About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Joud in side profile

Joud Almohamad

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Photo and interview by:




Handan Tufan

“My dreams was about normal life, with my family, and with someone who loved me, and babies,” says refugee Joud Almohamad (25) of her life in Syria. Religious persecution and the “hell of war” made staying in Aleppo, Syria impossible. Her mother made it to Europe, but Joud and her brother stayed in Aleppo for two more years. “That was so, so hard for me,” she says. “I am with brother alone in the house.” Now living in the Netherlands, she still has problems sleeping and with anxiety. To cope, she says she is “making myself busy with my mind, with my own business, with my own study.” And she dreams: “Mine bestest, the dream… going to TEDxTalk and talking about my story.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Hello, I am Handan. I make today an interview with you. I make this interview for Witness Change. Your experience is really valued and that with your story, we hope we can help people to be more understanding. And you don’t have to be identified in the interview nor in the picture of you if you wish. The interview or the picture will be available on the Internet, that media might use it. Is the appearance of your face a problem for you?
Uh, no.

And after the interview, I have a forms for permission. And uh I will ask some personal question. If you don’t have to answer, you can say me and, uh yeah. And in the interview, we can take a break if you want. Uh Do you have any questions?


And, what kind of housing do you live in?
I am living in an apartment with my brother and my mother.

And can you describe the condition for you?
Yeah my condition and my house is just a free spirit. I can what I what I wish doing there. And I have a free, free life there. So I am I have my own, my own room and I can what what I will there doing.


Who do you live with?
I’m live with my was with mom and my brother. My brothers out, he is disabled. He is thirteen. I am twenty five. Yeah.

Ok How does spend your time here? Do you work?
Yeah I am. I am, I’m working in sport store for sport, clothes and sport tools. And I’m also and the first year student in college for Sport and Lifestyle Education Institute.

Okay And what are some of the things that bring you joy.
Yeah, I have a lot of things bring joy for me, like modeling. I work also, freelance model and also music.I love music and a lot of kinds music and and also I love with films with Netflix. And, you know, I have a lot of things that brings joy for me.

Yeah. How has, how has life been since you are Europe arrived in Europe what’s been being good about being here? What’s it been difficult for you?
Yeah, that was a lot of difficult things here in Europe. But the best things is self satisfied. I’m so so satisfied about my life here. It’s so busy. I should working, I should learning and I should my self improvement. Since three years I was so, so busy with the self, building. Yeah.


Described how living here, has to make you feel.
Okay. Has make me feel that I have a lot of passion to, to continue with my plans and my dreams and a lot of motivation from, from mine friends and from family. So my life here is just a big deal for me. So I feel satisfied.


Okay How does the feeling of not belonging, discriminations, stigma impact you? Can you describe?
So, question eight?

Uh…..(reading question quietly)

Do you have any experience over about discrimination?
No, but actually that there is a lot of difficult here for my family because my brother is handicapped and my mother is an artist.So that’s make a lot of hard working on to find a new way for for my family. So that makes me all that worried about what my family what what kind of future I bring. So so that is sort of thinking, yeah overthinking I think. Yeah.

Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation? How, how, how you been able to overcome, survive, live with it?
OK, that is an important question for me because I am, I am I have a problem with with post-traumatic disorder.I have this sort of disease, some disease about, from all war. And what’s happening with me, I have a lot of things, hard. Get it in my life, so I handle it was so hard, hard for me because this is is I can not forget I cannot that is how to handle it, but I’m trying to forget it and I’m making myself busy. And maybe I’ll find myself busy with my school, with my friends and also with my hobbies and positive thinking. And some days work it and some days don’t work.

Do you think that you’ve developed the ability to deal with this changes, of or do you think you always have this skill, strength mechanism, resilience?
Actually, I am, I am, I am, since three years to today, I’m I’m so improvement. I have a lot of things doing here. For example language, was a new study, a new college, a new work, a lot of men, people to to to know what you experience. I’m proud of myself, so.Yeah. And one deal it’s so hard to handle it, but another deal, it’s so fun challenge and that make me improve, improve myself. And and I, I, I remark myself that I am, I am so you know, I have, I have, a kind of plan and my plan is in the right way. So yeah.

How has COVID-19 affect your in the terms of daily life and not feeling emotional?
Actually COVID-19 was a big problem for me because my study plan is about a higher education. But, from COVID-19, I changed my study plan and my work plan and that’s affected over my emotional and my my, my, my mentality. And relational and also that’s all changed in a negative way and that’s what not what I want. So COVID-19 is… the life before COVID-19, it’s not like now. So, yeah, but that is really, really, really, really hard for me and for my family also so so .

And now is your past?

Why did you leave your country? Can you describe describe what happened?
Actually, I’m leaving my country because not just for war, but also I have my own story because the talking about uh religion. My mom, my mom is a Muslim and my father is Jewish, sorry so, and also bear in mind in Syria, it’s we don’t have our own house and not from life.It’s not available, so that is so hard for for for my mom and for me on to to to to to keep living there in Syria. So we’re leaving Syria and we’re thinking on not to back to Syria. So it’s the end I think yeah.

