About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Ali standing sideways against a purple backdrop holding a snapback cap to cover his face

Ali Lavasani

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hannan Dormiyani

“My dream is to have the people I love with myself… To provide them with the things they need,” says Ali Lavasani (24), who aims to seek asylum in Germany. He explains the discrimination that caused him to leave his home in Iran: “in my country, if I wanted to go out with the outfit I had in mind and not considering the reputation of my family… I would get whipped 72 times.” Ali faced continued discrimination on his journey through Europe, realizing some people “would never accept an immigrant as one of themselves.” He questioned if it was worth it, asking, “why did I even come this way, why did I have to deal with so many difficulties?” Yet the patience he developed, “the most important thing to have on this path,” gave him the strength to tolerate it. Now he only wants to be influenced by the future and his goals; after buying a car and having surgery, his “dream is to become a refugee of Germany and to come back to each of these countries that I came to illegally to revise them.” 

Trigger Warning: Violence; homophobia, transphobia, sexism

full interview

What type of accommodation do you live in?
In the Sarajevo camp in Bosnia.

Could you describe the conditions of the camp?
The camp conditions well, it’s really great. They treat us so well that we don’t want to leave. *laughs*

Who are you living with?
With my father.

How do you spend your time here?
Sometimes we receive consultation, sometimes we dance. There is also a social corner that has a variety of hobbies.

Do you also work here?

What is the cause of your happiness?
Mostly the amusements that we have is the cause of our happiness. For example, we put on music while we’re together and we dance.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
See, ever since we entered Europe if we want to consider from Greece onwards, there were places which were difficult, there was discrimination at some places, here itself for example….here itself we wanted to go to a few shops but they didn’t let us in. But well, it’s good. We get along with it.

What was the benefit of being here?
Being here for me personally, if you only mean in the camp.

No, in general…in Europe.
Ah in Europe in general… I only had peace of mind because I really suffered from my condition in Iran. I mainly had freedom and peace of mind.

What was difficult?
The way, the way was really difficult. The way that we used to reach here and that which will still continue.

Can you describe what feeling you have by living here?
At some points on the way, I saw humanity and I haven’t seen this in my country. This really became my motivation to return the favor once I reach somewhere later for others and to extend it.

What feeling do you have about being away from home or family members?
The feeling of homesickness, that’s all. I really miss my mom.

How does the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affect you?
Since I know a bit of English, I went to a lot of places to speak to request what I wanted, but from the way they responded, and their facial expression, I understood that they would never accept an immigrant as one of themselves. They actually have the right. There might have been a lot who have caused problems. They do discriminate a lot. Especially, in Albania, in a city named Himare. I was on the verge of tears because of this.

Can you explain more?
Shall I open up this topic?

Yes, please explain more.
In Albania, no one allowed us to ride the buses then, we didn’t know that they weren’t supposed to see us or for them to realize that we are immigrants. We just went as a group to ride the bus, suddenly the driver came down and looked at us and the ones behind us. Then he said, “no no no, problem Police”. Then there were people sitting in that area. The humiliating looks they gave us were such that my ego was broken. It cost me a lot there.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?
No, I’ve never thought about it. But since I have goals, I will cope with them.

How are you able to overcome this condition…. to stay alive…. or live?
It’s mostly because of the goal that I have. I want to create an ideal future for myself.

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had the strengths or skills or mechanisms to cope with these situations or challenges?
Personally, all the people that are on this path have a lot of patience. Patience is the most important thing to have on this path, from the beginning up to this point. And if there wasn’t any patience, there was no way to be able to tolerate it.

I’m going to ask a few questions regarding your past. Why did you leave your country?
I…. in my country, if I wanted to go out with the outfit I had in mind and not considering the reputation of my family and what others would say, I would also get a blow from my government and if they found out that I came out with an outfit other than the norm, then I would get whipped 72 times. Due to this…. The main reason was this.

What feeling did you have at that time?
When I left?

When I left, I came to Turkey it seems that I’ve been relieved from a lot of my concerns such as I hope this person doesn’t think of me like that, that guy doesn’t speak about me like that. It was mostly because there were no relatives.

How was the journey to Europe? How did you come to Europe?
I came to Turkey by flight, then from Turkey, it took 6 to 7 days to reach Salonika of Greece. *Long Silence* I came to turkey by air and was in Turkey for 20 days then from there, it took 6 to 7 days…. As in from the border of Turkey to Greece, it can be said that it took 7 days. And when we reached Salonika, we were there for a few days, around 3 to 4 days we were there and we moved towards Albania borders. Overall, we walked all this way on foot…. Roads and mountains and jungles.

