About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Mo wearing a orange turtleneck with his hands in his pockets standing against a stone wall

Mo Imani

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Photo and interview by:




Sinawi Medine

“I had everything and I caught all of my dreams,” recalls Mo Imani (pseud, 40), a refugee from Iran who is currently seeking asylum in France. In Iran, Mo was an architect and successful businessman. He left the country for religious reasons, and undertook an arduous journey to Europe. He recounts walking “about 1700 kilometers,” and being arrested, injured, and deported by police in various countries. But, Mo says, these experiences have made him stronger. It’s been difficult to leave behind family and the life he had built in Iran. He dreams of “seeing my father and mother because they are old and before I lose them, I should see them again. It’s so difficult for me, and it’s my wish.” He finds purpose in talking to God and by volunteering to support other refugees: “I understand and know the problem of refugees and homeless people and it makes me happy.” These days, Mo says, “I have just one dream now: to have everything that I lost, just it not more than it.”

Trigger Warning: Violence

full interview

My name? [redact] Molmani.

What kind of house do you live in here?
If you want to know about how can I find it here?

Yes, or the house you live, what it’s like.
This place? As a matter of fact, it is a safe place for refugees that they come to France, at first and the staff and personnel here are volunteers sometimes work here and work to do refugees is very good for them because when the different refugees, come to the new country, they need some money, clothes or somewhere to sleep for rest and it’s better. I don’t know if the government like health centers for the refugees, and because the people can’t find anything they maybe they do some criminal things.

How do you spend your time?
Here. You know, I am refugee also. But I am here, working as an interpreter or translator to help the refugees and the staff and sometimes I work as a chef in the kitchen and everything that I can do for help the refugees and the personnel is yes, I do everything.

What are some things that make you joy?
Just help the people is make me happy because I work with my heart and I know the problem of refugees, the people, and it’s not different, which they are from what kind of nationality or maybe you can find some homeless French people. And if I can help him also I did because I know about, I understand and know the problem of refugees and homeless people and it makes me happy. Then I can help them and I don’t care about the result of their mind. I see sometimes I helped someone and they can’t understand. And maybe there’s something behind me or face-to-face with me. But I don’t care about it.

How has your life been since you arrived in Europe?
Me? I am in Europe for about I think two years but I leave my country about six years ago.

What does Europe have? What is good and what is difficult?
I don’t know if you do some things as legal in law under the country, everything is okay, is not difficult. If you can arrange yourself to the laws in that country you want to stay, everything is easy. Europe is not hard and Europe is not different because all of people around the world are human.

Can you describe how living here has made you feel? Can you describe how living here has made you feel?
At first, I’m not happy because I can’t see my family and if I want to, speak about myself, I had everything in my country, here I haven’t anything. But when I was in Iran, I had everything because I work a lot and I had good jobs in Iran because, you know, as an architect and businessman I had two companies and arranged both of them together at the same time. And sometimes I worked between 16 and 20 hours during the day. I had a staff in my company. Now, I leave my country about my danger problem with the government. I lose everything in Iran. How can I grow happy? Not unhappy now because I have a lot of friends, European friends. And I know other times, maybe other years, I can do start my education here.

So you said in Iran you had everything and now nothing unless the people around you. And now what are your feeling? Because before you had everything now you said you have nothing, what do you feel, what is your feeling?
I can just say sorry. I can just say I’m sad about, my problems but I hadn’t any way, to choose I choose to leave my country and come to Europe is it two years, I’m sad about my future or my last life. But I know in the future, I can catch all of the things that I catch in Iran in about 20 years, maybe I can catch everything again in Europe, maybe after two or five years. Because that time I have experience in my job and it’s a long time to catch everything. But now I have a lot of experience and it’s easy for me. I have education and I have experience in my jobs and I know I can make my life as true again.

So you believe in yourself?
Yeah. I believe at first in my God after me, and after that myself. Because me and my God work together, and think together.

So is this situation where you are today, even the way you crossed from Syria into Europe.
I’m not from Syria.

I am not from Syria.

Where are you from?

Iran, sorry. From Iran, you cross different difficulties, you think you get experience and learning from your trip. Do you think this situation makes you stronger.
Yeah, sometimes. before everything you want to know, you should know me and my friend walked about 1700 kilometers just by walking without any car, taxi, autos anything, train just walking on the mountain in the forest sometimes, the police arrest us and deport us to the country, the back to the country a lot of time. One time Slovenian police broke my chest and after that stole all of my change and deport me to Croatia and Croatia deport me to Bosnia and I was in treatment in Bosnia. I got one year in hospital and after that one month, I’m sorry, one month in the hospital and one month in the camp as a treatment. And after that, I start my trip again. So maybe the last time afraid of the forest or I don’t know, the hard way, difficult way in some trip. But I have a lot of experience about forests, about mountains, about geography, about everything make me stronger than the last time. It’s very experience for me.

