Iraqi Refugee Secures U.N. Job Through InternshipContact: Administrator
Simon Salman has seen just about all life has to offer. Now an Iraqi refugee, Salman was an officer in the Iraqi Army during the Gulf War when he was thrown in prison for refusing to plant chemical land mines. He was released in 1989 after having a death sentence reduced to two years. Three weeks later, Iraq invaded Kuwait and he was drafted into the Army again.
"I lasted a few days, and I decided I just couldn't do it anymore, and I left," said Salman, GSS '00. "I had some money and convinced a truck driver transporting oil to Jordan to take me through the desert. He couldn't take me to the border. After he dropped me off, I walked eight hours until I reached Jordan."
There, he convinced a United Nations mission to grant him refugee status and was sent to Switzerland, where he worked for the International Red Cross for several years. A trained civil engineer who speaks five languages fluently, Salman translated documents and went on human rights missions with the agency.
But he never forgot the United Nations mission that freed him from his past and gave him a future. In fact, he decided helping refugees like himself was exactly what he wanted to do. While working at the Red Cross in Switzerland he obtained an undergraduate degree in social work at the Zurich School of Social Work.
"The dean of the Zurich School of Social Work recommended Fordham and said it was a good place for me," he said. "I looked at Columbia and NYU but they didn't have the kind of program I was looking for. I just knew I wanted to intern at the United Nations and wanted to help refugees like myself. I found Fordham's program emphasized administration, which I thought was the best preparation for work at the U.N."
After completing his year of study at Fordham, Salman said two professors, Roslyn Chernesky and Natalie Riccio, helped get him the internship he desired.
Salman worked with three non-governmental organizations at the U.N. - the International Federation of Settlement; the Committee on the Status of Women and the Human Rights Committee.
"It was the experience I wanted at the place I wanted to be," said Salman. "I met people, studied the structure of the U.N., learned how things work, how you can have access to information, how to lobby. My ultimate goal was getting a job within the U.N."
This month Salman accomplished his goal: He was hired by the U.N. as a Human Rights Officer based in Geneva, Switzerland. He will monitor and report on human rights violations and analyze policy in Eastern European countries.
"The United Nations is an overwhelming structure," said Salman. Between the help of his Fordham professors and the real-world experience and networking opportunities gained during his internship, Salman said "I was able to secure exactly the job I wanted."
Founded in 1841, Fordham is New York City's Jesuit university. It has residential campuses in the north Bronx and Manhattan, as well as academic centers in Tarrytown and Armonk, N.Y.