Ahmed Ullah

Kitchener, Canada


Ahmed  Ullah

Ahmed was born in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. Without a father, and with a mother who faced mental health struggles, he had huge obstacles to accessing an education. Upon trying to enrol in the local school, the headmaster wrote off his ambitions immediately based on his family background, and told him there was no point giving him an education. Ahmed ended up working at a coffee shop 16 hours a day, but remained resilient, becoming determined to help others who were also denied their right to an education. Upon arriving in Canada as a refugee, Ahmed faced many other obstacles – including bullying due to the colour of his skin – but with perseverance he has become a successful student who fights on for the Rohingya, their recognition and their educational rights.

To help bring about change, Ahmed now speaks about the Rohingya on global stages such as the United Nations, the Global Education and Skills Forum, and many events for Islamic Relief Canada. Back in 2012, not many people in Canada knew who the Rohingya people were – or what atrocities they were going through in Myanmar and Bangladesh –  but Ahmed believes that has now changed, in part due to his work. Canada has now officially recognised the Rohingya crisis as a genocide, and Ahmed has worked with Prime Minister Trudeau’s Special Envoy to Myanmar to lobby for rights of the Rohingya people. On a personal level, Ahmed has also helped multiple refugee families settle in his Canadian hometown, and he often travels back to Bangladeshi refugee camps to help people who are struggling.

Ahmed’s achievements don’t stop there. With other Rohingya refugees, he helped create a play about the Rohingya through improvisation and creative discussion. To write the play, the company interviewed family and friends about their experiences in Myanmar, to show people what Rohingyas are facing and what they have dealt with. After six months of rehearsals, 500 tickets sold out in just two days, and the play’s success led to the development of the movie I Am Rohingya, which has won multiple awards.

Ahmed has also received a number of awards recognizing his contribution, including a World Refugee Day award and a Fresh Voices award. The Canadian Council of Youth Imams named him Youth Activist of The Year in 2019, and he was also nominated for the National Council of Canadian Muslims Spotlight 150. If he wins the Global Student Prize, Ahmed wants to use the money to fund places for Rohingya children at private centres, and would like to provide the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh with more pumps for drinking water so that people no longer have to wait in line for hours.