About Refugees, By Refugees

Ali G

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Photo and interview by:

United Kingdom



Sarya Tunc

My strategy is be strong and help others, and you will get help as well,” says Ali G a refugee who left Iran as a boy and now lives in the United Kingdom. “I don’t think that people could imagine how difficult it was,” he says recalling his journey, which involved long stretches of walking while hungry and thirsty. Bouts of depression and loneliness, as well as the racism he’s encountered, has motivated him to want to help other young refugees as they acclimate to life in a new country: “All these bad things happened to me, but they made me very stronger… It’s made me to care more about other people.” Ali finds it challenging to be far from his family whom he hasn’t seen in years: “Maybe you can find your culture restaurant in this country, but food that your mother make is very different. And I really miss that.” Now, he dreams of becoming an actor and bettering the world. “Maybe I would like to become Prime Minister one day,” he says, “Maybe.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Ok. Ok. Thanks so much, Ali. Er, Ali…er ok. Let’s start. Er, first of all what type of house do you live?
Temporary Accommodation.

Uh-hm. Can you explain a little bit?
So it’s not a house from the Home Office. Er, I live here and I have to move, er, to another house in anytime.

Er. Who do you live with?
Er, my own.

Oh. OK. Normally, what do you do Ali? How do you spend your time?
Er. I’m studying. I do lots of voluntary jobs. I am DJ, I make music.And… er, spending time with friends.

Wow. Impressive! Why do you work as DJ? Wow. I didn’t know it.
Yeah. Do you know Psychedelic? I’m Psychedelic DJ.

Wow. I really didn’t know. OK. And you have lots of voluntary job?

What type of, er, job do you do?
So originally, er, I worked with, er, young refugees and I also refugees who needs help, and they cannot get help. And I am the voice of young refugees, so I am making sure that they are heard. And. er, I am sharing their experiences and feeling to other people. And I am getting help for them.

Wow. Do you think it’s related with your previous experiences?

Could you please a little bit explain?
Yeah so, for example, when I came to this country I didn’t know anyone and there wasn’t many people to become my friend and to help me. And I felt very lonely, I felt very depressed, so I don’t want any refugees or asylum seekers who are coming to this country to feel the same as what I felt.

Ah. Ok. Thank you.  Er, and, er, one thing… er. Just, if you, er, don’t say… for any question ‘Yes ‘or ‘No’. Just, could you please a little bit explain.
I explain.

Yeah, it would be better. Er… What are some of things that brings you some joy, Ali, during the time, during your day, week.
Er, so I really like helping because I believe we can have a much better life if we help each other.And also, er, I would like to make…I would like to put a smile on the people’s faces. So, that’s what makes me very… er that’s what makes me joy.

Ok. Erm, how has life been since you arrived… in… in Europe? I mean could you please explain a little bit what is the good experiences for you what was the bad… bad one?
Er… so… er life in Europe was very good and very difficult because you are in a new place that you don’t know anyone, you don’t speak the same language. You don’t have the same culture and… er that you feel very alone, and you don’t know how to get help as well because you don’t know nothing about this country.Er, but er there are lot of nice people who are trying to help you, or they want you to you feel welcome to this… to their country, to Europe. And er, I had some bad experiences as well. For example, some people have treated me very badly because I am not from the same country as they are, and that has hurted me a lot. But there are a lot of people who have, are very nice to me.

Ok. And er can you little bit describe us how living here has made you feel?
You mean the UK?

The UK. Yeah.
Um [PAUSE] I don’t really know. I… I’m safe here and that’s the main thing – that’s the most important thing. When you are safe in one place, I don’t think you need very much in your life.

Could you please explain us how… er… has been away from the rest of your family, or friends, or country?
Er… I feel horrible because when I left my country I was very young, and at that time, you, er all the young people wants to spend their time with their parents or with friends but I was on the journey to come here. And…er I haven’t seen my parents or my friends for ages. So… it’s very… it’s very harsh.

Can you speak with them?

On WhatsApp?

How does the feeling of not belonging here or… discriminating, er, here to impact you, er or… if you… maybe you can… you are feeling belong here? I don’t know but.
So… so, I don’t… so it depends on how people treating me. So some people have treat me really bad. They have been racist towards and they said a lot of bad things. And I just felt very bad because, er, like I don’t want to be here if I am safe in my country or I have a good life there. I am here to make my future. I’m here to have a good life. I have a better life here. I don’t think they can understand that because they are not in my position. But also there are a lot of people, er, who treated me very nicely, who supported me, who have been nice to me when I was going through lots of problems and so. So it depends how people treating you.

