About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Aziza wearing a maroon hijab with one hand resting on her stomach and the other behind her back

Aziza Asadullah

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Photo and interview by:




Zahra Mojahed

“I became both resistant and more destroyed,” says Aziza Asadullah (25), about the hardships of seeking asylum. Aziza fled her home country of Afghanistan, then Syria, due to their respective conflicts: “When I slept in my house, I felt like could not be safe… I used to think there was no tomorrow.” Despite living through war, she says it was the smuggling route to Greece that “turned my hair white” and caused her to develop depression. She now stays in a Greek refugee camp with her husband and four year old son, and volunteers as a language teacher. Keeping busy distracts her, “but when I go home the griefs are with me”. She moves between hope and hopelessness: “there is no destiny here for us. There is no progression. However, when I see the school where I am motivated… I feel like it gets better.” Her dream “is to become a professor and have a duty” so her “son can study his lessons.” All in all, she says, “I feel like I am stronger now.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Could you introduce yourself? 
In the name of God. I am Aziza Asadullah. I mean my name is Aziza and my father’s name is Asadullah. I am from Afghanistan and Maidan Wardak province. 

How old are you? 
Twenty-five. I was born in 1996.

Where do you live now? 
Now I live in Greece in Ritsona camp near Athens. 

Could you tell me what the camp has? Does it have houses or tents? 
Yes. It has houses, but we have to share them with another family.

Do you have children? Are you married? 
Yes. I have a four-year-old son. 

You are three people? 

Your husband, son and you?

How do you spend your time during the day? 
In the beginning, it was a painful migration, but now it has been three months since I started school. I am also active in another place, for example, I hold English classes and teach women. 

Do you work as a teacher? 
Yes. I work as a language teacher. 

Yeah. I worked voluntarily here and when I was in my country.

What makes you happy now?
What makes me happy is this: to get rid of difficulties, and having hope. We have suffered a lot. 

Ah-hm. How has your life been since you arrived in Europe? What are goodness and badness as well as difficulties? Could you explain them?
From the first day we arrived here, we faced difficulties. We were in quarantine from the first day. There was no place for sleeping and sitting. We changed our place many times. I have a little son. Unfortunately, the food was bad. All in all, we had plenty of problems. My son’s foot was broken on the way to Turkey. We plastered our son’s foot. In Greece in Moria Camp, it was really hard for me.

How long have you been in Moria Camp? 
Six months and one week. We stayed there for a long time and it was really tough. I got depression although I was busy there. 

What was your job? 
I was a volunteer because my English and Arabic were good. For example, we distributed medicine and clothes to the people. Also, I went to an art class. 

How does living here feel to you? 
In my opinion, life is also very hard here. Inshallah, we achieve our goals and reach the place we love. Life is difficult because we have shared homes here. There is no destiny here for us. There is no progression. However, when I see the school where I am motivated. And I feel like it gets better. And this much.

Did you ever imagine that you would face a situation like this and be able to handle and solve the problems? 
Uh-hh… sometimes when there are many problems I get disappointed and lose hope. However, some other times I get motivated. What else do I have to do? Sometimes I think that I have to fight with problems and I shouldn’t lose myself, and sometimes I can’t, I just cry. 

Do you think that the hardships and challenges you faced made your skills and strengths develop? 
Yes. Hundred per cent. For instance, I didn’t have experience teaching. I studied but I didn’t teach. I studied till 12th grade. And studies Arabic for three or four years just like in university. I meet many girls and boys and taught them. I feel like I am stronger now. All in all, it is good and I hope it gets better than now. 

What effect has COVID-19 had on daily life and emotions? 
I really don’t know what to say. It is not just my problem. It is the problem of all people. Inshallah, God will help all the people to get rid of this disease. However, most people are infected.

Now I want to ask you questions about the past. Why did you leave your country? What did happen? Could you please explain them? 
We left our country in 2010 because of the war between the Taliban and Kochiha, the weaponized nomads in Afghanistan. I was young and I went to Syria with my parents. Just we found a way to Syria. Unfortunately, after one year the war started there as well. We were there till 2018 and then came to Europe. However, my parents are still there in a bad situation. My parents live with war and the effects of war. My husband couldn’t bear the situation in Syria and we came to Europe. 

How did you feel at that time? 
When I slept in my house, I felt like could not be safe because the rooftop was very thin and wasn’t stable to resist bombs. I used to think there was no tomorrow. 

Did the ISIS group arrive in the city you used to live? 
ISIS came to one region but not to the region we lived. For example, it happened us to escape from our house to the other house. One time we escaped from our house to a school. All in all, ISIS didn’t catch us.

