Fla. Boy Coming Home After Iraq Adventure
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 14 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A 16-year-old from Florida who traveled to
Iraq on his own without telling his parents was put on a flight home Friday, the U.S. Embassy said, while warning Americans of the dangers of undertaking similar journeys. Farris Hassan, of Fort Lauderdale, had been under the care of the U.S. Embassy after being on his own in Iraq for several days.
"I'm going to hug him. He's my little angel," his mother, Shatha Atiya, said Friday after learning he was on his way home. "I'm exhausted, I'm very anxious. I'm grateful he's out of Iraq."
The U.S. Embassy had no immediate information about Hassan's flight.
Consul General Richard B. Hermann reiterated warnings by the State Department and embassy against traveling to Iraq and said Americans in Iraq should register their presence. Forty American citizens have been kidnapped since the war started in March 2003, of which 10 have been killed, a U.S. official said. About 15 remain missing.
He said Hassan had left Baghdad safely.
"This young American is now on his way back home to his family in the United States," Hermann said.
Hassan spoke to The Associated Press by phone early Friday, several hours before the embassy announcement, and he was still under the impression that he was leaving Baghad on Sunday. He was unaware that his story had been published around the world.
"I don't have any Internet access here in the Green Zone, so I have no idea what's going on," he said.
A military officer accompanying him, who did not identify himself, said it was his task to get Hassan "safe and sound to the United States."
Hassan, a junior at Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, recently studied immersion journalism — a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it.
The teenager, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, says he wanted to travel to Baghdad to better understand what Iraqis are living through.
"I thought I'd go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles," he told AP in an interview earlier this week.
Skipping a week of school, he left the country on Dec. 11, telling only two high school friends of his plans. His travels took him to Kuwait and Lebanon before he arrived in Iraq on Christmas Day. He left without telling his family and sent an e-mail after his departure, Atiya said.
"He is very idealistic. He has many convictions. He is very pro-democracy, very compassionate, always helping out others, he's very driven," Atiya said. "Those are more characteristics of Farris than adventurous. This is the first adventure he's been on."
The teen traveled to Kuwait, where a taxi dropped him in the desert at the Iraq border, but he could not cross there because of tightened security ahead of the Iraqi parliamentary elections on Dec. 15. He went to Beirut, Lebanon, to stay with family friends, and flew from there to Baghdad.
After his second night in Baghdad, he contacted the AP and said he had come to do research and humanitarian work. The AP called the U.S. Embassy, which sent U.S. soldiers to pick him up.
State Department officials then notified his parents.
Atiya said she has a 60-year-old brother in Iraq, but that she had refused when her son recently pestered her for his number. She said she offered to take her son to Iraq later, when tensions eased.
"I thought that would be sufficient for him, but he took it upon himself to do this adventure. He has a lot of confidence, but I never thought he would be able to pull this together," she said.
Hassan does not speak Arabic and has no experience in war zones, but he wanted to find out what life was like there.
Atiya said her son is stu
"Brian May, Freddie will."