When Hajar Taib walked across the stage at DAR Constitution Hall on May 8 to receive her bachelor’s degree in Politics from Marymount University, it was a moment of triumph for her and her family.
Taib was just six when the Gulf War began and her world turned upside down as her family fled Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. “Leaving everything but the clothes on our backs, we fled for our lives,” Taib explains. The family of eight (including five girls and one boy) walked across mountains from Iraq to Turkey in the middle of winter. It took seven days, with her four-year-old sister carried all the way. During the journey, they witnessed much death, both from bombings and the elements. Three years of living in refugee camps followed. “In the last camp in southern Turkey, where we were for most of that time, we lived in a tent; the bathroom was a mile away,” she remembers.
The Taib family arrived in the United States in 1993 and eventually settled in Fairfax, Virginia, in 1996. “I didn’t speak a word of English when I arrived!” Taib says. While not easy, life in America was safe and held the promise of a better future. She adds, “I went through all of this hardship because my parents wanted a better education for my siblings and me.”
Taib started working at the age of 13 in a bagel shop and has worked ever since. She worked full time while attending Marymount and is now a government analyst. “I’m very thankful for everything,” Taib points out. “Now when I face difficulties, I remind myself of what I went through and tell myself, ‘I can do this; this is nothing in comparison.’”
With undergraduate degree in hand, she is wasting no time in moving toward her goals. This summer, Taib begins Marymount’s online master’s degree program in Criminal Justice Administration and Policy. In June, she will also take the Foreign Service exam. “I want to work for the State Department or United Nations,” she explains. Her ultimate goal? “I would like to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq one day!” For Taib, truly anything is now possible.