Thank God. How was your trip to Europe? What difficult experiences did you have? Can you explain to us? 
What should I say? There were difficulties. Smuggling way. We fell into the hands of human traffickers, we had to do whatever they said. We suffered a lot. We came in the worst situation from Iran to Turkey. 

Did you go from Syria to Iran? 
Yes. Because ISIS were on the way from Syria to Turkey. With the help of a person, we went to Iran from Syria. Then from Iran, we came to Turkey through smuggling, and from Turkey, we came to Greece.

Hmm… did something happen to you when you came to Greece from Turkey by sea? 
No. Nothing did happen, but we were stuck for 3-4 hours in the sea until a ship saved us. 

Your ship… 
Our ship was disabled. His engine was running low and it couldn’t walk (work) properly, that’s why we were stuck in the water for 3-4 hours. 

Did you call them and they found you or did they find you on their own?
No. They found us. We knew if the Turkish police got us, they would return us. Because of this we didn’t call anyone. 

How did you feel that way? 
I used to say that there is no problem in life or death, one of these two will happen, and whatever God wants.

Do you usually think about those times? 
It doesn’t leave my mind at all. Haha.

What times do you think about those times or what makes you think about them? 
I always have them in my mind. It affected me a lot. I got depression. Can you believe that I am 25 years old now, but my hair has turned white? My hair was not white before, but the smuggling route made my hair white. It’s true that I lived in the war, I was just talking about life or death, but I didn’t worry too much, but living in Moria Camp and here has completely turned my hair white. 

How do you feel when you remember these memories? 
I feel like crying. Don’t talk about it because it makes me cry. 

How did the situation you faced affect your life? 

How did the hardships of the road and the hardships you had in Syria affect your life? 
Depression and fatigue.

Did you think you had the ability to control this situation? 
I never thought that there were so many problems in the world. 

Can I ask you? 

How were you able to endure the hardships? What technique did you use to forget these memories and get away from them? Did you find a place where you can get help and support yourself psychologically? 
No, I haven’t found it anywhere. However, I went 2-3 times to psychologists and they couldn’t help me. When I listened to psychologists, my grief neither decreased nor increased. I didn’t continue.

What did you do to improve yourself? 
These days, I teach my students and help them, but when I go home the griefs are with me. 

Do you remember again? 
I don’t forget them. They are always with me. When I am busy, it is better for me.

What dreams and hopes did you have before leaving your country?
I said inshallah I reach to a …

Give the answer like this: first say this sentence that my dream was this then continue. 
My dream was to become a doctor since I was a kid. From a very young age, I wanted to study my lessons and become a doctor. However, as I got older, life has become harder and my dreams have become tougher to achieve. 

There is still time. When you left your home and started this path, what vision did you have for your future? This path that you started. 
Do you mean the path to Europe?

I was with my husband and son and I wanted to reach a secure place.

What abilities and powers did you have before you left your home and country? 
I was young. Just I studied school with my hopes. We had problems but I didn’t shoulder the responsibilities of the problems because my parents were with me.

Yes.But I mean from Syria when you started your journey, at that time what abilities did you have? 
In Syria, I studied my lessons, but with a lot of struggles. One time our school was destroyed. I went to an educational centre and enrolled myself to pass the exam and complete my educational documents. I struggled a lot. 

It means you were a very hard-working person. 
I struggled but I am not where I wanted to be.

Are you still working as hard as before? 
I think it has become less because I have a son and a husband and the responsibilities of the house are on my shoulders. There are many immigration problems and it has affected me.

Right. I know it’s hard because I was an immigrant myself and I experienced the conditions may be less than you and I know it’s hard. Did these difficulties make you feel that you have grown? Increase your abilities and see positive points in yourself that were not there before. 
Uh-hh… I faced difficulties but I wish I didn’t face them. 

Have these hardships made you more resilient? 
I became both resistant and more destroyed. I have seen some hardships and I know that there is no problem and no matter what the hardship is, one can endure it. But on the other hand, I say that I am destroyed and I cannot deal with all the problems. 

Now that you are here, what are your dreams for the future? Say this is my dream. 
My dream is this … uh-hm… of course, it’s late.

No, it is never late. 
I think it is late for me.

It is not like this. 
Inshallah, I reach my goals. I want to reach a level of education, not to become a doctor, I want to become a professor and have a duty, and then my son can study his lessons and not be like me and not see misery. 

Thank you very much for answering my questions. Our questions are finished. But if you have any words that you want people living in Europe to understand your living conditions and understand your situation better. 
I want the people of Europe to know that all immigrants are not the same and that they are like themselves, that there are good people and bad people among them. Immigrants are the same. The difference between them is that they are more miserable and have suffered and have seen all kinds of conditions. They don’t understand our situation and look down on us. We have all suffered and fled from war. I hope they understand us.

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.