‘Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it,’ says Rasool. ‘But when I got it, I was happy, because I hope it will eventually motivate newcomers to the Netherlands to keep working hard and keep going for it. It will eventually pay off.’
The 39-year-old Rasool fled Iraq in 1997 and graduated from the RUG’s international humanitarian action master programme in 2013. In 2015, Rasool did an internship in connection with the United Nations Refugee Agency in a refugee camp near the border area of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Last week, the UK published an in-depth interview with Rasool about his experiences there.
The other two nominees were Clenton Mitali, a 31-year-old Rwandan student at Windesheim in Zwolle, and Pouya Zarchin, a 28-year-old from Iran who graduated from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Even though Rasool was chosen overwhelmingly by the award committee, students and on social media, he voted for Mitali to win.
‘At least it might help him with his asylum procedure – he is still not certain if he is going to stay in the Netherlands, and I really hoped with all my heart that he would win it’, Rasool says. ‘So I was really quite surprised and shocked when the jury told me that I had won.’
The Kees Bleichrodt Award is given out annually to a Dutch university student who originally came to the Netherlands as a refugee. The award is in remembrance of Kees Bleichrodt, the former director of UAF, and recognises the talent and perseverance of refugees.
Photo by Soraya Ebrahimi, courtesy of UAF