Lubna’s story on being a student in a warzone


Update: Since this post first went up last week, Lubna’s been on big demand speaking on BBC Radio 4’s the Today Programme and The Weekend News on BBC Radio 5 live. I’ll try and dig up a clip…

Last week all schools and universities were closed in Pakistan after suicide bombers attacked a university in Islamabad this week. We thought it would be interesting to have a discussion about how difficult life is for young people living in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. So we asked Lubna, a medical student in Baghdad, to tell us her story. If you have any questions for Lubna or want to take part as a student growing up in conflict please get in touch with the WHYS team via this blog.

Hello, I am Lubna, a final year medical student at Baghdad Medical School and a loyal listener and contributor to the WHYS programme. This is my final year before graduation. It’s been six long years, bitter and sweet, filled with misery and joy, decorated by sad and happy memories.


During my time at college I have witnessed both advances and setbacks. I’ve lived some of the best moments of my life, and also some of the worst. I am writing this message to all students who are living in places doomed by war and violence. I want to share my experiences and let you know how I’ve survived college till this moment.


Firstly, let me say that the security situation in Baghdad is much better than it used to be and going to college has stopped being a life or death decision. Also, thankfully it’s been a while since one of my loved ones was murdered.


 When you’re exposed to such a huge deal of loss and grief at such a young age, within such a short period of time, there will be two pathways in front of you to choose from; hope or despair. From the beginning I chose hope.


Am I always successful at being hopeful? Of course not! Sometimes I manage to keep my faith alive, other times I just fall to my knees and shout “Why is all of this happening to me?!” But you know what? It’s not really about falling to the ground, but your ability to stand up proudly after each time you fall down. Having faith truly helps. This can be faith in God, faith in yourself, faith in your loved ones, faith in your country and faith in your future.


No matter how harsh and brutal your environments are, try to detach a portion of yourself from everything around you, and keep that for studying and gaining knowledge. Remember you are not superhuman and give yourself a chance to grieve.


You must also be determined to help out your fellow-citizens under all circumstances, have a purpose in life and set yourself long-term goals. But the most crucial is to help make your country a better place. Trust me, I have been there.


I’ll be graduating from medical school next July. My heart is full of scars of previous losses and setbacks, but I do have faith that our dawn will come one day. The best of luck to all of you, and my sincere prayers are with you from Baghdad.


37 Responses to “Lubna’s story on being a student in a warzone”

  1. 1 Dennis Junior
    October 21, 2009 at 16:25

    Hi….Thanks Lubna for the excellent story about being
    a student in a war zone…..

    =Dennis Junior=

  2. 2 patti in cape coral
    October 21, 2009 at 16:36

    Lubna, congratulations on being so close to your graduation now, and thanks for the insight into your life. I can’t pretend to understand all the things you have been through, but it does make me take things less for granted. Good luck to you always.

  3. 3 Ibrahim in UK
    October 21, 2009 at 16:57

    Salaam Lubna,

    Thank you for sharing your stories with the rest of us who can only imagine what it must be like to live under war conditions and occupation.
    May Allah give you strength, courage and health to continue on your successful path.

  4. October 21, 2009 at 17:03

    Hi Lubna,
    If the best must be made of the worst, I think the tragic events in Iraq have helped you to be more resolved and to cling to life.

    It takes a lot of courage to remain focused in an environment where the major talk is about deaths and injuries. So in the past six years, you’ve been undergoing two major tests, the first coping with the harsh reality and the second coping with academic pursuits in a difficult environment.

    It’s great to know that you didn’t lose hope. May Iraq return to full stability.

  5. 5 Nigel
    October 21, 2009 at 17:04

    Lubna salaam, thanks for the insight in to what you have been through, both your heart and your mind. Such courage and positive spirit are hard to value by us who live in peace but the painting of your life makes it easier for us to see and maybe even feel through our tears. Inshallah you will do well in your exams and be a wonderful doctor and these hardships will help you keep perspective as you treat and heal others

  6. 6 nora
    October 21, 2009 at 17:17

    Lubna, cheers from soggy California. Your statement is so brief but so full of wisdom! Perhaps you can make some suggestions for any university administrators that might be listening on protocols for fairness in testing during the disturbances of war and turmoil.

  7. 7 Peter Gizzi UK
    October 21, 2009 at 17:23

    Hi Lubna,
    We have spoken from time to time. Your post should make us in “The West” appreceate everything we have. Good luck with your exams and graduation. Thanks again and salaam to you and all your people. Sadly have to go out so will not hear the programme tonight.

