About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Arezo holding her fist in the air

Arezo Sharifi

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Zahra Gardi

“My dream was to at least reach a good place, that I’d be able to study, and achieve what I want,” says Arezo Sharifi (18) from Afghanistan, whose childhood dream was to become a lawyer. But war forced her family to leave home, moving first to Iran before continuing on to Europe. “There was stress, there was fear, there was terror from having to pass mountains and forests, and to face people who you don’t know, having to cross borders, it was hard,” says Arezo of the journey to Europe. Now in a camp in Greece, life is still difficult for her. She is living separately from her mother, while her sister experiences “mental breakdowns”. Arezo copes with these difficult times by “being alone and crying,” which allows her to “think about the problems and find solutions for them.” While she never imagined enduring these hardships, still she wanted to “experience this journey and reach Europe” despite knowing its dangers. She kept going, she explains, “Only because of achieving my goals.”

Trigger Warning: Mental health

full interview


First introduce yourself!
My Name is Arezo Sharifi. I am from Afghanistan, and I am 18 years old.

Dear Arezo, would you tell me what type of housing you live in and where is it located?
I am in the new camp in Moria, in a tent. 

With whom do you live?
With my two sisters, one brother and my father.

Would you describe for me how the conditions of your life are in the tent?
It is very difficult. It doesn’t have a proper toilet; it doesn’t have a bath. We don’t have proper nutrition.

Tell me what makes you happy?
That I live in the camp, it is outside in a good country, a good place. That I’m able to study and reach my goals.

Can you describe how you spend one day in a camp?
I wake up in the morning and clean up the house, cook food, and nothing else really. Just stay in the tent.

Has living in Moria, and in these conditions, had any effects on your mood, feelings and character?
Yes, my behavior has changed.

Has it had a good or bad effect?
Both bad and good.

Can you elaborate on the good and bad?
As for the bad part, we are living in a tent, and we don’t have any facilities. And so it is difficult.

Being far from home and family, you told me you are living with your family here? Am I right?

Being far from home, you’re born an immigrant so it can’t be called home, but where you’ve grown up, how does it feel for you to be far from your relatives, your friends and the place where you grew up? Can you explain please?
Yes, I miss them. That’s it!

Did you ever think you would face this situation inside the tent?
No, my understanding of Europe was that for example we’d live in a house, and we’d be able to study in a school, and live in a peaceful country.

Would you explain to me about the skills and abilities that you have achieved during the journey and those that you’ve lost!

It can be an ability, it can be (anything) behavioral, it can be (something) physical, it can be mental. Don’t you have anything to share?
(No answer)

How has Corona impacted your personal life in any way?
It is very nerve-wracking that everywhere is in quarantine. For example, you might need something, and the store is closed. Then, even to walk to the toilets, you must wear a mask! That’s it…

Explain your reason for immigration. Why did you become an immigrant?
Mmm…You’ve been an immigrant before in Iran of course…

Yes, that’s right! What made you make the journey towards Europe?
Because we couldn’t study and we didn’t have documents, my father couldn’t work. The school wouldn’t accept us. The sole reason for coming was to study and reach our goals. Iran wasn’t a place to study or achieve your personal goals.

Tell me about your feelings when you became an immigrant, when you packed up your bags and embarked on the journey. How did you feel back then?

Did you not have any stress?
Yes, there was stress, there was fear, there was terror from having to pass mountains and forests, and to face people who you don’t know, having to cross borders, it was hard.

Have you heard anything about the route beforehand? About the dangers on the way?
Yes, I have heard about theft, rape, all sort of things. And still I wanted to experience this journey and reach Europe…

For the sake of achieving your goals?
Yes. Only because of achieving my goals.

Describe your journey for me towards Europe. Was there any difficult experience that you would like to talk about?
Yes, from the first day that we arrived in the Moria camp, my mother decided to separate from my father due to the problems that they had, and now it is almost a year and half that she’s not living with us. Being without a mother is very difficult for me as I am a young girl and my sister is having mental problems as well. She constantly has mental breakdowns and yells at the kids, breaks down crying, {sighs}.

Tell me about your feelings, when that happened, how did you feel? What did you want to do? What did you do?
I wanted to at least have a person to support us, someone who has our back. But there wasn’t anyone!

Do you often think about these incidents? When? Do you have a special time for thinking about them?
Whenever life becomes more difficult. When there comes a situation that needs experience and I don’t know anything about it, and I need a grown up to help me like my mother to teach me the right and wrong way of doing it, but unfortunately there isn’t anyone!

Describe to me if you ever imagined being able to endure these situations.

Did you think in the past that you could endure these problems if they arose?
No, I didn’t think that I wanted to go through the hardships or to be able to endure them.

What is your solution to facing the problems? Do you have anyone to help you or console you, do you have anyone to consult with regards to the difficult situations; or do you have a capability, as every person has an strategy for coping with their difficulties, one say I read a lot of books, one says I take some time for myself, I want to know what your own coping strategy is when facing hardship.
For me most of the time, it is being alone and crying. To be able to think about the problems and find solutions for them.

Tell me about your dream. What was your childhood dream?
I wanted to become a lawyer.

What was your dream when you became an immigrant?
When I became an immigrant…

When you started your journey; what was your dream for the future at that time?
My dream was to at least reach a good place, that I’d be able to study, and achieve what I want.

Dear Arezo, my interview has reached to its end, if you have something that you want others to hear about, or if you want to talk about any of your journey experiences that’d be useful for others to know, or if you have any request from anyone who’s in charge of the immigrants’ affair, please share it with us.
What shall I say?

Whatever that you like to! It can be your dream, it can be an experience that you have acquired during your journey, or an educational statement, or your goals, or your wants, or it can be something that I haven’t asked you, but you think it is important and informative to share for others.
Mmm, I don’t know.

Thanks for sharing your time with me and I hope you reach your goals and dreams!

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.