Did you have any experiences that were specifically difficult and that you can tell us?
Experience… honestly… for me personally, being in the jungle was really difficult and I can say that if I didn’t have my goal, patience and strength, I would have given up there at the first point where I wanted to come to Salonika….I would have given up.

How did you feel at that time when this happened?
*sigh* that time, I can say that I thought to myself that it wasn’t worth it, I thought why did I even come this way, why did I have to deal with so many difficulties?

What was your feeling?

Do you often think of these incidents that happened?
Yes, sometimes I think about them and I shouldn’t forget them too. I don’t like to forget it.

When do you think of these?
When I’m tired…. When I’m tired, I think about it and say I didn’t give up there…why should I give up here?

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
I often think of my goals and future.

How do you feel when you think of them?
I get a lot of energy, I get morale and it feels like a new life is injected into me to be able to continue, to be able to tolerate.

Has the condition that you are in had an impact on you?
No, currently….umm the only thing I want to get influenced by is the future, I don’t think about them much, I don’t think negatively. For example, I don’t think in a way that I would say “ahh why did this happen? why did that happen?”, No. I have to face the difficulties of this path.

Have you ever imagined managing these situations?
No, I never imagined it really. But well, when I actually faced this situation, I was able to get along with it.

How were you able to live and move on?
I think I answered it.

No, this is about the past. At the time when you were in Iran, how did you get along with the condition and move on?
During the time I was in Iran, honestly, getting along with that would end up getting a blow to myself. I was losing myself little by little and I was getting far from myself. Only because of what others might say…. Reputation…. Things like these.

Have you created a solution or mechanism for dealing with or moving on from the difficult days or memories?
Yes, my strategy was to think of the positive things from my past. I only think of my successes and the difficulties that have irreversible impacts from certain places. I don’t know…… I try to keep the past difficulties like the things people would say and other stuff in the past.

Where do you get the support and strength from? Mentally and spiritually, not financially.
From where? What do you mean?

Is there anyone that cheers you up, or do you cheer yourself?
I did help myself a lot at most places, it was also what my family said when I used to video call them. For example, in Himare I was really hopeless. It was such that I wanted to return to the previous city and find a different route from there. But I spoke to my mom, it really had an impact on me and gave me energy.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country? I want you to start with this sentence “My dream was …”
My dream was to reach the country of my destination. To work and to create an ideal life for myself and the most important thing to create prosperity for my mom in her old age and to support her.

When you left your home what wishes did you have for the future? I want you to start your sentence with “My dream was …”
My dream is to have the people I love with myself and value them a lot. To provide them with the things they need.

I want to conclude the questions. Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength?
Before leaving…. Based on the difficulties that I faced, I was quite arrogant and had thick skin. So, I feel like I can adapt myself to any situation and this is really good for me and helped me.

Have you still preserved these?

When I see something that helps me improve and helps me develop and reach my goals, why should I forget it? I was also raised like this since childhood and naturally, it won’t be destroyed within me.

What you experienced seemed really difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your improvement in any way or resulted in something positive in your life?
Yes, spiritually and mentally. In some part of the interview, I said that patience is really important and I wasn’t a patient person. But on this path, I was really patient and that made me suffer a lot but I saw the result. Things like patience, and humanity which I saw in a lot of places and wanted to show it. These were the most important things. Another thing would be the sympathy of the people of the same nationality or language which really attracted my attention in some places. They helped each other, they would aid each other in some places. These were the things that I, a 24-year-old leant from this path.

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future? I want you to start with “My dream is that …. “
My dream is to become a refugee of Germany and get a German passport and to come back to each of these countries that I came to illegally to revise them and, in a way… actually after buying a house, car, and having surgery….after all these…. I like to come and experience the path again and relive my memories.

I’m grateful for all the responses you have us to all these questions. Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe?
The people that are recognized as refugees….well, we’re all humans. I personally won’t discriminate against anyone ever and I like other people to…… actually, a lot of places have come to understand us but those places that still don’t understand us…. When they break someone’s ego, it feels like they’ve given that person a huge blow. Well, if they can see in a way…. whether black or white refugees, with round or almond eyes, that they’re also a human who has entered such a path out of pain or problem, then they can easily help that person. Not in a way to hold their hands but well, but at least not to have certain looks and reactions against them. This will reduce the pain of the journey.

Anything else to say?

Thank you for your responses

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.