Grantee: 2010 - 2011

Funded: IELTS, PhD course fees, books, travel, Association for Computing Machinery membership, conference fees

Mikdam is originally from Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, which lies in the south of the country close to Iran and Kuwait.  The population rebelled against the regime of Saddam Hussein on two occasions, and saw some of the heaviest fighting during the 2003 invasion by Coalition Forces.

Mikdam completed his MSc in Computer Science at the University of Basrah (the university name always carries an ‘h’) in 1999 and began teaching at two private universities in Baghdad.  After a year he relocated to Jordan, where he taught at Zarka Private University. The university has one of the top Computer Science departments in the country.

On his return to Iraq in 2004 after the Coalition invasion, Mikdam secured a position at the University of Basrah.  Alongside his academic work there, he became a member of a secular political party and as a result was increasingly involved with working to promote secularism, freedom and equality. 

Mikdam’s work appears to have drawn attention from hostile groups, as he received a series of threatening messages over the three-year period before he was forced to leave the country.  He is uncertain of who was responsible, but believes from their wording that they may have come from armed Shia groups.

British forces decreased their involvement in Basra in 2007. The situation in the city became increasingly unstable and militia groups carried out attacks on Christians, minority Sunni Muslims and women who refused to wear headscarves.  In spring 2008 the Iraqi Army launched an offensive against the Mahdi Militia and other Shia paramilitary groups with a strong presence there.  The Militia were defeated, but continued to minority groups and individuals.  The Iraqi Army experienced large numbers of desertions during and immediately after the attack.

After the army campaign, Mikdam was assaulted on his way home from work.  He believes that it was a targeted attack intended to eliminate him. He fled to Baghdad to hide and then escaped to Jordan, where he stayed for one month before coming to the UK.  Mikdam arrived in the UK in autumn 2008, and received Refugee Status the following year. 

It was soon after receiving his Refugee Status that Mikdam first came to CARA to receive advice from the organisation’s Education Training and Employment (ETE) service.  The service helped Mikdam to design a Professional Development Plan and allowed him to attend one-on-one meetings, workshops and receive mentoring. As a result of attending this service, he was able to secure a position as an hourly-paid Lecturer at London Metropolitan University, where he worked for nine months.  However, he realised that in order to be certain of a more stable career in academia he would have to complete a PhD.

In 2010 Mikdam started his PhD research at the University of Essex.  He made a successful application to CARA for a grant to cover his first year course fees.  His hard work impressed his supervisors and he was awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Studentship for his second year, covering his course fees and accommodation costs.

Mikdam is now in his third year of research and is raising his academic profile by attending international conferences.  He has also worked as a Research Officer and Teaching Assistant within the University of Essex.  His ultimate goal is to secure a position in academia once he has finished his PhD.  He hopes to do post-doctoral research before finding a permanent position as a lecturer.

Further information on Mikdam’s research and publications can be found at the link below: