About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Mahsa wearing shades and a cap, hiding her face and standing against a graffiti wall

Mahsa Mohseni

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hannan Dormiyani

“I wish they would say things like, “She has the right to decide for her life,” says Mahsa Mohseni (pseud, 23). Her dream, she says, is to marry the person she’s loved since childhood. However, neither his family nor hers agreed, and her uncles wanted her to marry someone else, so she left Afghanistan. Moving to another country alone was difficult, and she has had nightmares about parts of the journey. “I felt so lonely, hopeless. The feeling that why such a thing happened to me, to pass through such a dangerous place,” she recalls. Currently in Sarajevo, she says her faith in God and self-confidence give her strength: “Both challenges that I faced in my homeland were difficult as well as the challenges I encountered on the journey. These have made me strong.” Her wish has always been “to achieve my desires, the desires that people didn’t allow me to have in my homeland,” she says, “My wishes were always to achieve my own desires and not others one.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

In what type of accommodation do you live?
Hello, I’m in a camp.

Can you explain the conditions?
There is no any special conditions it’s normal um…I feel aimless but that’s fine, it’s a condition that will eventually end god willing. It will be better.

Who do you live with?
I’m alone.

How do you spend your time here?
I try to spend my time learning the language so that I can move about easily…by learning its language.

Do you also work here?

What is the cause of your happiness?
Thinking about the aims that I almost accomplished, thinking about being able to achieve my desires.

How has your life been ever since you entered Europe?
Life…I met new people, I found new religions and situations, and I have got new experiences.

What were the benefits of staying here?
I found that I can have better life here.

What was challenging?
The journey to here, and its difficulties, and not knowing the language…these are a few of my challengings.

Can you describe the feeling you got by living here?
Feeling safe, the feeling that I’m going to start a new life…such feelings.

How did you feel being away from home or family members?
It’s natural for humans to miss their family, despite going through a difficult situation, despite hearing unpleasant things from their family. I will miss them.

How does the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affect you?
It has a lot of impacts, very disappointing especially when we want to go somewhere or take a taxi while not having a legal permit or when they see us as a stranger and think about why we are in their country. They are right. Because maybe some other refugees annoyed them, but it doesn’t mean that they consider for all of refugees. I hope equality get place everywhere and human being try to understand each other, and understand each other’s conditions.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?
I didn’t think about its difficulties but when I decided to move to a country on my own, I did think that I might face a lot of difficulties. Therefore I prepared myself, I tried to think about encountering hardships and I have to be strong.

How are you able to cope with this condition and overcome it to continue with your life?
The hardships that I faced in my country or the sufferings I had from childhood till I get aged. I tried to be strong because those hardships were more difficult than the hardships I am encountering now.

Do you think you could overcome these challenges, or do you think you had strengths or skills or solutions for these issues?
Yes um, I…there are indeed times when you think you’re not strong and become hopeless, but well, as much as I remember I believed I was always a strong girl. I thought I was strong and I wouldn’t break under pressure. Now I think I can cope with the current conditions and overcome the difficulties.

I’m going to ask some questions related to your past. Why did you leave your country?
Because of um…I did not have parent, and I used to live with my maternal uncles. My uncles wanted me to marry someone that I hadn’t seen and wasn’t willing to. I didn’t like it.

Could you describe what happened?
Um…I love someone since childhood, but no one agreed, neither his family nor my family. So they wanted me to marry someone else and I wasn’t willing at all and didn’t give up.

How did you feel at the time?
A very bad feeling. I feel that, why I cannot decide for my life? Why I cannot proceed? Why I have to accept their decisions while I don’t agree with them?

How was your journey to Europe?
It was a good experience; it was both good and bad and had a lot of difficulties and I gained a lot of experiences.

Did you have any experiences that were specifically difficult and that you can tell us?
Yes, a lot. The journey was challenging while coming down and up the valleys and mountains. I have nightmare about one of horrible valleys where I felt down it and suddenly jump up from the bed, I was alone (Mahsa cries). God saved me from there because while I was passing through, I felt like falling. We went there to sleep but I was awake till the morning in the jungle, and I always told myself, “I was supposed to fall and die.” Thank God it passed.

How did you feel at that time?
I felt lonely, hopeless. The feeling that why such a thing happened to me, to pass through such a dangerous place.

Do you often think about the incidents?
Yes, I do a lot. These incidents upset my mind but well…it will pass anyway.

When do you think of these incidents?
When I’m alone.

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
Yes, most of the time. That’s nice that I could get rid of a place that I don’t like and instead I’m in a place where I can make decisions for myself.

How do you feel when you think of these?
The feeling…I have a good feeling. When I think of the fact that I can make decisions for myself.

Has the situation that you dealt with impacted you?
Yes, why not? It has had an impact. Sometimes, it’s disappointing and sometimes, it’s become the cause of my strength.

Have you ever imagined managing these situations?
Why not? Sometimes, I say, “I’ve seen worse situations, this will pass and I will overcome it,” I think that migrating will be difficult, or things will be difficult when going to a new place especially when you don’t know the language, but well…yeah, I did think I could manage them.

How did you overcome or move on from the conditions?
First I always believed that God helps me, always…I have God in my mind I believe him, I was always alone, but God is in my mind and heart. This always gives me strength…even when I was on route and felt alone, I thought and said, “I know I’m alone but you’re (God) always there.”

Have you created a solution for dealing with um, or moving on from the difficult days or memories?
Sorry, can you ask the question again?

Yes, have you created a solution for dealing with or moving on from the difficult days or memories?
Yeah, by thinking of good days that are yet to come.

Where do you get the support and strength from?
From my strengths, the fact that I always give myself the strength and always said, “You can do it” and, “You can achieve success and overcome difficulties.”

What was your dream [before] you running away from your country?
I dreamed that…I hoped things would have been the way we wanted to. I hope that no one would have disagreed with the things I wanted, I wish they would say things like, “She has the right to decide for her life.” Everyone would agree with joy and happiness we would live without fearing anything.

When you left your home what wishes did you have for the future?
My wishes were to achieve my desires, the desires that people didn’t allow me to have in my homeland, to use different opportunities such as going to a language school, one of my wishes but we weren’t allowed to because girls aren’t allowed to be free after reaching a certain age, or that they can’t marry the one that they want and girls should marry the one that family…my wishes are always to achieve my own desires not others one.

Let’s conclude with the questions that I asked. Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength?
My faith in God, that my self-confidence was always high, and that I could do things. I had faith in myself.

Do you still feel these?

If so, how? If not, why not?

(Interviewer interrupts: You’re allowed not to answer.)
Um…I don’t have a response.

What you experienced seemed difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your improvement in any way or resulted in something positive in your life?
Yeah both challenges that I faced in my homeland were difficult as well as the challenges I encountered on the journey. These have made me strong. I feel stronger compared to before.

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future?
My dream is to marry with a person I loved since childhood, then there wouldn’t be fear of others disagreement, not to have the fear of getting hurt by anyone just because we’ve done as we want.

I’m grateful about your answers. Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe?
Thank you, I also thank the people of Europe. It’s true that a lot of refugees are moving to Europe, it might be disappointing for European people, but I hope they understand because no one leaves their country out of joy and happiness but rather maybe they’re either forced to or have a really difficult condition. I hope there comes a day when people would understand each other. Thanks again.

Thank you.

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.