Fulfilling My Dream of Becoming a Diplomat

Posted by Shamim Kazemi
June 16, 2011
Economic Officer Shamim Kamezi Stands With a Colleague

I was born a refugee in Cote d'Ivoire. My parents, who in their late teens had settled in West Africa from Iran, lost their citizenship during the 1979 Islamic revolution for being part of the Baha'i religious minority.

Few people ever understood what it meant to be stateless. “Well, you must have a passport from somewhere,” I was told. Though I was born in Cote d'Ivoire, I was not a citizen of the country. We did not gain citizenship from Burkina Faso either, where we lived for 11 years while my parents managed a primary health care program. I was 15 years old when my family was granted asylum by the United States with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

We moved to Buffalo, New York, and I distinctly remember boarding the TWA flight that brought us here, our lives frantically -- yet neatly -- packed into four 20kg bags. We were told we could only bring one bag person, and no more. None of us knew where Buffalo was until only a few weeks before.

After completing high school and two intense years of acclimatization (cultural, linguistic, and most importantly, climatic), I moved to Switzerland to study philosophy and economics. I then worked in Bolivia and in Fiji before getting my master's degree in the United Kingdom. After short stints of traveling and working at the World Bank, I joined the State Department in 2008, fulfilling a childhood dream to become a diplomat. It allowed me, in my own way, to give back to the country that offered asylum and a new, safe home to my family. It also fulfilled the desire to serve a common humanity that my upbringing had afforded me to appreciate.

Editor's Note: This blog is one of a series of individual stories by former refugees who are now working for the State Department. The series is part of the State Department's ongoing effort to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20. Each story reflects an individual's experience and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.Become a fan of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration on Facebook.



Katarina K.
June 22, 2011

Katarina in Serbia writes:

Touching and inspiring to read about your dream coming true; gives hope to all other dreamers out there who wish for the same thing that stars might not be as far away as we think :-)

Thank you sharing, best of luck with your work in Haiti.

Heather T.
District Of Columbia, USA
June 22, 2011

Heather in D.C. writes:

How lucky we are to count Mr. Kazemi as a fellow countryman and State Department colleague. Thank you for sharing your story.

June 22, 2011

Jimmy in Nigeria writes:

I really want to be an internationally recorgnized diplomat. An opportunity at the department of state is my widest dream. Please how can i make this a dream come true? I want to do something that's a way of life and not just a job. I read comments from Hilary and other world diplomats. This gets me highly motivated. I want to be on critical intelligent missions and also diplomatic missions. I wake up every morning to believe that the world would need me someday and i try to live and act responsibly because i know my past would be traced someday. Can i hear from you please?

Florida, USA
June 22, 2011

Donna in Florida writes:

It’s amazing what a person can accomplish when give the chance and no obstacle before them. Dreams can come true and especially here in America!

June 22, 2011

Kash in Canada writes:

A Great post

District Of Columbia, USA
June 22, 2011

Russell in D.C. writes:

This is a wonderful account of turning true obstacles into opportunities to rise above and give back. Kudos to you Shamim Kazemi. It is an honor to count you among my fellow State Department colleagues.

June 22, 2011

Kevin writes:



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