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This is a story about young Iraqis for whom a future in Iraq is not worth pursuing. Ahmed Moneka is one of those young people. After years of struggling to build a meaningful life and career in a country ridden with corruption, Ahmed was forced to leave Iraq, the only home he had ever known. He joined the wave of migration that swept away many young Iraqis looking for a promised land that would provide a better life and future.

Ahmed was born to an artistic family with roots tracing back to Kenya. He received a Fine Arts degree from the University of Baghdad and found his calling in drama. With a father and younger brother who also pursued a career in acting, he found inspiration and support through his family, who encouraged him to pursue an artistic path in life. Striving to be the best in his craft, Ahmed set his sights on the Iraqi National Theatre. His success in performing on this prestigious stage many times is a testament to his hard work and talent.

Iraq has witnessed many periods of strife in recent memory, and Ahmed was among countless Iraqis affected by the violence and corruption that have plagued his country. Finally, alongside thousands of his compatriots, he had had enough and decided to take action.

Alongside dozens of like-minded young people, Ahmed regularly protested against corruption in Iraq’s government. His optimism for how his country could be propelled him to criticize the things that stood in the path of positive change. In one of the weekly protests, he pounded the drums in a fast, heart-racing rhythm to entertain and rally those around him. Yet, against all odds, he remained hopeful, with a vision for a better Iraq.

But that fragile hope was shattered when the government-run National Theatre stripped Ahmed of his freedom of speech because he protested against corruption. As a result, they refused to allow him to perform any longer, leaving Ahmed unable to express his thoughts and feelings through theatre. With this dilemma, Ahmed felt the only avenue left to him was to leave his home and begin anew in a faraway place.

Ahmed immigrated to Canada, where he has now settled. His two brothers, Mahmoud and Mohammed, took a more risky approach, braving the sea and arduous hikes on the path to Europe. They eventually settled in Austria.

Ahmed always wanted more than just finding shelter and a government pension to get him by. But, in a bittersweet turn of events, he has finally been able to satisfy his thirst for freedom and creativity now that he has left his home. Ahmed hopes to take what he has learned from being forced to leave his home to help others achieve what he couldn’t back in Iraq. Now a photographer, Ahmed aims to use his artistic vision to support new humanitarian efforts.​

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