You think this experience, and after all these challenges you develop some strategy, some strengths, because you say the police they bring you back. And then this time what was your feeling and how could you do it again? 
Yeah, you know, I told you I lost everything in Iran plus my family. But they are leaving and they are leaving Iran. I can’t see them face to face. I can’t go to hug my mother or all of my family. It’s better than anything like money. When I cross the border and sometimes the police catch me and beat me and I don’t know, reported us sometimes they said some bad words to us but I didn’t care about these. Just think my mother and my father and my future because I promised at first myself and after that my parents yes, I leave the country because I have problems but you know I’m so hopeful and I can make a new life, the future believe me. And I try again and did it. Sometimes I haven’t any hope to pass the country or borders. But just talk to my God a lot. Catch my hands that I can catch the other hands. My family is very important for me because they birth me and they grew me, they love me, just focus on my future and believe in God. Because I know God help me to pass the borders and now, I come here. One of time we’re in the forest for maybe about three days. We just ate food of the forest without any food. I think about bread and told my friend before everything I to my God how have you make the you, making fruit tree and we eat a lot of fruit. I wish you make a bread of tea. After one hour we changed our way to the half day and I see a lot of bread on the ground in the forests. I believe it. This gives me hope. This gives me energy. This makes me stronger than at other times. And one day I walked about, I have a record, I walked about 52 kilometers in one day.

Does this situation, you faced, affect you today, in your life?
Yeah a lot because my friends told me and called me King of borders. Because I passed the borders without money and any transporter machines just by walking.

Could you have ever imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation before?
I can’t understand?

Before you, when you go from your country, have you imagined the situation you could face with the borders or other difficulties?
No, I think it’s very easy after that, I have a long story in my trip, not just in Iran, in this trip, I have a lot of problem. I had a lot of problem. For example, my wife cheated me and and left me and after that I change and it’s make me a stronger man. But never, ever think about these borders and this country maybe what happened comes to me, what happened doesn’t come. But when I come to and start my trip from Greece until here at first I was cursed, and after that maybe in the middle of way, the Balkan way, I thought, Hey, no, you have hope of way so you can do anything, so do it. I speak to myself.

Before you came to this country, what was your dream?
I have a lot of dreams in my country, but both my country not —

Start my dream in my country was.
Yes, I have. I have a lot of dream in my country.

And take the question, my dream was and continue.
My dream. What kind of dream. I told you I had everything and I caught all of my dreams. I had car, house, I don’t know, two companies, both have staff, two jobs, designing as architecture and building and other way as a businessman for export and import medical equipment between Iran and other countries like China, Indonesia, Malaysia. I had everything because at past I had a lot of dreams and I caught everything. After that, I hadn’t anything after that, because I have, I had everything because I steal my food, not in my father food, in my food. I told you I work 20 hours during the day, every day, because I had dreams. And yes, some I was [inaudible] also in Iran. But industry, it makes make me stronger. And I have just one dream now: to have everything that I lost, just it not more than it. And the bigger is not just a dream, it’s that things I want to see my father and mother because they are old and before I lose them, I should see them again. It’s so difficult for me, and it’s my wish.

Just I want to ask you one more question and we can finish. Before leaving your home country what would you describe as your strengths?
I don’t know, it’s difficult to think about it. But I just think I speak to myself every time if you want to have it, for example, everything if you want to have it so so you should have to work, work and work, and sometimes I lose in my projects and they make me stronger than other times because they make experience for me.

thank you for answering all these questions, is there anything you would like to add that may help the people in Europe better understand the life of refugees?
I speak about with refugees a lot. Sometimes they asked me which country better and I say to them, Your country is better, here, Europe and you can choose the countries just by name. If you have a dream to stay at the one country and make your dreams and catch them. If you want to go to England, England don’t give you red carpet or car or, I don’t know, wife, girlfriend, money, no. If you have dream you should have work, you should have graduate in university, you should have study. If you want to have a good life, you should work and study. And your behavior, the [inaudible] in just a name but God make just you one, in the million. Seven million people are on the world, you are unique and unique also in your mind in your dreams. Don’t go to England because it’s England. Don’t go to Germany because it is Germany don’t go to I don’t know France because it is France. No. Who are you? Here, yes, the a fortunate even if you want to use it so find your oath, make a plan, and start your work, start your plan, and you will be successful. You’re welcome.

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.