A UNHCR scholarship changes the life of a Palestinian refugee in Iraq

April 16, 2021

It was a hot summer day in Baghdad in June 2018, Abdallah was coming home from school, he had high school final exams. When he reached home, he felt that something was wrong. From that day onward, nothing would be the same again, his grandfather had died.

Abdallah was devastated and was unable to finish the school year.

Photo of Abdallah’s grandfather when he was in college in Cairo University.


“He was not just my grandfather, he was much more, he was a friend, a counselor, a source of inspiration, a role model for me, he was my last living connection to my homeland, Palestine.

He used to tell me so many stories about his travels and his adventures. He taught me a lot about life, and he helped me understand myself. He was courageous and outgoing and very sociable, I learnt so much from him.

He taught me to love my homeland, and the love of adventures and trying out new things, he taught me how to be fearless.  A fascinating personality really, he lived and worked in Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. He was an Agricultural Engineer.” Abdallah was named after his grandfather and he cherished him so much.


Abdallah is a Palestinian refugee that lives in Baghdad. He lives with his parents and 4 siblings. Because of his hard work, persistence, and high scores in high school, he was awarded a DAFI scholarship by UNHCR. The scholarship is awarded by the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative.

Abdallah studies hard and despite lockdowns and remote learning, he does his best to stay focused on his subject matters. The only thing that he misses is the practical side which he hopes to go back to in full, by next school year.

The DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship programme offers qualified refugee students the possibility to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum. Through the dedicated support of the German Government, UNHCR and private donors, the programme has supported over 18,000 young refugees to undertake tertiary studies since 1992.

In Iraq, DAFI programme was piloted in Baghdad – Federal Iraq for the first time in 2019 with the support and close coordination with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) and relevant universities. The programme benefited 10 Palestinian refugee students, one of whom is Abdallah. The programme covers the annual tuition fees paid to the universities as well as monthly allowances to help the students make ends meet”.

The scholarship allowed Abdallah to study in the medical field, something he always wanted to do, so he is now studying Anesthesia Techniques. In two years, he will be assisting physicians in operation rooms in hospitals in anesthesia, surgery, and revival, just like what his grandfather wanted.


Since the lockdowns due to COVID-19, in his spare time, Abdallah started to learn to play the guitar. Also during this lockdown period, he was able to do more reading and investing his time in studying medicine and anesthesia.

He reads a lot about the pandemic by accessing WHO, UN and other websites. He helped in spreading awareness among his friends, neighbours and relatives. He loves sci-fi movies and dramas, and when he has free time, one of his hobbies is reading, he likes to read poetry, especially by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Abdallah misses going out with his friends, but he keeps in touch with them through virtual meetings. “One of the advantages of the lockdown is that we had more time to invest in self-development; like English language and video editing and I became an expert in communication tools like MS Teams and Zoom”, Abdallah said as he laughed.

Abdallah misses the days before COVID-19 when he would see all his friends and colleagues and was able to go the labs and to the hospitals for practice.

He is very hopeful about his future, he can’t wait to graduate, so he can help people in need and apply state of the art knowledge in the medical field.