US, Hazim applied and was accepted into the University of Chicago. In July of 2018, he was placed on the Dean’s List due to his superior academic performance during his freshman year.