Securing the Dreams of Scholars at Risk


*This contribution is provided by an anonymous author*

People used to describe me as a dreamer. I am a dreamer in the sense that I dreamed one day I will find a cure for serious diseases, and I ended up working on colon cancer research at a prominent Australian University. There is a little story behind all of this – I was brought up asking a lot of questions and I found myself skilled at analysing problems to find solutions.

This led me to finish my doctorate at a young age from an esteemed University in the Middle East; where the style of study was based on the American system. I graduated as a youngest scientist in my home country. My passion to discover and design new medical treatments was constant; in 2010, I was nominated for a Youth Fellowship and I was busy with a focus on nanomedicine. At this time, the minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research decided to send me abroad to get this specialist understanding of a complex field, and I joined a top Australian research University. My research here was on designing new active nanomaterials that target colon cancer without effecting normal tissue cells.

In 2013, I went back home filled with hope and eager to rebuild my country through teaching and more research on nanomedicine – especially to educate students at my home University. At that time, I didn’t realise or imagine that the words whispered in my ear from the person I met prior to Australia at the Ministry of Education would come to be true,

Don’t think that going abroad will change your life forever.

I was treated badly from many people – especially from males. Travelling alone, internationally, and unmarried, made me an easy target for men in my home country. I faced a sexual attack in my office when I refused married one of my Ph.D students. Unfortunately I couldn’t report the incident because I will be the person with the blame, and I didn’t mention it to my family, as I will be forced to marry somebody without my choice.

I realised that I needed to join one of the political parties who had a different agenda in my home country to survive, and to secure my family. But this was against my principles, and against my commitment and promise to my home country. When we graduate from our studies we make a commitment and promise to serve our country no matter what it will cost us. So, instead, I decided to leave my country and I contacted the international Institute of Education-Scholar rescue fund (IIE-SRF, USA), as a scholar at risk.

I joined my previous team at same Australian University in 2014, working on hosting postgraduate students into the team, continuing my passion on designing and developing new treatments for cancer. And, at the same time, working on updating classrooms back in my home country through a special program.

Before finishing my fellowship at this Australian University in 2016, I applied for another fellowship initiative “The Phillip Schwartz Fellowship”, identifying as being a scholar at risk. I was accepted to join one of world’s most expert scientists on breast cancer at a prominent university in Germany. Sadly, I couldn’t join the team due to my refugee status at the time, as I was applying for a protection visa. After finishing my Australian fellowship, and not being able to find a secure place to live, I worked as a gardener – the labour making my neck and shoulders ache. My body have never experienced any physical work before! I came from well-known family, my father was an air force member of the army, serving under the regime for more than 35 years. My mother was a school teacher in the local area.

My whole life was turned upside-down after my IIE-SRF fellowship ended in October 2016. Germany refused my request to defer my fellowship until I my permanent residency was granted. Knowing this, I decided to find another opportunity in Australia with an Endeavour Scholarship and other Fellowships, in cooperation with another Australian University, as an international candidate. In July 2017 I was finally granted permanent residency for Australia, the most amazing event in my life. I was also granted an Australian Endeavour fellowship in November 2017, but unfortunately since I was an international resident (of my home state) at the time of application, I was no longer eligible to undertake this fellowship and the research.

My father was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, which has spread to his bones. I feel far more eager now to find a treatment to help people like my father. My father used to encourage me with his words,

…to go abroad, because I trust that it is there that you will find people who appreciate your mind and your knowledge.

I am sharing with your my story with the hope to encourage and inspire other women in similar situations to my own. At the same time, I would like any kind of support from Australia to secure my professional development, and help me to rebuild my life in this new country. I want to be part of the Australian community, and to serve this country where I am proud to belong.

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