About Refugees, By Refugees

A portrait of refugee Abdull against a black and white patterned background

Abdull Hossain Hassani

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Zahra Gardi

“My wish was to take my children to a place so they can have a better life,” says asylum seeker Abdull (38). He left Afghanistan so his children could “live without fear or risk,” but the journey to Europe was arduous. His saddest memory, Abdull recounts, is when he and his children were separated from his mother and siblings at the Iranian border as the police fired on them. Life in Greece has not been easy: “We came to find that we are in real hell… my children could not sleep because they were afraid.” When the refugee camp where they stayed burnt down, the family moved to a new one, where they share a four-meter tent with another family. Abdull still has not been able to contact his mother and siblings. Despite the hardships, Abdull says his children give him strength: “It’s just the hope that has helped me stay strong and my children being beside me.” Now, his dream is for his family to “remain together wherever we go, and live in a comfortable place for the rest of my life.”

Trigger Warning: murder/violence; depression

full interview

Hi, introduce yourself to us by telling us your name, surname and where are you from and how old are you?
Hello, I am Abdul Hossain from Afghanistan, Sar-e-Pol province, Balkhab district, Paroshan region. I am 37 years old…and…life was hard in Afghanistan especially for us, Hazaras. There was literally no place for us, Hazaras, there and the Taliban would come there. Balkhab is a district and inside the district Taliban could not come and then they would send someone to threaten the regions and tell them to not cooperate with the government. If you cooperate with the government, we will kill you. Our situation was very bad and in the last two or three years, our schools were closed and our children could not go to school. My daughter studied only up to the fourth grade while she had to study at least up to the tenth grade. And my son also has the same situation and studied up to the third grade. And my other daughter studied up to the second grade. And then we were forced to leave when we saw that we have got a bad condition and our children cannot study. I, myself, am not educated and I am illiterate. And we thought that our children should not remain illiterate so we should go somewhere peaceful where they can be calm, can study and progress. They should not become someone like me who looks for manual labor jobs because nothing can be achieved out of it. So we came to Iran and stayed there for a week. But if one does not have any legal documents in Iran, the schools will not give admission and wherever they catch us, they will deport us. Then we came to Turkey and we risked many times but could not pass and spent whatever money we had. And then with a lot of effort, we borrowed money from here and there, called family and relatives in Iran and they sent us money. So, we passed the borders and reached Greece. It has been a year since we came to Greece. And my son has a mental disorder. Every time that we go to the doctor, the doctor says he has got no problem and I will come to your tent. But he does not come and nothing happens. We are ten people in one tent. There are six people in my family and four people from another family which makes a total of ten people. We literally do not have any space and our condition is really grave. And now if the humanitarian countries accept refugees, we agree to go to a better place. So that our children can at least get into better positions, though my time has passed now but our children can have a better life, get educated, for example; become a doctor, an engineer or whoever they want to become.

So you have left your country because there was fight and insecurity and because of your children’s education?
Yes. So now it has been three months we are here and there was a fight in our region and my wife’s father was killed, Taliban killed him. And the situation is totally bad there so we could not live there anymore. We could not live a normal life let alone having a good life. A normal life. So I did not have a good income and I had do manual labor jobs for myself and others from dusk till dawn just to pass the day.

What was your job?
My job was in agriculture. Yes, and then we came here and we have been here for a year and we have remained this way. And my children are sick every day and either their mother or I take them to the doctor. My son’s condition is really bad. God knows that he wakes up during the nights and goes everywhere. His mother or I go and bring him back inside. Our house is close to the sea and I am afraid if he leaves the house during the night and drowns in the sea, what should I do then?

Can you tell us about the time you were leaving your country? How did you feel?
That time, our country is our birth place and our heart melts for it OK. It is just that the country has been ruined otherwise, our own country is the best country. We have come here because we were forced to. Or else, if I could earn better and have a better day, I would not come here. We would stay in our own country. My father died and passed away there and other relatives who died and were buried there. It is not true to say that I have come here to enjoy my time. No. I came here alone and only saved my family’s life so they can live in a better place.

