LONDON – Allan Hennessy, a blind Muslim Iraqi refugee has defied all the odds and managed to graduate from the United Kingdom’s prestigious Cambridge University with a first-class law degree, finishing fourth in his year.
“You have every right to leave your lane,” Hennessy told BBC late last week.
“All my life I’ve been told I cannot, must not, should not and would not. The disabled stereotype is subdued, helpless – and the biggest struggle for me is to overcome that stigma.”
Hennessy was born totally blind in 1995 in Baghdad, Iraq, which was still recovering from the 1990-1991 Gulf War at the time.
Hopes of gaining sight were bleak for Hennessy back home, prompting his father to sell all his belongings to move the family to London, where they sought asylum.
There, Hennessy underwent an operation that restored partial sight in his left eye.
“Since then I’ve just been rocking on with the little sight I have,” he tells the BBC.
Hennessy explains that his family lived a rather luxurious life in Iraq and suffered “a real culture shock” living as refugees in London council estates.
In 2012, he applied to study law at Cambridge University, becoming the first member of his family to attend university. He was one of only seven people with impaired sight to be accepted at the university that year.
This summer, Hennessy graduated from Fitzwilliam College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, finishing fourth out of 220 students. In addition to that, he wrote two papers which were ranked first among all others.
Having graduated from college, Allan is now set for a prestigious scholarship at law school.
“It takes a lot of confidence, self love and self-worth to realize that you are capable. You have every right to leave your lane,” he said.
“You really don’t have to subscribe to the life that has been written for you.”