About Refugees, By Refugees

Abdul Karim Kamara

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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leonean

Mahmoud Jabbie

When I was back home, actually my dream was to become an I.T. specialist,” says Abdul Karim Kamara (19), an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone now in Athens. He fled after being forced to participate in an initiation ceremony for a secret society, where he was drugged, tied up, beaten. “I got hopeless so that time, I just feel like dying and end everything but I was able to escape.” Despite medication and therapy, he says, “I wake up and then scream like I have, I just have these bad dreams about these people.” On his way to Greece, he nearly drowned but was rescued by the authorities. “So I would say the Greek government is my strength and it’s my support.” He has hope too. “When you have hope, you have the ability to do things.” He dreams of starting a family. And of a career in I.T.: “I still want to continue that dream,” adding, “My hope is to continue my education, feel be free like, just want to be stress free. I don’t want to be afraid throughout to my life. Just want to be free.”

Trigger Warning: Violence

full interview

Hello, how are you?
I’m fine, thank you.

So who are you? Please.
My name is Abdul Karim Kamara. I’m from Sierra Leone, West Africa.

What kind of housing do you live in?
I live in Kyrpou 57, and I’m living in a three story flat.

How can you describe the condition in the house?
Beautiful. I mean, everything is well taken care of. Like life here is good. Yeah. And we have no problem with living in peace.

OK, that is great. Who do you live with?
I live with my fellow Sierra Leoneans and some otherwise guys from different nation.

OK, how do you spend your time here?
Um, mostly I like spending my time reading books and, you know, walking around and also, um. Yeah, I think that’s all and…. Oh, yeah, yeah…

So do you work?
No, no no. I don’t work.

So how that make you feel when you don’t work?
It makes me feel, not good as much, you know, because it’s it’s very nice for you to get something doing, rather to just setting down without doing anything. It’s… I’m actually working on it.

OK, what are some of the things that brings you joy?
Yeah, don’t say many things, but the most important one is when my fellow colleagues is, you know, they are having um beneficiaries, like good things are coming their way. For me, it’s makes me more happy than everything else.

OK, very good man. How has life been since you arrived in Europe, so, like, I want to know what has been, like the good being here and what is difficulties?
Actually,  life has been here like my journey to here is very tough, but I would say, um, I’m here now in Europe um, the good thing about here is that I know when you’re here- some day your life will change as time goes on. You know it’s a little optimistic so you are hopeful that things will be better some day as life goes on. Then some of the bad things is that, like I said earlier, our journey to this place was very very horrible and we have seen a lot. So for me I would say, I don’t even want to mention some of the things that that’s happened, but let us be going.

So how can you describe how living here has made you feel?
It has made me feel good enough because life, but, you know, living here is quite better than the life I’ve been living all through my journey to here I’d say life is better, yeah though it’s not hundred percent, but at least it’s good.

So how does being away from the rest of your family home makes you feel?
Very bad. Extremely bad, you know. But first of all, as for me, I mean a different page because I don’t have a family. It’s only me and my younger brother, so things has not been easy, like I would say, since I left my only  brother back home, I’ve never set eyes on him so It’s very, very horrible for me, life as far as that side is concerned is very horrible.

So do you speak with him?
Well, it’s like as I said, since I left him there, I have never spoken with him yet. So but hopefully  and I’m sure some day I will get to speak with him, but for now, no.

So like he’s safe where he is?
The that’s the biggest question, because we don’t know if he’s safe or not, because since I left to now, I wouldn’t tell.

So, like, I want to know what happened to the rest of your family?
Ok. Like my mother, so my mother, she died while returning from a business trip in a car accident, in a road accident. And then my father like he was a society member and one time he went for a ceremony like to initiate some other guys during the process, he never returns back and I never got to set my eyes on him.

I’m so sorry about that.
It’s OK.

So how that makes you feel?
Extremely bad. It makes me feel, make me feel alone, cause, it’s not easy at all.