How was your trip toward Europe? For example, did you have a bad situation or did anything bad happen to you? Or do you have a good experience from this journey?
The bad experience was that we got into the border between Iran and Afghanistan and then these human smugglers took us to Pakistan’s border. There, my mother, my brother and his family, and I were all together. We were in two cars there. I was in one car with my wife and children and they were in another car. Once we reached the border and when the Iranian police fired on us, I escaped in one direction and they escaped in another. And until now, I have no idea where they are, whether they are in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran or have turned into water and dust. I have no information.

Did you try to get any contact number from them or from your relatives?
Try. Two of my sisters are in Iran and when I call them, they say they don’t know. We totally have no information about them. They haven’t even called us once and they have not called my sisters either. I have no information at all. Now it has been one year and two or three months.

So your hardest and saddest memory is when you got apart from them?
Yes, it is about us getting apart. And also when my father passed away five or six years ago because of cancer. And then I took my mother with me but we got separated at the border. My sister was also with her and my brother and his family were with them. I have no information about them, nothing at all. I don’t know where they are. It was the saddest memory of my life. I still do not have any information about them.

How did you feel when you got separated from them?
Then I thought to myself that the smugglers might have taken them to Iran and we might meet somewhere. And… then… nothing happened as we were hopeful but nothing happened. We are still hopeful they will come to us from somewhere. But no, we do not have any information.

Will you please tell me, I know that we all are immigrants and we have experienced this way and there are a lot of risks in it, I want to ask you from which way did you come? Which ones were easy and which ones were hard for you? And what was your feeling when you were passing through these ways?
Look, when we were entering Iran from Pakistan’s border, we were risking our lives. The Iranian police would fire on us and shoot us. One death risk was there. Another death risk was on Turkey’s border with Iran when we came from Iran to Turkey. That was a death risk too. We faced a lot of difficulties when we came to Turkey. We came to Zaiton-borno and from there, the police got and took us back to Sewas and left us there. A lot of our money was spent and we got to Istanbul with great difficulty. We tried six times but could not pass. We succeeded to pass the border for the seventh time and God knows that we had no money. We did not have enough money from the beginning and my sisters sent me money from Iran and all of it was spent. Travelling by sea is a 99 percent risk. We passed and came here and we were happy that we had reached Europe. When we arrived here, we came to find that we are in real hell in Moria. This Moria was worse than hell. There was a fight every night and my children could not sleep because they were afraid. There were fights and they would stab each other with knives. Many people were killed in Moria. And then they burned Moria and I don’t know who did it. I don’t know whether it was the fascists or who it was. Then we came here and slept across the roads for many nights. Then the police took us to another camp that they had made. We were under the tent there and had no blankets. When it was raining, everywhere would get wet and there was mud under us. We spend life with all these miseries. God knows it is really hard for ten people to live under one tent. It’s really hard.

How much is the capacity of your tent?
The length of our tent is four meters. Two meters belong to the four people from another family and two meters belong to my family of six.

So two families live in one tent?
Two families live in one tent.

It means two meters for ten people?
Four meters’ space for ten people, two meters belong to the family of four and the rest two meters belong to us, a family of six. Yes.

Can you please tell us what you thought about Europe before coming here?
Well I had no … I came to Europe once in 2014. I had come to Germany, in the Engelstadt region, Gerarfield. I went there. I went there only by myself. I went there and reached there but my father passed away in Afghanistan. Then my mother and my children called me to come back because we do not have any guardians. You have to come back. So I deported myself. I went to Afghanistan. That time I did not remain there too long. I only stayed one month and no more. Then people would say that Europe and humanitarian countries are good for children and their education. And God knows that I came here for that reason and Iran is also an Islamic country and other parts in Asia. But we could not bear it anymore. It was hard for us. We came to Europe because we thought Europe is better but Greece is …haha… we really had a hard time in Moria.

Then how did you feel when you found out that Moria is like hell and Europe is not the way you had thought about? What was your feeling at that time?
At that time, my feelings were … we have lived this one year in hope that a humanitarian country might come to take and save us. Whatever long we have lived here is only for this reason.

