About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee JanAli with hand on chin

JanAli Rahimi

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Zahra Gardi

“My dream was to study and finish my studies and become a journalist,” says Jan Ali Rahimi (18) who left Afghanistan alone, fleeing war and racism, and seeking education opportunities in Europe. An asylum seeker in Greece, he says his living situation is terrible with nothing to do while waiting for his documents. Memories of his trip to Europe also trouble him. The car he was travelling in got into an accident and some children were killed. “It is in my mind all the time. When I go to sleep, I feel like I am inside the car. That is why I go to the psychologist most often, and I have not gotten better yet.” When he recalls the bad memories, he says, “My whole body shakes and I am shocked.” Being far from family is also hard, but he tells them not to worry about him. “I told them I am good… Because my mother has heart disease.” In spite of the hardships faced, Jan Ali still holds on to his dreams. “Now, for the future, I want to get educated and study and become a good journalist.”

Trigger Warning: Violence, discrimination, death and injuries.

full interview

Hello, tell us your name and where are you from?

My name is Jan Ali and I am from Afghanistan.

How old are you?
I am 18 years old.

Jan Ali, tell us about your condition, where do you live and who do you live with?
I am alone and I live on Lesbos Island. I live in a house for under-age people.

Are you satisfied with your condition? Can you tell us about your life a little bit?
No, I am not satisfied at all with the condition.

When there is no food, we have nothing, we don’t have sports equipment, we have nothing, when there is no education, and there is no work, no improvement.

Do you pay for this under-aged house? Or is it for free?
No, I don’t pay. I don’t pay anything.

How many people live in your room?
In total, there are 34 people in the house and four people in each room.

Are your rooms big and proper for four people?
No, they are not proper at all. The rooms where we live are for one individual only.

Tell me about your feelings and health. Are you satisfied with that condition in that room? With your roommates?Tell us about the problems that you have with your roommates.
I have no problem with my roommates but eh…

How about your condition?
The situation is bad, it is terrible.

Why is it terrible? Why is it terrible?
It has been two years since I have been here. It might even be more than two years since I arrived here and have no future.

Why? They have not given you any citizenship?
No, they haven’t given me citizenship.

I gave an interview when I was under age and when I took another interview now that I was an adult, it was rejected. Now I have got three rejected interviews.

They have not given you a lawyer or you yourself haven’t hired one?
We have a lawyer. The lawyer comes each Thursday and tells me to be careful and to not go out, to not go to school, to not go there. If the police caught me, I would not be able to get citizenship. The lawyer only says this.

Can you tell me how you spend your time here?
My time passes very hard. One day passes like it is six or seven days. Just one day.

I mean, tell us how you spend one day from morning to evening. How do you spend it? Your time?
My time… Now I cannot go out, I cannot… Go for a picnic, I cannot go running. I sleep at home all day and night. I have got no activity.

Why? Because you do not have any documents?
Yes, because I don’t have documents. Just this.

Can you tell me what makes you happy? What activities do you enjoy?

What do you want to be in the future?
I didn’t go to school in Afghanistan. Now that I have come to Europe, I thought to myself to go there and study and become someone. But I have come here and it’s worse than Afghanistan and it has no school or nothing.

You are indecisive right?
I am indecisive. That’s all.

How has life been to you from the time you reached Europe?For example, has it been a good and comfortable life or has it been a hard life?
It was a hard life.

Why do you say it has been hard?
Hard, you know the illegal route which is a very hard and dangerous path.

That is right.
We came from the middle of the sea. Our boat was very heavy and there were 55 people in it. It has all these hardships. Our car fell off on one side in Istanbul, when we were crossing the border. We faced a lot of hardships until we reached here. But we found out that it is worse than what we had thought. The situation is very bad here.

Can you tell me how you thought about Europe before? Now you say it was not the way you thought before.
I was optimistic before and thought to myself to go there and get an education, achieve my dreams. Now I have come here but my dreams are breaking apart and I have no improvement.

Can you tell me if living here has affected your life and your emotions?
Yes. It has affected me.