I’m so sorry to hear that from you. How does the feeling of not belonging, discrimination, stigma impacts you?
It’s I would say it’s a very hard feeling. Come again the question?

Like I want to know.

How does the feeling of not belonging, like discrimination and stigma impact you? Can you talk about that?
Talk about the discrimination?

Yes, and the stigma?
OK, like, like stigmatizing. It’s something that I’ve been having for since I’ve been in this journey  to here. It has been tough and of course, the discrimination is lots, a lot, especially when I was in Turkey. They discriminate, you know, like the white discriminate there. Between the blacks, they have a lot of racism there and all of these things are really irritating  you have no choice. That’s it.

How that makes you feel?
It makes me feel it makes me feel some kind of way, like I’m not worth to be where I am, you know. It makes me feel like I don’t belong in a society.

So could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle all these situations and I want to know, how have you been able to overcome with it?
Being able to overcome?

Like, could you ever imagine that you will be able to handle all these things you have been through?
Well, I would say yes with hope, you see, because and all those things that I’ve been through all these hard times till I got here, I always have have hope that one day things will things will be OK. So this is what I have. This is the belief that I have in me. This is the only thing that I have in me, I’m hopeful.

OK, so how have you been able to overcome with it?
Yeah, It is the same thing through hope I’ve been able to overcome.


Do you think that you develop the ability to deal with these challenges or do you think you always had those skills strengths, since back?
Develop the ability?

Like, do you think that you develop the ability to deal with all these challenges or do you think you always had those skills? Back from home?
Ok. Well, I would say. I wouldn’t say, actually the ability. Yeah, like I said, I have the ability because it’s it’s something that I’ve been through and all these things with hope, I know. Like, when you have hope, you have the ability to do things. Understand? So I think with that, I have the ability to overcome it one day with the help of hope.

OK, how as the COVID 19  affected you in terms of your daily life and your mood, feeling, emotion, wellbeing?
With this COVID 19 as we all know it has been very, very tough, extremely tough for not only me, but the whole world. So it’s it’s it’s felt so bad and it does is continue to destroy and  end people’s lives, innocent people’s life and all these things. So it’s it’s not like for me, the mere fact that it’s like it’s is not in my path for now, doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. But the mere fact that it’s dealing with people badly here and everywhere, everything has blocked. So it makes me not feel good at all.

OK, so, again, like I want to ask you, why did you leave your county? Can you talk what happened?
Okay, in a short way, I will say I leave my country because I wanted to actually they want to initiate me into a secret society, my step mom and some other society members and it’s a very deadly society, which I wouldn’t want even my enemy to be part of a society where, you know, if you don’t be as strong or fit, maybe during the initiation, you will not be able to make it. In society we are in, like, they destroy lives. Society ruin. They go against human rights, all because of the, all because of the society stuffs like all in the name ceremony, and all in the name of the society and is something like I never want to be part of because I was actually taken to bush, when I want in to be initiated. I saw in that bush, seven dead bodies and a big snake hanging on to these dead bodies. I was very scared and they gave me blood to drink and also give me some leaves- society leaves to chew so such things I never want to be even close to part, so then I run away.

So how that makes you feel at the time?
Well, it makes me feel at that time, I just wanted to to dig the ground and enter. I just wanted to die at that time because I should have died but the mere fact, that I was denied not to be part of the society. When time to go was very tough. They beats me very well and then tie me in a stick. It was beaten extremely bad till I got hopeless so that time, I just feel like dying and end everything but I was able to escape.

Like at that time, you feel like to lose your life and the next thing you run again for your life. Yeah, like I want you to explain to me more- why why do you feel like to lose your life at that time and the same time you try to run for your life?
In the first place why do I feel like I should just die? Because the way I was treated see if you wear my shoe at that time like the pain, the way the I was beaten. I was beaten, dr…drastically if you were in my shoe at that that time. Yes, so like I was not able to endure such pains then.

