Van Salih was born and raised in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She graduated from the University of Sulaimaniyah, Iraq in 2006 with a degree in architectural engineering. After graduation she joined the restoration project carried out by UNESCO at Erbil Citadel in the Kurdistan Region, where she discovered that the conservative social norms regarding women had a profound influence on the urban design and architectural elements of Erbil Citadel. After finishing the restoration researches of 18 houses, Van joined ExxonMobil Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as a supervisor to lead the company’s signature programs devoted to female empowerment. In this role she had the opportunity to work at the very heart of the international response to the humanitarian crisis arising from the large numbers of the internally-displaced people and refugees from Syria in the Kurdistan Region. She also continued to volunteer with a variety of women’s organizations. Her work with women activists who are tackling issues such as honor killings, gender-based violence, rape and female genital mutilation has inspired her to devote her life to assisting those who are less fortunate.