Like how has it affected you? Has it been good, bad, or negative?
It was all negative.

Can you explain it a bit further?
Because we are all now… I am stressed now. Now, I am taking pills, I went to the psychologist and I use pills during the nights and in the mornings now. It is called “calming pills” or something like that.

Tell me when you came here, did you come with your family or alone?
Alone. I came alone.

How has been being far from your family? Has it been hard or easy? How has it affected your emotions?
It is obvious that being far from family is hard. Who is the one who would not miss their family? Their father, mother, sisters, who will not miss them?

How do you compensate for your sadness?
My sadness, I cry when there is no one. I go and sit across the sea and sigh. Then I feel relieved and come back.

Are you in contact with them? Do you share your life situation with them?
I haven’t called for almost two years now, but once… Only twice I called them and talked to them directly. I called them through the home’s telephone. I don’t know if it is called Red Cross or what, that organization had come.

Did you tell them about your current situation? Did you tell them what you do?
No. They (Red Cross) have only come once and that was in 2019 and did not come after that.

The last time you called them, did you tell them about your condition?
I told them about my condition and told them to not worry about me, don’t think about me, I told my parents to not think about me. I told them I am good. That is why, because my mother has heart disease, I didn’t tell her this.

Tell me whether you were thinking to be able to tolerate this situation or not? In your opinion, would you be able to tolerate such a condition? If you would be the person you were before this trip?
Well, I can’t say anything about it. No, I can’t, no.

Think that you had not started this trip yet and someone would tell you that you will face such difficulties on the way. Would you be able to tolerate the difficulties of this trip?
If I knew about it, I would never have come to Europe. I would stay in Afghanistan and let them kill me in war. Now the difficulties that we have here are actually worse than Afghanistan. If you come from one side … Last year, the fascists hit me with a knife here in my shoulder, and my body was torn from here till there. [Another guy talking: He was in the hospital for one week]. This one week … that time when the Moria camp caught fire, there were two women from Holland in Samus and my friend was talking to those ladies when one of Mytilene’s fascists came and slapped my friend’s face and has asked him where he is from and what does he do, “What the fuck are you doing,” “What are you doing here.” Now when we walk here, we cannot easily walk after 9 or 10 because they are assaulting us. That’s it.

The officials who are in charge of this area did not follow up?
No. The officials say “Do not walk around, why are you walking around here?” When we tell the police, the police say to not walk around because we cannot find the criminal. “Why are you walking?” [Another person talking: the police are involved themselves and they also hit us.]

Tell me a little about the hardships of your trip. What difficulties did you face? How have these difficulties affected your morale?
Our hardship was that when we were coming towards the border, our car fell down. From Istanbul to Shaina-Qala it is called or what. It was there that our car fell down.

Can you tell me how your health was at that time? Who came there to help you? Where did you go?
There, where the car fell down and rolled down many times, all of us got out of the car. I saw a five-year-old child who was killed under the car. The older people only had injuries on their faces and heads. Two or three kids were killed. I got very sick when I saw that. I was tired of travelling. But it was not possible, we had to come because we thought it is better to go to Europe so our situation may get better and if we stay here, our situation will get worse.

Weren’t you afraid when you saw the corpses? When you saw small babies had died in front of your eyes, what was your feeling at that time?
I had a really bad feeling. Until now when I sit alone, it is in my mind all the time. When I go to sleep, I feel like I am inside the car. That is why I go to the psychologist most often and I have not gotten better yet.

How often do you think about these memories?
When I go home and want to sleep, when I get tired, it comes to my mind and I can’t sleep until morning.

Tell me about Covid, how has it affected your daily life and your emotions? Did you ever like the corona period when you were quarantined?
No, No. I didn’t like it at all.

Why? For example, did it postpone your activities …
We didn’t have anything that could be postponed and the bad thing about corona is that it is dangerous and had spread in all countries, not only for me.

Tell me why you decided to choose immigration? What happened when you chose immigration?
At immigration, I thought I should go to Europe because there are opportunities for me to get educated, study. In Afghanistan, there is no…. opportunity.