So that’s why you feel to die?
Yeah exactly.

Why you feel to die is because you think you can’t endure the pain that time. OK, so sorry about that. Life is not really easy, life is very tough. So like, I want you to explain, like I want to say I want you to talk about this society more because yeah like that society it’s a general name?  Like the society has a particular name, law, or customs? So like, I want to know that society because like people like theu will like to know like maybe. Yeah because that’s what is society, it’s a general name. So like I want to know more about the society you at all talking about?
The society I’m talking about is called Poro Society…

Like I want to know the name of that society- the name of them.
The society, their aim is to initiate people. When they initiate, like they have, they will teach you their songs, you understand? They will teach you their practice and what they believe in, you understand? This is a society where in we have even authorities like that are in the country are part of this society just to gain position and power at the same time. So like, this society, hmm, is somewhere where in if you became part of it, is like it from our forefathers, you understand? We have like if I would say,  like for me, how it happens to me actually when my dad passed out. They taught it twice because I’m the eldest child as you take from where my father stopped. Like so like when my father died, they would cut off his head, he would not go with his head. Then I will be the one,  like when they cut off my father’s head, I don’t know how to explain this. OK, now, when they cut my father’s head, you understand? Then after I die as well, I will not go with my head, but I will go with my father’s head I will go with. You understand? They will cut off my head as well. So you see,  like all these things they have in this society, all these things like options…

Like what are you trying to say? Like, if your father has died, they will cut his head off?

What are they going to do with his head? And and, you know, man, I think we are trying to explain that if you die too, they are going to cut your head off. So, like, I want you to explain that side. What are they going to do with your head or your father’s head?
OK, when my father’s they cut my father’s head, if I die, they will cut off my head, I would take my father’s head. You understand? I will be the one to take my father’s head in the graveyard you understand? And my head to be left for the one, the child that I have to take from the male child. He will, if he dies, he will take my own head.

Like I want to know, he will take your head and to do what with it?
Like they will bury my head with…

With your father’s.
Yes with my father’s.

Ok. Now like you are trying to say that. Like, if your father die…

They will cut his head off. He will not go with his head.

If me die…

If you die, they will cut your head and take your father’s head. They will fix it on your head and they will bury you with your father’s head?
Yes exactly.

So like how all of this makes you feel?
All this makes me makes me think and feel that like all things shouldn’t happened, and it makes me feel bad. It’s totally makes me not to even want to get close to them. These are society members where in doing the initiation they cut your body. They did leave some scars in your body like at that period, if you are not if you are not that strong, you will die in the process and it’ll just be left like that. Nothing else. Nothing will happened.

OK, so like like all these things you have been through. And so like, I want to know, do you think about this horrible events often. And I want to know, when do you think of this.
I said, think of this almost every day, and most nights when I think of it, I wake up and then scream like I have, I just have these bad dreams about these people. There’s a time when wake up, start to scream and have lots of tensions in my life.

And I want to like, is there something in particular you think about often?. Like something that’s happened from the past you always think about. Is there anything?

Well, when I was in the bush, what happened to me, I always think things that I saw, I always think about it.

So how it makes you feel when you think about it?
It makes me feel bad?

Like how?
It makes me go emotional times. It makes me when I think of these things, I became very sad, I don’t  want to talk to anyone. I just want to be by myself.

And again, like I want to know, like situations you face, they effect you today?
Yes, sure. It doesn’t like. That’s why I said most times I even here, when these things comes like I have, it makes me feel so it gives me a psychological problem. Like those times when I walk and when I hear different voices, you know, voices that it’s like, I don’t know yet the meaning like I talk to them, voices that I will talk to on the road going, but I will not be talking to anyone. Then I will just be talking to myself, you understand ?  And it makes me forget things too much like and also when I sleep, just like I said earlier. When I dream of these things, I wake up shouting and I feel very bad. I feel like, you know, it’s very hard. It’s very hard. 

