Posted on 14 July 2015
“I came to the UK on August 3 2010. I remember the date because I was still feeling the pain of being beaten in Iraq.”
The father-of-three arrived in York with his family as a refugee and overcame daunting odds to complete his PhD with a thesis on human rights in English and Arabic poetry.
“This is something very precious that York has presented to me. Being a student in the Department of English, one of the best in the UK, is another dream that has been fulfilled” he said.
Mr Khaleel fled the war-torn country following threats to his life.
He applied for a visa to the UK and eventually settled in York and began to study human rights. He started working on poetry as a means to understand human rights and cultural differences.
“It is a comparative study of human rights in modern English and Arabic poetry; and an attempt to find out answers for the ongoing controversies on human rights across cultures.
“Through narrative, argumentative and analytic methods this research project tackles a selection of the poetic careers of W. H. Auden and Mohammed Mahdi al-Jawahiri in the 1930s."
Earlier this year Ahmed Khaleel completed his PhD entitled The Poetics of Human Rights: Auden and al-Jawahiri in the 1930s.
“The idea came from my experiences in Iraq. I was noticing how the Americans, even the British, were committing mistakes, terrible mistakes. And most of those mistakes were committed because of a lack of understanding, a lack of awareness of the cultural background of Iraqis.”
Speaking of his time in York he added: “When I came here I was not thinking of anything. I was a man who had just survived death.
"Coming to the UK was not important at that time. Although as a man who studies English literature it was a dream to come to the UK: a dream I never dared to think of.“
But he started to recover and put the past behind him: “This PhD is a passport. It is something I can use to build my life with, develop my skills and also have an identity of myself. Now it is about what I can do, not where I come from.
“I never planned for this, it just happened. If I sat down with a plan it would never come out as it happened. I never hurt anyone in Iraq, I was working for the people."
Ahmed Khaleel‘s graduation ceremony takes place on 16 July.