Teenager in Florida, United States skips school, goes to Iraq

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Farris Hassan, a 16 year old high school student from Florida, decided to visit Iraq and left for the country on December 11, 2005 alone and without having informed his parents.

After catching a connecting flight in Amsterdam, he arrived in Kuwait City on December 13. He called his parents on the telephone and informed them of where he was and his intention to visit Iraq. This was the first time his parents learned of his plans. He then attempted to cross the Kuwait-Iraq border by taxi, but because of tight security for the upcoming elections he was unable to pass through, and spent a week in Beirut, Lebanon, interviewing minority Christians. Then on December 25, he flew in to Baghdad International Airport. Relatives picked him up from the airport and put him at a hotel known to frequently house American citizens.

He financed the trip and made all the arrangements himself with money that he had saved up.

The inspiration for his journey was the result of a segment of his English class on 'immersion journalism' at his school, Pine Crest School. He was working on an assignment on the war in Iraq and he wished to experience his subject matter first-hand.

Hassan contacted the Associated Press to announce that he was in Iraq to do research and humanitarian work. They were shocked to see an American teenager walking around unaccompanied. They in turn immediately contacted the US Embassy, who had been contacted by his parents and were on the lookout for him. Hassan's parents were born in Iraq, but he does not speak any Arabic, making him easily stand out as a foreigner in Iraq, where kidnappings of Americans and violence are an everyday occurrence. His parents planned to take him to see Iraq once the war was over.

U.S. Consul General Richard Hermann reiterated the U.S. Embassy's strong warning to U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq as he announced that Hassan was with American troops and was on his way home.

He turned in his assignment via email and is due back home over the New Years Day weekend.

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