Have you ever imagined that you are going to live these type of situations?
What situation?

I mean you… you will be asylum seeker or refugee in this country. Have you… or what-what did you leave in your country? Have you ever, ever imagined you would… er… you would leave.
My country?

Yeah, your country or your… you said you have, er, experienced some bad situation in this country. I mean, have you ever imagined you would live in this situation?
Er, not really. As I said I was young. And… er I didn’t even know how life out of my country is. I was only busy with my study and my family, that’s it. And yeah it’s a new experience and it’s very confusing as well.

Er, how old were you when you left your country?
Very young.

So young?

What do you think, er, how did you give you strength to survive during that situation?
Er… you mean… er.

You, it might. I’m just, I’m not asking directly to you what you did… er… experience because I want you explain erm. How…how much…if you like you can explain. Er… just I really mean, er, what about you lived in your country. What you experienced in your journey and in here as well.
So… yeah, I mean, I had… I had a good life, uh, in my country. Happy there with my parents until some problems came up and I had to leave. And I moved to other country who… er, don’t like refugees very much. And there are a lot of fascist. I don’t mean UK, I mean, in Greece.

Er, and fascist are beating you up. Like when you go to hospital they are not treating you very nicely, they don’t want to visit you. Er, and er when you are going to, I don’t know, ask for job, or anything, they are just, like turning away from their shop or their business because they say: ‘Oh you are a dirty refugee’.

And that’s very hard because, er, I think they are all human and they are the same. And… if they can put themselves, if they can think that they can put themselves in our position, they can say that’s very horrible to be treated like that. And, er, yeah so I had these kind of problems. And also I thought that if I leave my country and come to different countries, everything’s going to be ok. I’m gonna have a happy life. Er, I’m gonna have everything I want. But that wasn’t. And, when I arrived the new problem just came up and my new life had just begun and I had to start from the beginning.

Do you think to live these type of things, er…er, that you, developed ability to deal with these, er, bad experiences? Or… or… you can you say I was always had these strengths, er… in… my… in… in, I mean.
Didn’t understand your question.

Uh, Ok. rm.
I didn’t understand…another way?

I didn’t understand.

Ah, ok. Sorry. I mean. I’m just gonna read it. Do you think that you developed ability to deal…with these challenges? Or do you think you always had those skills/strengths in…in your inside?
You mean to…?

You… you, ah, you explained that you have lived some bad experiences.

Do you think these experiences improved your ability er to.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah definitely.

Your strengths… or you would say: ‘No, I was already had these skills’.
No, no definitely, definitely. Because… er, when…when you. So we have one thing; we say: ‘If you don’t make mistake you, you are not learning from them’. So, this life was like a mistake. And er, all these bad things happened to me, but they made me very stronger and they made me to fight for, er, other people… other people’s rights, like me. And, er, it’s made me to care more about other people, think about them, try to help them and try to make them that they are welcome to…to the new country.Yeah, even if I am not from this country, but it feels like I am welcome them here.

Um. Erm. You said you were, if I don’t… If I misunderstood; if I don’t misunderstood, you say your were in other country before here…?
Yeah. I said Greece.

Er, could you a little bit explain? Er. You lived here and after that come here?
Yeah. I… I moved to er… Greece first. I mean before… before UK I lived in Greece. Yeah, I lived in Greece for, er, a few months and… er, then I moved to UK.

How did you feel, er, when you were in Greece?
Er, life was very difficult in Greece. Because erm, I don’t know it’s the government, or it’s… I don’t know who is it, but they are just not treating refugees very… very nicely. And they are not helping you very much. And they are always, er… not always, maybe 80% from 100% they are racist towards you. And they want you to leave, they are beating you up, they are swearing at you.Or… er, they are very disrespecting you? And er, I believe that’s very horrible because you know like refugees have already lost everything they had: their country, their home, their parents, their friends, everything, everything. And, they just have hope to come to this country and have a better life, and then someone treat them like that and they gonna lose their hopes.

Ok. Er. And do you think UK is much better than Greece?

Or your… your life in the UK?
Yeah, like, er, UK is much better than Greece – 100%

Could you little bit explain for us?
Yeah like, uhm, everyone is respecting you here. And er, government also is helping you much much better than Greece. And er, when you go for example to hospital they are not, they are not asking you: ‘Oh, you are refugee, or you are not?’. They are just visiting you and they are helping you.And for everything is like that. And that’s, that’s really nice. I believe [inaudible]from the UK.

