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Sudanese-American slam poet appointed UNHCR Ambassador

June 10 - 2018 GENEVA
Emi Mahmoud visits Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in March 2018 (Niko Ivanovski/UNHCR)
Emi Mahmoud visits Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in March 2018 (Niko Ivanovski/UNHCR)

The Sudanese-American slam poet Emtithal (Emi) Mahmoud has been appointed as a national (US) Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The announcement comes as Mahmoud is preparing to open and perform at TEDxKakumaCamp, the first ever TEDx event to take place at a refugee camp in Kenya on 9 June, the UNHCR said in a statement on Friday.

As a former refugee from Sudan, Emi uses her personal experience to share the emotional impact of losing a home, of being forcibly displaced and of the lack of rights of women and refugees.

“I am so honoured to be appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR,” Mahmoud said. “I can’t possibly explain what it is like to flee your home, to leave your memories and loved ones behind, but that is exactly the reality that my parents and millions like them had to deal with and that is the reason why I am here.

“And that’s the reality that new people face every day. I want to use my experience and my ability as an artist, a writer and a performer to help raise awareness and advocate for others, and inspire the world to stand with refugees,” she told UNHCR.

Mahmoud has been supporting UNHCR since 2016. She has not only represented UNHCR at various high-profile events but also witnessed UNHCR’s frontline work in the field, meeting refugees in Jordan, Uganda and Greece.

Dreams for Peace

Emi Mahmoud is a Sudanese-American poet and author with accolades in a range of artistic, academic and activist pursuits, as the Washington-based Enough Project described her earlier this year.

She captured the attention of many with her powerful TED Talk presentation on Darfur in 2016 and earned the first-ever standing ovation in the history of the Forbes 30 Under 30 conference.

In January this year, Mahmoud left El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on foot, on her way to Khartoum. During the more than 1,000 kilometres walk, she collected ‘Dreams for Peace’ from people around the world.


Mahmoud’s family escaped North Darfur to Yemen when she was a toddler, before migrating to the USA in 1998.

Her life and poetry have been shaped by the ongoing conflict in Darfur. She discovered at a young age that poetry allowed her to articulate her experiences. In October 2015, she won the Individual World Poetry Slam award in Washington DC.

After graduating from Yale University, Mahmoud said she has made it her mission to “put people back in front of the numbers”, referring to the dehumanisation of people fleeing conflict all over the world.



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