The Iraqi immigrant that's running to be the UK's Prime Minister - Nadhim Zahawi
By: Mohammed Abduljabbar / Arab America Contributing Writer
In the past four decades, many Iraqis searched for a new home. Political turmoil, wars, and financial instability have led, and continue to lead, many Iraqis to leave their country in search of a better, safer life. While many Iraqi immigrants have turbulent stories, the story of Nadhim Zahawi certainly stands out.
Born in Iraq in 1967 to two Kurdish parents, Zahawi witnessed many political changes in Iraq. He comes from a reputable family in Iraq. His grandfather was once the head of the Central Bank of Iraq, and his father was a successful businessman. However, as a Kurdish family, they feared what many Iraqis experienced for decades, living under Saddam Hussain‘s regime. In anticipation of Saddam’s rise to power, Zahawi’s family left the country. In an interview with the journalist Nick Robinson, Zahawi said that boarding the plane out of Iraq was an unforgettable traumatic experience. As they boarded the plane, Zahawi remembers a military vehicle approaching the plane. His mother assumed it was to remove Zahawi’s father. Instead, the authorities removed another passenger, and Zahawi, along with his family, flew to the UK and established their lives there.
Zahawi’s Early Memories
“I would’ve been forced to serve in the Iraqi Army if I stayed, and be sent to fight on the frontlines of the Iraq-Iran war and probably get killed.” However, that’s not what happened. While Zahawi’s family escaped the tragedies that Iraq went through, establishing a life in a new country isn’t easy. For instance, the collapse of the business of Zahawi’s father in Iraq delayed his academic journey. This led Zahawi to postpone his education and use his family’s only possession in the UK to generate income, their private car. Zahawi drove his family’s car as a taxi driver to make ends meet. However, his family persisted that he continues his education. Indeed, his mother pawned her jewelry to send her son to college.
As Zahawi joined University College London, he studied chemical engineering. This degree led him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a successful businessman. He then continued progressing in his career. Zahawi began networking with prominent politicians in the UK on all levels. From attending dinner gatherings to befriending decision-makers, Zahawi became more and more recognizable as he expanded his network. Zahawi ran an unsuccessful political campaign for Jeffery Archer (currently a member of the house of lords of the UK). However, it put Zahawi on political grid beyond the local scale.
In 2010, Zahawi became a parliament member. In 2018, he became the Minister of Education after being appointed by Theresa May, the former Prime Minister. He maintained his status as a minister when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister; however, he was reassigned to be the Minister of the State for Employment instead. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government delegated Zahawi a very sensitive mission, a minister-level office to lead the governmental vaccination efforts. Described as a hardworking and incredibly organized man, Zahawi executed this mission with flying colors. The government considered him an executive that can be counted on, a fact that earned him his position as the Minister of Education.
The Road to Prime Minister
After the current political events in the UK, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned under pressure. So, this leaves the prime ministry of the Kingdom wide open. Therefore, Zahawi officially declared his intentions to run for the highest executive office in the UK against 4 other candidates. Given Zahawi’s past, network, and strong media presence, he has a very good chance of becoming the UK’s first Prime Minister of Iraqi origin.