Scholar at risk: Saving a Yemeni student from the war back home

Hashed 1 - portrait

Name: Hashed
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Risks: Deportation, war, bombing, death
Needs: To stay in school and avoid deportation to the war in Yemen

We first met Hashed a year ago on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Even in a city home to many refugees, he stood out: hard-working, quiet, superbly gifted in English – a self-taught poet – and too shy to accept help. It took us ONE YEAR for him to agree to our offer of help – which takes the form of this GoFundMe we’ve launched in his name. He needs it! School saved him from the war in Yemen – and it’s the only thing that will keep him from going back. You can also listen to this podcast with Hashed and Hassan Al Kontar, the ‘airport prisoner’, on what it means to be a refugee in Malaysia.

Born in 1996, Hashed was a dedicated student growing up in Sanaa, Yemen. The oldest boy in the family, he was only 16 when the war started in his country.

“Many of my friends were shot by the Houthi soldiers. Some of them died in my arms.”

In 2015, Saudi Arabia joined the war, and aerial bombings were a daily occurrence. Hashed and his family – including his three sisters and two brothers – lived in fear.

Tragedy at home

On July 4, 2016, danger struck. His father was working at his furniture shop when it was bombed by planes. His father was taken to a hospital but died before Hashed arrived.

The shock sent Hashed to bed for two weeks, and caused his mother to have a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side.

With his father gone, along with the furniture shop, there was nothing to keep him in the country. His mother agreed he should study abroad, and at the end of 2016, he went to India to study on a scholarship.

Escape through education

Getting out of the country was a challenge. There are no embassies open in Yemen because of the war, so he had to go to Djibouti first. Along the way, he was stopped, first by Houthi rebels, then by government officials demanding bribes.

By the time he arrived in India, in February 2017, the delays along the way meant the school year had already begun. He spent the year as best he could, running marathons and volunteering.

When he finally began his studies in January 2018, he was overjoyed. Finally he could study electrical engineering and pursue his dream of higher education. Sadly, the war followed him and the Yemen-based foundation that sponsored his scholarship closed after coming under attack by Houthi rebels.

Hashed 2 - India


His friends and family begged him not to return to Yemen, where the war still raged, so in March 2018, he flew to Malaysia, one of the only countries still accepting Yemenis. He stayed with friends and found an under-the-table job at a restaurant.

Six months later, the restaurant was raided by police, who warned him that he would be jailed if caught again. Knowing the notorious state of the detention centres in Malaysia, he was terrified to work again.

Now he stays in the apartment of his friends, trying to be useful and humiliated that he has no money to pay the bills. He spends his time studying English, expressing himself by writing poems that he sends to his friends. But time is running out.

What’s next

There is hope. Owing to his high grades – and ability to recite the Qu’ran in its entirety, in Arabic, and answer questions from an interview panel – Hashed was accepted to the University of Malaysia, located 10 km from Singapore and ranked 86 of the top universities in the world.

Hashed - student pic 4 - cropped

It’s a full scholarship to the software engineering program. All he needs now is money for his cost of living, about $500 a month.

More good news: a friend in Canada, Ben Hume, hopes to help Hashed achieve legal status in Malaysia – and take one step closer toward his dream of becoming an educated professional – and a son who will make his mother proud.

Stay tuned!

If you want to know more about Hashed, you can contact him directly, through Facebook or through Whatsapp: +60 11-5142 3651

Or donate to the GoFundMe campaign that will keep him in school – and away from being deported to Yemen.

You can also talk to his friends in Canada, Stephen Watt through Facebook:

Or his friend Ben through Facebook

A few final words from Hashed

“Life can be so beautiful, even on top of the pain. In the middle of the suffering you will find that there is a smile that will come from your depths. It will come the bottom of your  hopelessness , depression and disappointment. A strong smile will come from the core of yourself. Then you will remember how much a human you are.”

Hashed - student pic 2

Published by

Northern Lights Canada

STRONGER TOGETHER: Together we’re building a network of volunteers and humanitarians to find hope and opportunities for displaced people worldwide. Canada is a global leader in responding to humanitarian crises and welcoming refugees. At Northern Lights Canada, we support this effort to build bridges – rather than walls – with the wider world. Our own work in private sponsorship, settlement, and advocacy has put us into touch with the most dynamic and inspiring individuals on the planet, people who are making a difference in countless ways, large and small. We invite you to join us in this transformational journey to bring light to darkness. Northern Lights Canada stands with refugees – and their friends and supporters – as they navigate the process of immigration and resettlement. We provide guidance, share resources and build on our collective strengths as we work alongside people who have been forced to flee their homes, celebrating as they begin new lives and make the most of their boundless potential.

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