Right. Could you have ever imagine that you will have been able to overcome that situation?
Well, I’m still trying, but it’s not easy. I’ve never imagined that this situation could be handled, but still trying with the help of some medication and due to this psychology, um, psychologists that I’ve met, so we are still working on it, but it has been very tough.

OK, so how are we are you able to survive or get through it?
Well, like I say, I have not survived yet because I’m still working on it. I’m still working on this traumatize, this depression, this all of these things… stress. I’m trying…I’m trying.

And I want to know, have you created any kind of strategy or mechanism to get to the hard times?
Like, you know, these are things that, um, to get to where it is not something very easy, you only forgets about it for the moment. You just put them aside. But what has happened to you has happened. To just forget about it immediately, it’s not easy. So because most times these things comes to you and you just have to think about them, you have no choice. So it’s just like that.

So where do you find your strength and support?
Like way back or here in Greece?

Both when you was back home. What was your strength and support?  And now when Europe, again, what is your strength and support?
Well when I was back home I had no strength or support from anyone. I made my way through here. You see? And here, I would say I have strength and support because first of all, if not f because the support of the Greek Government who rescued me in that water, like I should have died before. Like, you shouldn’t have been able to interview me today because I had an accident on my way coming in the water. So I know I almost died in the process. If not because of the Greek government, if not because of the rescue team that rescued me at that point, like I wouldn’t be able to see this day. So I would say the Greek government is my strength and it’s my support.

How that makes you feel?
Very happy, so.

And the same tell me again, like when you said, like you should not be alive by now if not the help for the Greek government.  So when you think about these things, how do you feel?
I think about these things, I feel calm, even if for times, I’m in a bad mood and I think of all of these things, I feel good because I know we with, through hope something might change someday, I’m just hopeful about everything.

Like before the events that lead you to flee your home country what was your dream?
Like before the event that led me…

That’s where he was back home, what was your dream? What do you want to be?
Yeah, when I was back home, actually my dream was to become an I.T. specialist. You know, but that doesn’t work due to what I’ve just explained. 

So what is you dream now?
I still want to continue that dream. Finally I have the support.

So like after five, 10 years, what are you, like what is your dream?
Five, 10 years I want like I to be a better person like I want to forget about all these things and to forget about all the stress. Though it will not be easy, but I think is something that I must put aside. In order to fill my life, you know, to make my way through my life, you know. I want to make a family in space of 5 years now. I just want to get off the stress. I believe that…

When you was leaving home, what was your dream?
That time due to the way I left I was not thinking about it any, just myself.

Yes, OK, like. Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths, have you maintain this? Like your strength back home? What was your strength and have you maintained this strength even here
? Like as I said…

Your strengths.
I mean my only strength is hope. I’m hopeful.

Oh, yes. OK, yes, yes, so what you’ve been through seems really difficult. Do you feel like you have grown in any way as a result of this experience or has anything at all positive come out of it?
Well, I would say as far I am free from those people, for now.

You know, like I’ll pray, I’m sure free of them, I’m free from them, I be free from them forever because as far as I’m here now. I think you know my life is safe here. That’s something positive. 

So right now your life is safe here. Yeah, so how will these things make you feel?
It makes me feel good.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future now?
Like, I just want to continue my… My hope is to continue my education, feel be free like, just want to be stress free. I don’t want to be afraid throughout to my life. Just want to be free.

Ok, yeah We really appreciate you answering all these questions. Is there anything you would like to add that might help people in Europe to have a better understanding of the life of refugee?

So what do you want to tell the European people and the world at large about the life of refugee?
Here in Greece?

The entire world?
The life of refugees, like especially what’s in most of them, like us have been through, is really tough. And, you know, this is something that even if we talked about it from now to any other time, it would not be able to finish anything. Because I will not be able to express myself, really the way I want to express myself?. So and I just want to encourage the European Union to in any way to help refugees and to change our status in a positive way. Yeah.

Thank you so much

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.