May 3, 2018
U.S. Gives Prestigious Emerging Young Leaders Award to LCC International Student
Zina Salim Hassan Hamu
On May 2, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of State presented its Emerging Young Leaders Award to Zina Salim Hassan Hamu, a Yazidi woman currently studying at LCC International University in Klaipeda. Each year, the U.S. presents this award to only ten outstanding young leaders from around the world. The award recognizes Zina’s extraordinary efforts to educate the world about the horrors faced by the Yazidi people after ISIS attacked their homes in Iraq and forced them into camps for displaced people. She tells this very personal story through photojournalism, a craft she plans to pursue professionally after completing her studies.
“Zina is doing exceptional work to promote tolerance and create positive change in the world. The intent of this award is to shine a light on people who do difficult things, and Zina is certainly one of them. We want more people to hear her voice so that they can understand the challenges faced by people in Iraq and in refugee camps all over the world,” said U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall.
In 2014, Zina, now age 22, fled with her family as ISIS attacked her hometown of Shingal, Iraq. She lived in a camp for displaced people for two years before earning an opportunity to study English in Lithuania. Over the past three years, she has dedicated herself to telling the story of the Yazidi people through photojournalism. Having personally witnessed genocide as ISIS kidnapped or killed Yazidi girls, Zina has become a voice to carry their story to the international community.
While living in the Khanke camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Zina volunteered as a child protector with ACTED, a UNICEF organization, and as a health guide with AMAR Foundation – a London-based organization. She also participated in health and vaccine awareness campaigns and street cleanups. In 2015, Zina took part in a project supported by UNICEF to teach photography to Yazidi girls as a means to empower them. There she found her passion and decided to become a photojournalist. Zina has shown her photos in Iraq, Italy, France and Lithuania to educate people who know little about the Yazidi people or their experiences.
LCC International University recruited Zina for its Middle East Scholars program while she was still living in the camp. After completing LCC’s intensive English program, she intends to continue her studies in Canada.
The U.S. Department of State’s Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange Program recognizes youth around the world for their efforts to create positive social change. U.S. embassies nominate outstanding young people and the State Department chooses ten to receive this prestigious award. This initiative goes beyond highlighting successful youth-led community projects: the award and exchange program set young leaders on a path for increased collaboration on global issues affecting youth by providing skills and tools for continued success.