Haven’t you lost hope or got depressed? Didn’t you lose hope when you saw this situation? You have accepted all the hardships of this trip to come here and get into a condition that your children can get a good education, but now you are here doing nothing in Moria. How did it affect you? Was it easy or hard for you? Can you cope with it or not?
We have been under great pressure. We have left Afghanistan because we were forced to. And now that we have come here, there is no education and it has been a year that our children have lagged behind their studies. If we could reach a country, they could learn the language during this one year and could make a lot of progress. Now that it has been three months that my father-in-law was martyred and killed, my wife has depression and amnesia. When she puts something somewhere, she cannot remember where she put the thing. God knows we have really had hard times. In the hope that something might happen, we have remained in the same situation for long. Again, there are a lot of humanitarian countries. They may help refugees. Immigrants are really having a hard time. It’s not only me but a lot of other people. There are people who do not receive stipends or money from anyone. When a kid sees another kid having chips or any other food, and when they ask for that specific thing and you cannot provide it, that is when you break apart. It is hard for us.

Have the hardships that you have gone through affected your personality?
It has been really hard for us but we have continued by relying on God’s will.

Although you are having a hard time, what has made you preserve all these problems?
It’s just the “hope” that has helped me stay strong and my children being beside me. If they were not beside me, then I would be totally ruined. It’s good that they are here but they also face a lot of hardships. When you see your child having a hard time, then your heart will tear into parts. We indeed have a hard time but as hard as it is, we have to endure it. There might be a way. They have told us several times to get ourselves deported and each get 2000 but if it was for the money that we have come here, we would go somewhere to work and earn money. For example, the … we are not here for the money but for our children’s future. So that our children can have a comfortable life no matter if they remain here for five years or ten years. A life with no fear and risk. So that they are no more threatened to be killed or hit or whatever. They should not live that way. We came here for that reason. Yes.

Will you tell us that were you thinking of the hardships of the way and get separated from your family, your mother, your sister and come to Moria, to this hell? Were you thinking with yourself about coming to Europe and finding this waiting for you?
No. I wouldn’t think. I would think that now that we have left Afghanistan together, we will be together everywhere we go. And what happened really affected us. When we reached here, we didn’t think that we would remain here for long. We thought that we would only stay here for two or three months and then they would come and take us to another country. European countries have not taken any action yet. If you talk about sickness, you can find my children’s prescriptions and that they have really been very sick and have gone through a lot of hardships. And my son, whom I told you about before, I wake up each night to check if he is in his bed and then I feel relieved. Then we are like … what will happen. Going to sleep is like dying and you don’t know if he goes and drowns in the water.

What was your dream when you were a child?
My dream was … I have one wish to remain together wherever we go and live in a comfortable place for the rest of my life.

This is for your current situation right?

What was your dream in your childhood?
My childhood dream was …to be with my parents until we are alive. My father died and it has been one year and three months that I don’t know where my mother is. Now we have become this way. And I don’t know what comes next.

The time that you were planning to immigrate and the time that you were leaving the country, what was your wish for the future?
My wish was to take my children to a place so they can have a better life. Not like myself. For example, everyone has lived and has a life. Maybe in my life I have begged people. Life gets harder when you don’t have anything. Now my only wish is that my children should not beg people for charity. They shall stand on their own feet and be someone for themselves. Be a helping hand for a poor person. This is my only wish.

Where do you live now? City or camp?
We live in a camp.

How is your situation in this camp?
It is terrible and it is really bad.

Are you satisfied with this situation?
I am not satisfied because they do not let us out. Also, if children go to the bathroom and do not have a face mask, they will fine us 300 euros. The situation is really grave.

How about the food and meals?
In terms of food, they give us something and we are forced to eat it. If we do not eat that, we do not have any money to go and buy something from our own pocket. Yes, they give food. Back in Moria, we could cook by making fire and had a pot to put on fire. Now, the police do not let us make fire inside this camp. The electricity is not good and we cannot buy electric pots so that my children can cook something for themselves. That is why we are forced to eat the food delivered to the camp.

