Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Monday, 2 January 2006

US teenager home after Iraq trip

Farris Hassan
Farris Hassan said he wanted to empathise with the Iraqi people

A US teenager who secretly travelled to Iraq after being inspired by a school journalism project has arrived home.

Farris Hassan, 16, smiled at a swarm of media but said nothing as he walked through the airport in Florida.

He later told the Associated Press by phone he was flattered by the attention but now wanted a "good night's rest".

Farris' escapade emerged after he walked into AP's bureau in Baghdad and revealed he had travelled to Iraq without telling his parents.

The teenager - whose parents are Iraqi - had been inspired to make the trip after a school lesson on immersion journalism.

"Going to Iraq will broaden my mind... I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress," he wrote in an essay before setting off.

'Freaked out'

Farris, who does not speak Arabic, travelled to Kuwait from the US three weeks ago and hoped to take a taxi across the border in time for the Iraqi elections.

Farris Hassan
I want to live my days so that my nights are not full of regrets - therefore, I must go
Farris Hassan essay

When he found the border shut, he stayed with family friends in Lebanon before flying on to Baghdad at Christmas time.

He stayed in an international hotel in Baghdad but only fully realised the danger he was in after pulling out a phrase book in a busy food market.

"I'm like, 'Well, I should probably be going.' It was not a safe place. The way they were looking at me kind of freaked me out," he told AP at the time.

AP alerted the US Embassy, which sent American soldiers to pick him up and put him on a military flight from Baghdad to Kuwait.

He was then accompanied by a US official on a flight from Kuwait to Europe, and on to Florida.

Tough questioning

"I do want to tell you how flattered I am. The media has been very, very kind to me," Farris told AP by phone from his father's car after landing in Miami.

"I hope to get a good night's rest".

But he is likely to have some answering to do now he is back home.

His mother, Shatha Atiya, told CBS television a few days ago: "We are going to watch his every move. We are going to take his passport. We're going to limit his access to money."

His school, Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale, has also apparently requested a meeting with his parents before he is allowed to return to class.

video and audio news
See Farris Hassan returning home

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