  8. October 21, 2009 at 17:33

    Your day will come Lubna,as long as there are people like you walking about,it has to. I lived through war too,one as a child and one as an adult.But hope springs eternal does it not? Good luck with your graduation.

  9. October 21, 2009 at 18:15

    Good luck, Lubna, and thanks for sharing your story. I enjoy your contributions on this site and look forward to hearing more! Your optimism and hope for a better future are inspiring.

  10. October 21, 2009 at 19:16

    Salaam guys… Thanks a million to all of you guys for those truely amazing and heart-warming response… My God, I am so overwhelmed and humbled by your support and kindness, and at the same time so grateful for such a precious global family… Much love and blessings to all of you guys (Dennis, Patti, Ibrahim, Nigel, Abdelilah, Nora, David, Peter, and Ejly) from Baghdad, the city of pain, hope, and magic tales… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  11. 11 Amy in Oregon
    October 22, 2009 at 04:32


    You know that we pray for your safety everyday and can’t wait to celebrate with you in July (abet from afar) when you finish school.

    Much love from Oregon!!!

  12. 12 Selena
    October 22, 2009 at 12:45

    Hi Lubna…

    You state your situation beautifully. If there were more people like you the world would be a better place.

    Love and best wishes,

    And thank you Dennis for posting, on Facebook, a link to this page.

    • 13 Dennis Junior
      October 23, 2009 at 12:09


      You’re welcome and, it was an honour to post the link to the story on Facebook; Regarding our dear best friend, Lubna…..

      ~Dennis Junior~

  13. 14 scmehta
    October 22, 2009 at 14:16

    It requires guts, fortitude and faith to stand up to the challenges being faced by the people in the war-zones, especially by women and children, including the students amongst them. Lubna, you’ve been brave and positive in your thoughts, actions and reactions; your this attitude is certainly very inspiring for the others.

  14. 15 Luz Ma from Mexico
    October 22, 2009 at 16:37

    What a beautiful post! You are a brave, caring and wise young woman, and I am sure you’ll be a wonderful doctor.
    I pray for your safety everyday. I cannot imagine how hard has been for you, and still, in the worst of the situations, you have managed to go forward and stand strong. I admire you for that.
    Enjoy the last months of med school!
    Your friend,
    Luz Ma

  15. October 22, 2009 at 16:46

    Thanks a million Amy, Selena, and Scmehta… And too bad the story of young students at war zones didn’t make it to the “On air” WHYS blog section, it would’ve been pretty much interesting to hear from young college students in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but anyway thanks a million to my good friends at the WHYS team for giving such an important and vital topic the opportunity to be discussed on the blog, b/c Western citizens do really need to hear voices other than the noises of bombed cars and military operations from war zones… Much love and blessings to all of you guys from Baghdad, the city of pain, hope, and magic tales… Yours forever, Lubna‏…‏

  16. 17 Patricia
    October 23, 2009 at 16:24

    Dear Lubna,

    Salam aleykum from Colombia! I hadn’t heard the programme or posted here in the blog long ago, but I was amazed and touched when reading your post. Sweet Lubna: some of my most beloved friends (who I love like my siblings) are in Middle East, including Iraq, Afganistan and Pakistan: some of them are also Palestinians. They tell me many of the events and issues going on there, and the cruelty they have to observe when their loved ones are murdered… I can simply get admired with their brave heart and with their noble souls, because they know that, after all, God’s with them and will reward their patience, if not in this world, in Paradise. In spite of the facts going there, they’re getting prepared to be great professional or are working and looking after their family.

    Maybe you know that in my country we’re facing a conflict as well, and specially people in the rural areas don’t know how long they’ll be in their lands or if they’ll be murdered by guerrillas or even by the same National Army. My heart is with you, young people in the middle of the conflict, and all the innocent victims of war.

    Lubna, I just can look forward to the day when we live in a peaceful world as Allah planned from the beginning when He created earth. In the meantime, we must keep on doing our best to make our country and world better: studying, getting prepared to be professionals, looking after our family and friends, and enjoying every single blessing from God. I’m sure you do, sweet Lubna… May God bless your efforts!

    Congratulations, dear Lubna, for your last term. I’m sure you’ll be able to help many in your profession… It will be very rewarding once you finish your career!

    Wa salam al aleykum, dear Lubna! A huge hug from Colombia 🙂

  17. 18 Tracy in Portland, OR
    October 23, 2009 at 17:46

    Bless you Lubna, for being one of the bright shinning lights in this world. We should have a WHYS graduation party in July.. Your in the hearts and thoughts of people all over the world.