How do you keep yourself warm now that it is the cold season?
In such a tent? Believe me it’s really cold during the nights and when it’s windy, it nearly takes off the tent. Such strong wind. Nothing else. We have to stay and bear it with a blanket.

How many people are in your family now?
We are six people.

It’s you, your wife and your four children?
Yes, four kids.

Would you tell us how you spend your day in Moria?
In Moria … I had no job in the first four months. After that I went to … I was getting crazy being jobless. I went to the municipality for cleaning tasks. I registered myself and would go collect people’s garbage one hour every day. It was like this. Now that I have come to this camp, I voluntarily stand in the food distribution line and distribute food to people. And after 10 AM, when I come back, I go to the “washing hands” because of corona that people have to wash their hands. So I go and work there. Yes. This is to keep myself busy and because when people are jobless, they think of a hundred things.

Do they pay you for your work or not?
No, they don’t pay anything.

Do you work voluntarily?
Yes, I work voluntarily.

Would you tell me that life in Europe is easy or hard? What do you think?
We have a really hard life now. It is really hard. After this, the European humanitarian countries should hear refugees’ problems and help us. They should understand the immigrants and take them to their countries. If they take us somewhere, that’s good, otherwise half of these people will die this winter. They will catch a cold.

Has coronavirus affected your daily life? Your health and your feelings, and your personal life?
Well, … the coronavirus … has not affected us much but whenever we get out of the door, we need to put on our masks. If we do not have it and they fine us 300 euros, where should we find that money and give it to them?

Has coronavirus affected your morale? For example, someone said that they would go to different places for a picnic but now they can’t.
Yes, it was better before. Now we are like prisoners. They do not let us go out. Today, for example, it is the first time in a week, more than a week, that I could come out.

How long? How long has it been? Was it two weeks?
No, it started on Saturday. Yes.

So today is the first time in about two weeks that you could come out of your house?
Yes, it is the first time we are coming out.

Would you please tell us, … now I am done with my questions, do you have anything to add in your story? Do you have any demand from authorities? Or for example, those who are reading your story, do you have anything to tell them? You can tell them now.
No … I have nothing to say but we just have a request from any country like Europe or America or any other humanitarian country, to help the refugees. Refugees’ children are now lagging behind in their studies, in making progress. And the child that grows in a camp might do robberies out of hunger. So they are forced to do that, what should they do then? Also, these children are really in a bad condition.

The last question that I was about to forget, has the hardships that you encountered during your travel here, added to your strength? Or has it made you lose something?
I have persevered until now. I told myself now that it has happened, let it be. We struggled a lot. In Turkey, I was about to give up. I told myself I will not go to Europe. Then my wife told me let’s try one more time. If you have no money and call your sisters and other relatives and ask them to give you some money, it is really hard. Then I accepted my wife’s advice and came and succeeded in crossing the border and came here. For the time being, we still have the ability and we have continued until now. After this, if the European countries do not take action for the refugees, we might face a lot more hardships in winter.

The purpose of this question is, some say they have had a hard time during the way, lost their families, bad things happened to us, and now we are more perseverant. Others say they used to be happy people in the past but after facing all these hardships that they hadn’t experienced before, they are very depressed now. I want to know how you have faced it?
I myself have immigrated. For example, I have gone to Iran once or twice. Then I went to Europe to Germany. But God knows that this one has really affected me. It has really affected me. Because when I see my son being hungry in front of my eyes, it really affects me. Back then, I was alone and would eat whatever I had and would not eat if I did not have anything to eat. But now it has really affected me.

So you are more sensitive now?
Yes. God knows.

Your responsibilities are more now?
Yes. Now for example, when I go somewhere to help, to do anything good, the garbage that I collect and wash people’s hands, these are all benevolent works. So that God may bless us and save me and other refugees from here. Then it is good.

Have you gained any skill doing these activities? Have you learned anything new?
The new thing that I have learned is to help others as much as you can. Take someone’s hand in need so that God may take your hand.

Thank you for giving your time and goodbye.

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.