Ok. How has Covid-19 affected you in terms of daily life, and your mood, feeling, emotioning-emotional wellbeing?
Yeah, so I am… I am a very social person. I am always out with people, and the charities, organisations, enjoying myself. And during the Covid-19 er, because it was lockdown and all the charities organisations were closed I couldn’t do anything, very depressing. But er, that didn’t stop me. I helped in a few food banks. And I also did some online performances because I am doing some theatres. And I think I did a few performances and also, er, I help people who needs my help. And homeless people who needs my food and stuff. So gave I them something if it help. But in general, Covid-19 make me very depressed because I couldn’t, er, meet many people, I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t… er..totally I couldn’t have fun. And it was very difficult for me.

Ok. Er, for second, we are going forward to second part. Er. just how, er, much details if you wish to give.

You can speak. Er, why did you leave your country? Can you describe what happened?
Er, because I wasn’t safe.

And. Yeah. Ok. And how did that make you feel at that time?
Hmm…I don’t really know…]I don’t know.

How was the journey to Europe? Is there any experiences that was particularly difficult that you could tell us about?
Yeah, the journey was quite bad. You have to walk from your country to other countries. And you should have hide behind trees and stuff. You cannot, for example, buy food from the shop, so you need to eat whatever you find. And, I have to say, there was a lot of people who was eating grasses and leaves from the trees and stuff. And you didn’t have like water, so you had to, I don’t know, you had to wait for the rain to send some water.Er, yeah, the journey was very difficult and I don’t think that people could imagine how difficult it was.

Really? How did that make you feel at that time?
Er, you know it was very hard, but I said If I want to live, I have to do it. So, that was only hope that I had. And that’s it.

Ok. Erm. Do you, do you think about these thing often? What you experienced in your previous life?

And do you think… when or and is there something in particularly, er, you think about often?
Er. It’s actually everything. I think about everything. There is not any specific thing. But I am just saying to myself that why I cannot live peacefully like other people in my age? And why should I leave everything that I have? And why cannot I spend more time with my parents and friends and I have to leave?

Er. What do you feel when you think about that?
Er… I don’t know. Exhausted, maybe.

Hmm. That situation you faced, affect you today, do you think and how?
Yeah, of course it affecting me. Like I haven’t seen my parents for a very long time. And, er, I really miss them and also, er, maybe you can find, er, your culture restaurant in this country but food that your mother make is very different. And I really miss that.

I know. How many years you didn’t see them?
Er. I think it’s three years now. I don’t really know how long is it.

Ok. We are coming to the last questions. Ah, it’s just a few. How were you able to survive it, do you think? Have you create, er, any kind of strategy to get through this hard times? Hard time memories?
Yeah. So my strategy is be strong and help others and you will get help as well. So help others and you will get help. That’s my strategy.

Ok. Thank you Ali. Last questions. I just wanted to heard from you. I am going to ask to you about your dreams. Um…And I would like to heard, er, from you, for example, first question. Before you left your country my dream was… And I am going to ask after that about your future plans. OK. Before the event that lead you to flee you home occurred-occurred er, what was your dream?
Er, my dream was to, er, become a doctor. Because, you know, when, when you are young, you are, you are only thinking about, yeah, I want to become a doctor, I want to become a teacher, I want to become a pilot, that’s it. So that was my only dream. Yeah. Uh. That’s it.

And, er, when you were leaving your home, er, what was your dream for the future? And you should say: ‘I dreamt that…’.
Uh-hm. Er, my. Sorry, you mean right now or…?

When you left your country. And after that I’m gonna ask for future.
I haven’t dreamed.

Er. You can explain for your future plan now. Your dream.
Yeah. So my future dream is to be to become an actor and also to make the world in a better place. And to make everyone, er, live equally and no judgment and er. Countries can, er, like treat each other better, no war, no fighting. Er. And fighting for human rights like equality for men and women and stuff. And also… er, maybe I would like to become Prime Minister one day. Maybe. That’s my. 

Wow. Ok.
That’s also my dream. Maybe.

Ok. And the last question. What would you like to say, er, or is there anything to say, or add, that might help people in Europe better understand the life of refugees here?
Yeah. So just, for example, think that your life, your country is in the war zone. And… er, for example, you cannot live there. Er, you might got killed. Your parents are, for example, died, er, from the bombing and stuff. Or there are a lot of young refugees, or any refugees who have lost their parents in front of them. Just put yourself in their position for one minute and just think: ‘How hard is it?’. And…er…yeah, just do that and I am sure you will, you will believe that you don’t want to be in their position, and you will want to welcome them to your country, or even to your home.So… that’s all I want from you.

Ok. Thanks so much Ali. Thank you.

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.