Boy, 16, made lone trip to Iraq for school project

You might hope, however, that the teacher of his high-school journalism class will give him top marks for initiative. Then again, he could be expelled.

No one could accuse the 16-year-old American of not taking his homework seriously. The journalism assignment was clear: write about an international issue of significance from the viewpoint of people living through it. The holidays are coming up, he thought: why not go to Baghdad?

Yesterday, as the American government shipped him back to his family in Fort Lauderdale - his parents are natives of Iraq who have lived in the US for 35 years - he perhaps saw the downside of his bright idea. He did manage to make it to Baghdad, but not without several moments of death-defying challenge.

There was the day that a Kuwaiti taxi driver dumped him at the Iraqi border but angry guards barred his path. And the moment another driver lunged to punch him in the face. And the scary Christmas foray to a Baghdad restaurant where no one understood him and he was left to flee back to his hotel fearing for his life.

The perilous odyssey started on 11 December, when Hassan left for Miami airport bearing a $900 (£525) ticket for a flight to Kuwait. Only upon arriving did he telephone his parents to say where he was. After his abortive drive to the border and ignoring pleas from his father to come home, he flew to Beirut, where family friends gave him shelter.

It was from Beirut that Hassan finally took a plane on Christmas morning to Baghdad and into a country where 400 foreigners have been kidnapped since the war began and 39 others have been murdered. Thanks to his parentage he at least looked like other Iraqis, but he cannot speak a word of the language.

Meanwhile, he e-mailed a short essay to his teacher. "I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience every day, so that I may better empathise with their distress," he wrote.

Come Tuesday, Hassan found his way to the Associated Press bureau. The appearance in the office of a lone, teenage American startled an editor, Patrick Quinn, who said: "I would have been less surprised if little green men had walked in." He quickly alerted officials at the US embassy.

The teen's big adventure was over when an officer from the 101st Airborne arrived at his hotel room to take him away. The Army is now delivering him back to the safer climes of Florida. "I don't think I will ever let him leave the house alone again," said his mother.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk