November 2011


Students will:

  • Become familiar with the terms “refugee” and “internally displaced person.”
  • Gain an understanding of the causes and scope of the Iraqi refugee crisis.
  • Explore firsthand accounts of Iraqi refugees’ experiences.
  • Consider U.S. policy toward Iraqi refugees.


Handout – Iraqi Refugees

1. Getting Started

Begin class by asking students what they know about the Iraq War. How has the war affected Iraqis? Have students heard about the refugee crisis? Make sure students are familiar with the terms “refugee” and “internally displaced person.” You may wish to show the following video to provide a basic definition:

2. Exploring the Crisis

Have students watch the following videos:

Review the videos with students. How many Iraqis have left their homes since the start of the war? Why have so many Iraqis been displaced? What challenges do many refugees face?

Note: You may wish to show some of the additional videos to provide students with more background information about the refugee crisis.

3. Refugee Voices

Explain to students that in order to learn more about the refugee crisis, they will be exploring Iraqi refugees’ accounts of their lives since the invasion. Break students into groups of three of four and distribute the handout. You may wish to assign each group three stories, or encourage groups to explore the following sites freely.

Recommended Resources:

Note: We recommend previewing the following sources to make sure they are appropriate for your classroom.

Iraqi Refugee Stories: First Person Accounts of War and Exile (video sources)

The International Refugee Assistance Project: Stories (scroll to Stories to view video and text sources)

Ahmed’s Story (a more extensive audio interview with an Iraqi living in the United States)

4. Sharing Responses

Ask students to share their findings and reactions with the class. What did students learn about life in Iraq after the 2003 invasion? What were some of the specific reasons people gave for leaving their homes? Did any of the refugees share common experiences or challenges? How did refugees’ experiences differ? Did hearing Iraqi refugees’ stories shape students’ opinions about the war and the refugee crisis? How?

5. Considering U.S. Policy

Show students the following videos:

Professor Campbell states, “The U.S. government has a responsibility to do much more than what it is doing now.” Do students agree with this statement? Why or why not? How do students think the refugee crisis should be addressed, and whose responsibility is it to do so? The United States government? The international community? Countries in the region? What policy recommendations does Professor Campbell suggest?

Do students believe that U.S. citizens have a responsibility to be informed about the crisis? To help Iraqi refugees?

Extra challenge:

Ask students to search for a current news article or media source about Iraqi refugees. Can students find much media coverage of the crisis? How do different media sources address the topic? What did students learn from their media source? Additionally, have students brainstorm ways to get involved, or write a letter to a local newspaper or elected official about their views on the Iraqi refugee crisis.

photo-unicef/unicefiran on Flickr

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