About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Banafsheh looking to her left with her hands behind her back wearing a blue shirt

Banafsheh Heidari

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Mahdiyh Haidari

“My goals are to become a popular artist,” says Banafsheh Heidari (21). She explains that she left Afghanistan because of conflict, the pressure on minority groups, and “not being able to pursue my education.” She currently lives in Moriah camp in Greece: “When I came to Europe, I didn’t expect to come to this camp and live like this. I didn’t think I would end up in jail. A prison that is covered with fences.” The journey to Europe was “like endangering your life,” Banafsheh says, yet she finds the camp worse. She lives in a tent with her mother and brother, and says it’s her family who support her: “We were each other’s hopes. We never let any of us feel depressed or hopeless.” Now, Banafsheh’s goal is to become a popular artist: “In the society that I live in, everyone knows me for my talents, and it became the pride for myself, my family.” Despite her difficult journey, she has hope for the future: “I feel I am closer to my dreams. And I know this situation is not permanent.”

Trigger Warning: Conflict, discrimination

full interview

Could you introduce yourself? 
I am Benafsha Haidari, I am 21 years old and from Afghanistan. 

In what kind of house do you live?  
A tent in a camp. 

Can you describe the situation there? 
We are in the tents of the United Nations. They separated the tent into two parts. And in each tent two families live. The situation is not really good and life is hard here. 

With whom do you live? 
With my mother and brother. 

How do you spend your time here? Do you learn here or work? 
My time? I sometimes listen to music, paint and in the afternoon, I got my photography class. I come to my class.  

What makes you happy? 
What makes me happy is this: to get out of this situation soon. I got sick and tired of my life here in the camp and in the tent. It means just I want to go out and get rid of this camp. 

How was your life the moment you arrived in Europe? What are good and what are bad? Is it possible to explain it to us?  
When I came to Europe, I didn’t expect to come to this camp and live like this. I didn’t think I would end up in jail. A prison that is covered with fences. And spend two years and three months of my life here. Uhh-amm. I’ve bad things. From the hmmm. It wasn’t what I expected. Difficulties arose when I arrived here. With consideration of the difficulties I faced on the way to Europe, I cannot say that the Moriah camp is better because it is worse.  

Could you describe living here and what feeling it gives you?  Say something like My feeling is thisSo, I am hopeful that one day I can get out of this camp. And I can achieve my goals and hopes with struggles. I am happy because I came here and I am not in the bad situation of Afghanistan where there was war and conflicts

How do you feel being far away from your family? Can you explain a little bit?  
I came here with my family. However, being far from other family members who are in Iran is a little bit hard. I missed my family

Have you ever imagined overcoming this situation? How could you handle this situation?  
Uh. I thought that I could handle the situation. I lived for one year in the camp despite the freezing and intolerable winter that it had like lack of power and freezing weather, but I really don’t like to stay here for another year in this situation. I like to get out of this situation soon and don’t experience those winters again. 

Have you thought you have learned the skills to deal with these kinds of situations or have you inherited the skills?  
No, I was strong from the beginning. Umm-hah. I was a strong girl from the first. I was ready for any challenge and I am ready. 

What are the effects of COVID-19 on your daily life and your feeling and emotions? 
COVID 19 caused uhm-ahh … I am worried about the health of my family and me. I have been worried about not spreading COVID 19 in my family uhh-mm … and worried about what if one of my family members is infected by it and the others get infected as well. I was so concerned about it and it was depressing for me. 

Why have you left your country? Can you explain what happened?  
I left my country because of the war, insecurity, pressure on minority religious groups and not being able to pursue my education and not having a clear future. 

How did you feel?  

When you had problems in Afghanistan that you could not study and it was insecure. How did you feel at that time?  
I had a bad feeling. I thought about how and when I can get rid of the situation because the only person that could help me there was myself. You are just with your family and only you can help them because there was no one who can help you. No government and no people who can help you. You are responsible to get out of the situation. We also thought about how we could get rid of that tough situation. We had to save our lives from war, insecurity and conflicts, and we could find one way to immigrate and abandon the country. 

How was your trip to Europe? (Cracking voice) about Irobi?  
The trip to Europe is like endangering your life. Crossing that wild river is only by God’s help because it is possible that a storm comes and the boat was a what? …  An inflatable boat that can be punctured or damaged by a strong storm. A lot of people with small children were there on the boat. Just God’s help can keep you safe. We really had difficult days and nights. The cold days and nights were extremely bad to cross that river. I hope I never go back to those ways. 

How did you feel during the journey?  
My feelings? I was afraid. Although my mother was sick, we had passed the ways. I was really scared. It was a very bad feeling. I kept thinking if we can pass or not. I really didn’t have a good feeling because the tracks were so tough. 

Do you think about these things? When do you think about it?  
The time is not clear. Mostly when I am alone. And sometimes when I tell my friends about them. 

How do you feel when you think about it?  
I am happy that those ways were finished. I don’t face them anymore. Will you cut them then, yeah? 

No, I will send all of them. 
I have a bad feeling. I don’t like this feeling. 

Did the situation you faced affect you? How?  
I am really happy that I am not in an insecure situation in Afghanistan anymore. I hope that I can make my dreams come true. I feel I am closer to my dreams. And I know this situation is not permanent. ah-hm. 

How could deal with the situation?  Where did that support come from?
Did you have some support? Because I was not alone and my mother and brother were with me. We were each other’s hopes. We never let any of us feel depressed or hopeless. We gave hope to each other that these days will be finished and we need to have patience. Actually, my supporter was my family. 

What was your dream before escaping from home? Could you tell me about your dream?  
My dream was to achieve what I want. I want to be a great artist and continue in the fields of sports and art that l love. The condition was not important to me whether in Afghanistan or here. I think about my dreams. Now I pursue my dreams here. I think about them to reach them. 

When you were leaving home, what was your dream? What is your dream?  
I dreamt of freedom. 

Could you tell me exactly “My dream is…”? 
That is about the present. (The interviewer asks the question about the present time), but you ask about the past. You said when you left.  

No, no. What are your dreams for the future when you left your home and came here?  
I have numerous goals. In fact, my goals are to become a popular artist. In the society that I live in, everyone knows me for my talents, and it became the pride for myself, my family and society.

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.