It means only because there was no opportunity you chose to immigrate? Or was there any other reason?
Yes. I had a lot of reasons.

Tell us the most important ones.
The reason was that there was a war. All of the world knows there is war going on in Afghanistan. There is racism too.

Tell me how you felt about the time you were leaving your country and your family?
At the beginning I was feeling happy that I am going to Europe. When I came here, what I saw was misery.

Can you tell me, you said that you think about the bad memories when you become alone, how do you feel at that time?
I would have a terrible feeling at that time. My whole body shakes and I am shocked.

Then what do you do to forget that feeling and get better?
I go and talk to the staff or talk to the guys who can’t sleep. Mostly with this guy.

You keep yourself busy with your friends to forget about it? Can you tell me if the trip that you had, has affected your current personality or not?
It has a hundred percent affected.

What impact did it have? Is it positive or negative?

Can you explain it a little bit? What has it done to your personality that you say it has been negative? What was your personality before the trip that you feel you have become a bad person now?
Well, when I was with my mother and my brother, I didn’t know what a cigarette was. Now that I have come here, the staff themselves offer me a cigarette and ask me if I want to have one, the house staff themselves. They give us cigarettes and alcohol. I came here when I was 16 years old and they would offer me and ask me if I knew how to smoke cigarettes. When they themselves offer cigarettes and the house staff offer us alcohol saying “Don’t drink this but drink the other one that is much more fun” [another person talking: cheers to Lesbos], they say that and tell us to enjoy. I am shocked myself, when I am sad, they tell me to go and get alcohol and drink. Then I say “Oh! What am I supposed to do?”

Do they seriously do this with you guys?
Yes. I myself told them a thousand times that I use pills but they tell me to go and pick two beers. I had drunk beer but that didn’t help me get better, then they would tell me to pick up Vodka. I told them what is Vodka and they said let’s go together and drink together. [another person talking: don’t lie, tell them something believable] yeah it is like that.

It means that those officials really offer you those things to make you feel better?
Yes, I myself had a psychologist whose name is…

Don’t call him name now.
I am not telling his name but he would tell me to drink alcohol so you might get better. When I drank that, that would only last for half an hour but after that half an hour, I would get that bad feeling again.

They might have said that as a joke and you might have taken it seriously or else …
I don’t know if they were joking. I was serious with him but he might be joking.

What was your dream when you were a child?
My dream was… My dream… [another person talking: to have a bicycle] [laughter] He is not letting me talk. My dream was to study and finish my studies and become a journalist. But now that I see, I am not able to study and I cannot attend any photography courses and the lawyer also says not to go and I go out and they catch me, then he will not be able to do anything for me. I am at home all day and night; I have nothing to do.

What is your dream and wish for your future now?
Now for the future, I want to get educated and study and become a good journalist.

Have you ever tried to take one step towards reaching your dream?
I have tried a lot but now… I have tried a lot but it is not working.

I had seen you before among the photography students.
Yes, but now my lawyer says to not go and if I go, he will not be able to do anything for me.

Because of not having any documents right?

I am done with my questions now, if you want to talk to the organizations that can provide any help or people who do not know anything about immigration, what do you want to tell them?
To the organizations, I want to say, if they want to help us, transfer everyone… Those who are in bad conditions and have no facilities in Greece. I want them to transfer them to other countries, countries like, transfer them to any country. Let them achieve their dreams. That is all.

For the people of your age who are still with their families and have not immigrated yet, what do you want to tell them?
My wish for them is to not come because Europe is the worst. Europe is the first hell itself. Europe itself is a hell. What I see in front of my eyes now, is hell.

Do you have anything to say? Any advice, a saying, anything that I haven’t asked you but you would like to share?
Those who are in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and in Middle Eastern countries, I want to tell them to not come to Europe. Europe is not a good place.

It is not what they think?
It is not what they think.

[Another person talking: I wish health for all the immigrants around the world. That is all.]

Thank you and I wish you success and goodbye.

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.