Several students founded the Iraqi Student Union, or ISU, to share their culture and develop a welcoming community for Iraqi students on campus.
Co-founders Rusul Hadi and Ahmed Alzubaidi noted that the lack of Iraqi student organizations, both in California and nationwide, as well as the desire to uplift Iraqi communities are what prompted the creation of ISU.
“The ISU aims to provide assistance to the Iraqi community and serve as a reliable support system for them during their time at Cal,” Alzubaidi said in an email.
As an immigrant from Baghdad, Iraq, and an Iraqi woman, Hadi noted in an email that her feelings of being an “outsider” and efforts to avoid being stereotyped made her fearful of speaking out on campus. Thus, by creating the ISU, Hadi hopes she can encourage others to embrace their Iraqi identities and use their voices as a common force.
Alzubaidi noted that it was not until his third year on campus that he met another Iraqi student for the first time.
“I felt understood for once at this campus,” Alzubaidi said in the email, “(by) someone who grew up very similarly to me, and understood my mannerisms and ideals. We eventually came together as a group and set up this organization to bring this same relation to other Iraqi individuals seeking a community.”
Alongside Alzubaidi and Hadi, campus junior Sara Yavas and campus senior Yezzen Alrawi are the other two co-founders of the organization. According to an announcement on the ISU Instagram, their first meeting is planned for March 16 at 6:30 p.m. in Dwinelle 254.
Alzubaidi and Hadi noted plenty of student interest in the ISU; during their first tabling session on Sproul, the co-founders heard from students excited to support the Iraqi community on campus.
“We met with a lot of Iraqi students who were very happy to see the establishment of the ISU, and felt seen for once to have a community of their own here,” Hadi said in the email.
She noted that the ISU intends to host events for students of all backgrounds to welcome Iraqi culture through cuisine, music, games and more. It also plans to partner with other Arab-identifying student organizations to develop a set of diverse cultural communities.
Alzubaidi also stated that the existence of the ISU will encourage prospective Iraqi applicants to feel more welcome on campus and hopefully lead to a larger Iraqi student population overall.
Alongside Hadi, he noted the ISU will eventually branch out to other campuses in California and throughout the country.
“The Iraqi student population is present, but silent, and it’s time to finally bring these individuals together and provide a space where they can feel comfortable doing so,” Hadi said in the email.