OK, how make you feel at the time?
OK? I feel sometimes that I can and cannot forget what happened to me, because in Syria I have a lot of challenge there. I have religious challenges. I have emotional challenges. And also financial challenges. And I am not free. You cannot be free in Syria, and I am, always I’m always searching for freedom, so.My problem was with the regime in Syria. Regime no. My problem was with society and religion and yeah. I’m always different from from from my social life. I’m always different, I feel, always I think always I am not from this area. So that is be better for me and for my family to go away?


And how was the journey to Europe? Is the experience that was particularly difficult that you recalled?
Actually My journey to Europe, not like other Syrian people who coming by boat to Europe. My my mom first coming to Europe like other Syrian, where I and my brother waiting for IND to permission , IND the on the according for coming at me and my brother Netherlands. And we waited for two years and in Aleppo and I see the, I see the hell, of hell of war there in Aleppo. That was so, so hard for me because for say seven times. I, I am so I’m so near to death to my death. You know?

From war, and bombs on everything.

How did it make you feel at the time in the war?
I am so numb inside myself. And I’m and that is, you know, no I’m not (asks interviewer here in Dutch English word for safe) I’m not feeling safe for for for me and more than two years, I’m not feeling safe from the beginning from the war. And I am with brother alone in the house, and I should also taking care with eating with with everything. And that is really big social big challenge for me. So yeah.

Do you think about this events often?
Yeah always, always. I cannot forget that

Always, always. I can’t forget what would happen to me, all my friends dead, and my life created strength for many times, for seven years, seven times. So that that is a, yeah, a big experience for me. Big, hard experience,.

Yeah. What do you feel when you think about that?
I’m feeling that it’s a lot for a girl so young to handle it without asking myself why all of this happened to me and why I am should taking care of all of this and how can I handle it? Mom has never not me and my handicapped brother allowed in Syria, Aleppo. Was all the hard things. So I, I, I think I’m saying to myself, I have a bad luck, but yeah.

Yeah, does the situation affect you today?
Yeah, sure. I am since two years problems with sleeping and anxiety always. And I am, I have a psychological treatment because I have post-traumatic disorder, and that is so, so hard for me. I’m not OK.

Could you ever had imagined that, you wouldt have been able to handle that situation?
Maybe, but I am not success every time to handle the situation. Sometimes I am so bad feeling. I have bad feelings about what happening. But I’m trying, still trying to forget it, but I don’t know if I can succeed with that or not

< i>How are you able to survive, get through it? And where do you where do you feel strength and support?
Actually, my strategy on of for for handled all what happened with me that I’m trying to think of positivity, positive thinking and just what I’m saying at first, making myself busy was with my mind, with my own business, with my own study. And I’m just reminding myself what happened with me, just a nightmare. So that’s not going to be always.So I’m just flexible, flexible person. So I am so ambitions and I have my plans. So I will not just stopping in mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, memories and what happened with me. So I have flexible ability.


And question ten

Before the event that led you flee home occurred what was your dream? You can said “Before the war my dream was”….
OK, before the war my dream was I’m just being satisfied with my education level and I have my own work and also have a husband and kids.So my dreams is not so big. My dreams was so about normal life, with my family, with someone who how loved and and babies lot of babies of. Yeah. And working and just enjoying life.

Yeah. And when you were leaving your home, what was your dream? You can answer “My dream, my dream that”….Now?

Sure sure, my dream is. Being a successful woman, strong, successful women.

When when you when when you were leaving your home?
Yeah. Just I decided that I will be a free successful woman.


Before leaving your home, your home country what would you describe as your strength? Have you maintained this?

What is your strong character?
That I can handle, all of situation, all kind of situation, war, a lot of things. I can handle it. I have always strong point myself,so I just don’t care about what the future will bring for me. So I’m ready always to handle it, what will happen now and later. So when I leave my country, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m knowing that I will be in new life, new period in my life. So…

Is it different now?
Yeah sure.

All things different because I am new in free, free country so I can describe myself, who I am and I have no problems with people. And if I have problems with other people, I can just ignore it and just don’t stop it at any point just all the way in with my dreams and my plans. And I am so changed before I was when I was in Syria and now I’m so different. Now I’m stronger.

And what you have been through seems really difficult. Do you feel like you have grown in any way as a result of this experience?
Actually, my old experience so make now a strong woman, because if I not had this experience, I cannot know now what what I am now do. I cannot describe and who I am. So I have a lot of from from mine old memories and all the hard situations, I am so giving me a lot of experience. I am now ready to handle it what what life is going to be given.So I don’t have problem with what happened with me. But so, so just leaving and bad feelings in my heart. But I am now stronger because of the, because of positive problems, you know.

Okay What are your hopes and dreams for the future now?
My dream is being actually, I have a lot of dreams here to to to get about. Mine mine bestest the dream is being, uh, going to TEDxTalk and talking about my story.

That is my dream.

Oh, thank you for answering. And is there anything you all like to add that might help people in Europe better understand the life of a refugee?
Yeah, sure. Actually, I’m living I’m working with the Red Cross, so my and my work is about to helping people. So I’m really always to help refugees and other people, not just refugees so I don’t have another questions. I am so appreciate this appointment. And Yeah, hope that’s your project successfully, like always. So thank you Handan, and this is the end

Thank you from me.
Yeah Yeah

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.