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Vancouver teen who fled Iraq and then Trump heads to UBC with full-ride scholarship

June 17, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Ashki Shkur’s first glimpses of the Vancouver area came from the back of an RCMP cruiser after she and her family were arrested for walking across the U.S. border in search of asylum in 2017.

Now the 18-year-old Britannia Secondary student, originally from Iraqi Kurdistan, is headed to the University of British Columbia in the fall with dreams of becoming a surgeon and of a scholarship that fully covers her tuition and residence.

“It feels like a dream. This is all I’ve asked for. This is all I’ve worked for my whole life to be able to follow my dreams and to be able to attend university,” Shkur told CBC.

She’s been awarded an $80,000 Centennial Scholars Entrance Award, which she has accepted. She was also offered ​​a $70,000 TD Scholarship for Community Leadership, a $40,000 Beedie Luminaries scholarship, a $29,000 Terry Fox Award and a number of other smaller scholarships, which will now go to other students.

Had she decided to attend Simon Fraser University in Burnaby instead, Shkur was granted scholarships that would have covered her tuition there as well.

“I really couldn’t have done any of this without the community that I have at Britannia and the people that support me,” Shkur said.

“When I first came here, as soon as I went to Britannia, I felt that sense of community that I never had back home.”

Annie Danilko, president of the board of management for the Britannia Community Services Centre, where Shkur is also a board member, said it’s no surprise to see the young woman having such success.

“The whole board was inspired by Ashki,” Danilko said. “I didn’t really know her history too much because she didn’t really talk about it. She would talk instead about how she really wanted to give back to the community that she lives in because the community … helped her so much.”

Fears of deportation from the U.S.

Shkur, along with her parents, Ayub Nasralddin and Arazw Hama Ali and her younger sister Hanasa, joined a surge of irregular border crossings into Canada in 2017 after then-president Donald Trump announced a ban on people entering the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

They had left Iraq a little less than a year earlier, and Shkur said the plan was always to settle in Canada. She said as soon as her family landed in the U.S. in 2016, they hopped in a cab and headed for the border with Ontario to claim refugee status.

“I remember that was the only line that I knew in English, and I had to memorize it for a whole week. It was, ‘Can we seek asylum?'” Shkur said.

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