    Tracy in Portland, OR

  18. 19 Ahmed Jamal from Pakistan
    October 24, 2009 at 05:20

    Hello Lubna,
    I am from Pakistan and as you might be knowing the situation here is not the most suitable for a student to live in. Living the life i am living, i can truely connect to every word you wrote. You are the true personification of each and every student living in these war zones. Our universities have been closed till further notice and i feel helpless to do anything about it. When elephants fight, its the grass that suffers, and that is exactly what is happening here. But well despite of all that we all wake up in the morning with the passion of doing something for our country, and i find it worth living for. I deeply and truely feel for you and hope the best of life comes your way.

    Your well wisher
    Ahmed Jamal

  19. October 24, 2009 at 09:40

    From Mary,
    Stick with it, Lubna, your final exams will be a piece of cake compared with the things you have lived through.
    I was a final year medical student in one of the most peaceful and prosperous times of the 20th century. Yet I remember with great sadness, two fellow-students who did not have the courage to face their final exams.
    And I wish you all the satisfaction in practising your profession that I have had over nearly 50 years.

  20. 21 Dennis Junior
    October 26, 2009 at 12:53


    Hope that the BBC and the programmes that you have appeared on; Will give
    you strength to get thru this hard-time in Iraq….

    Dennis xo

  21. 22 brenda mirembe
    October 26, 2009 at 13:50

    hi , its so hard to study in a war zone area or country. i hear and see everyday on the news in my country how some students were or are abducted, raped and forced into marriage by rebels.
    but thank GOD you have carried on and almost done.all the best

  22. 23 Emmanuel Coleman
    October 26, 2009 at 14:19

    Bravo Lubna, i won’t pretend to attempt saying that i understand your situation, but i can proudly say that, you and your colleagues are heroes at each passing minute.Students in relatively peaceful countries are giving unimaginable reasons why they are school drop-outs, why they cheat to pass their exams etc…but reading your story is enough to run tears down my eyes not in sympathy but in encouragement that the “hope- promise” that the world will be a better place is sure. You’re a shining star and your illumintion is reaching as far as the ends of the earth. May your long-awaiting peace for your life and country come swiftly.
    Keep it up my hero.
    Have my warmest kiss, Lubna.

  23. 24 Hannah Green
    October 26, 2009 at 14:22

    Hi Lubna,

    As a student in the UK, I have been following your blogs and updates on WHYS for a number of years.

    I just wanted to say thank you again for telling us your story, since listening all your tales really makes me think of the Iraq war in a completly different way.

    Last time I emailed you I was just finishing my own exams, now I have another set next july! I hope that yours go well, and that there is peace in Bagdad so that you can continue your studies.

    xxx Hannah

  24. 25 zainab
    October 26, 2009 at 15:28

    Salam dear Lubna and Salam to all
    First i’m so sorry for i missed this show..
    Thank you very much for telling this interesting story, well let me add that this story represents all iraqi students, and my dearest friend Lubna is just symbolizing us all. it is really hard way for all of us to reach our target, but do you know something, that the best thing is that we have faith and this faith makes us strong enough to continue till the end.
    Do you know that i never thought of working after finishing my study, cuz i was afraid of the situation may get worse and worst, but then i thought again and again..if i didn’t work, will the situation in Iraq be better? and how will Iraq improve if I and other people left everything out of fear.. NO i think it is our duty to study and to work and have hope and faith in ourselves first and in everything around us. and now i found another challenges in my job, and i must face these challenges.
    thank you Lubna, wish you the best insha Allah.

  25. 26 Peter_scliu
    October 26, 2009 at 18:18

    Peace be with you. Everytime something happened in Iraq , my 1st thought were of you hoping you are safe. I will always hope so. Shalam!

  26. 27 John in Salem
    October 26, 2009 at 18:21

    Salaam, Lubna~
    If you are in any way typical of Iraqi youth I feel confident that your country will rise from it’s ashes and surpass all expectations. I can only hope my granddaughters will grow up with a fraction of the spirit you have shown.


  27. October 26, 2009 at 18:29

    Dear Lubna As-Salaam-Alaikum,

    At this moment in time I can not begin to imagine the true extent of carnage and suffering that once again has befallen the city of Baghdad, the Iraqi people and the numbing effect upon Iraq itself.

    It seems that something of this dreadful nature has to take place in order for us in the West to refocus our attentions upon your country, the enduring insurgency, numerous problems and prevalent armed factions and divisions, making their voices heard once again in such unremitting and unforgiving fashion. Iraqi people’s daily existences are nothing short of being arduous and must be of deep concern to all those friends and colleagues around you on a regular basis, let alone the consequences of such a violent act.

    I’m sure one day this will just be a painful dim and distant memory that causes you to reflect on how and why did it ever come to pass that Iraq was subjected to so much division, hate and destructive efforts as a consequence of the actions of Coalition Forces invading your country, under the villainous pretence of coming to your rescue from Saddam Hussein and WMD’s.

    I sincerely hope that this will be the last of its kind of this type of violent method meted out upon innocent Iraqi civilians, but very much fear that it won’t be.
    I hope that which has been passed to you by Mark was of interest and hopefully I will hear back from you either via WHYS or from you directly.

    All the very best,


  28. October 26, 2009 at 18:48

    Great 🙂

    I sincerely hope that this will be the last of its kind of this type of violent method meted out upon innocent Iraqi civilians, but very much fear that it won’t be.
    I hope that which has been passed to you by Mark was of interest and hopefully I will hear back from you either via WHYS or from you directly.

    All the very best,

    • October 26, 2009 at 19:09

      Bagesh Singh,

      Thank you so much. It’s nice to know that something you say can be duly appreciated by others such as yourself. It makes the effort of contributing all the more rewarding.

      I wouldn’t mind betting that you’re a man of decency and commonsense, two attributes sadly missing in much of the West, western power and institutions that hold so much power and sway in exalted political circles.

      I look forward to reading your posts. And thanks again.

  29. October 27, 2009 at 08:37

    Salaam guys,
    Wow, thanks a million to all of you guys for those xtraordinarily kind and very lovely messages… Thanks to all of you guys I am now so sure that I am not alone, and that I do have a big precious global family whose members do care about me and wish me and my Iraq all the very best, I am very grateful to all of you guys, and thanks a million again ! ;). I am writing this comment from the OB/GYN ward at Baghdad Teaching Hospital, I’ve started my new OB/GYN rotation yesterday, only a day after the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, the ward is crowded with patients, doctors, med students, and more importantly newborn babies ! ;);). The streets of Baghdad are so crowded with people and cars, traffic jam is intolerable, and all of us ordinary Baghdadis are firmly determined more than ever to go on with our day to-day lives in a way which is as close to normal as possible, yes, we’re so determined to continue our daily battle against everything that’s dark and evil, and Inshallah we’ll eventually win over ‘them’…

  30. 32 Ann
    October 27, 2009 at 15:50


    How lovely to see the face behind the voice 🙂

    You really are an extra-ordinary young woman with a brave, deep heart. You have so much to give to the world. May you stay strong and be happy.

    A little Irish prayer for you…

    May God give you…
    For every storm, a rainbow,
    For every tear, a smile,
    For every care, a promise,
    And a blessing in each trial.
    For every problem life sends,
    A faithful friend to share,
    For every sigh, a sweet song,
    And an answer for each prayer.


  31. 33 jamily5
    October 27, 2009 at 16:25

    Hi Lubna, I don’t get to post much, but always try to read. I usually read after hours, so can’t post.
    I d’ that I would have the courage that you have had. I say this with honesty. You live in a world that I have never known and I don’t know if I would have the emotional fortitude to process it all! But, let me tell you what you are doing:
    Everytime we think of Iraq, we, (those of us who read the blog) think of you! Not those media blits, not stereotypes, but your life and your experiences. You change the face of Iraq for those who read your blog and these posts and that is important because maybe things will change soon. Sincerely! Am reading “Tears of the Desert” by Halima Bashir and similar themes are throughout.

    October 27, 2009 at 19:00

    Hi Lubna,
    You are one wonderful person. Thank you for sharing with us. You are almost the only person that connects me with Iraq. We know that it is not entirely made up of rogues. You are good student but hey! You have been one good lecture for us in your subject of hope and an ever enduring spirit. A few months is like many years in a war zone. That is why I pray for your safety and of each and every Iraqi of goodwill to mankind.

  33. 35 Tom D Ford
    October 27, 2009 at 23:47

    Good to hear your voice Lubna, thanks for being on WHYS.

  34. 36 Suchitra from Nepal
    October 28, 2009 at 10:11

    Hi Lubna
    Your courage to fight against all the odds and hope for better future is inspiring.You are a beacon of hope for millions of people like me. SO long as there are brave people like you around, dark gloomy time will definately come to an end.

  35. 37 Jim Newman
    October 29, 2009 at 13:08

    Hello Lubna
    I have tried to talk to you before but it didn’t fit in with WHYS’s agenda and it was censored.
    Iraq has now been occupied for several years and has gone from a well organised state ruled by a despot to a state whose only real function is to provide oil for the USA. It is plagued by inter-religious conflicts and inter-ethnic conflicts. My question is: in your opinion, what would Iraq have been like now without the outside intervention?

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