About Refugees, By Refugees
Trigger Warning: racism, discrimination
So, Moaz, thank you for accepting this interview. And, um, now, uh, if you are ready, you can start.
Yes, I can start. I can say like, I am Moaz. I am now 26 years old. I left my country in 2013 looking for new life. Actually, no. It was like looking just only for one month going out of the war and then come back and but the one was it’s three months in others, in other city, where after that my family came to me and they said we cannot live anymore in our country when we were another country, you and then like neighbor country. And then we decide together to move out and to go to Egypt. We lived in Egypt one and a half year. I tried to got, to go into university because I could not, I wasn’t allowed to got, to enter the university in my country because of my politic problems. They didn’t allow me and didn’t allow me to go to school. Like one time, the last semester of my Abitur (high school) they didn’t allow me to go to school. And they said, you’re right, it’s only the exam.
And then after that, in Egypt, it was first of it, the president, all of the president of Egypt who was against the government and then he allow some students to get inside the university but next year, he changed. Then come other President Sisi, his name. He didn’t allow us to study and if we want to study, we would always have to pay 3,500 England pounds. So was really expensive for the year. That’s mean you can’t study. It was impossible to study or you need to repeat your same 10 class and 11 and 12 class. Then you are allowed to study for free. Then I was forced to repeat in a private school, my 12 class again, and then after that I got enough of Arabic countries. And they are telling, to be honest, telling us lie, they play with us and the refugees, they get money from everywhere, “Ah, we have too much refugee, we have too much refugee, we need money. We cannot, we cannot have him in our country.” And my passport, he have only five months and after five months, I need to be renewed, but I cannot renew it because I need to, I need to go back to my country and solve my problem. And if I go back to my country, it mean, I would go into, under court again because I wasn’t a child when I was 16 years old, 17 years old. Only because I demonstrate, I just photograph some demonstration, demonstration in my city and I just try to move. I wasn’t happy with the politics, what’s happening in my country, and I was looking to change. They didn’t allow me to change everything and then in the end didn’t allow me to live in my country. Then it was the only choice what I got moving to Europe – doesn’t matter where. First of it, and it was, “I will go alone,” then my father said, “No, like, you are the oldest son, we cannot live without you. We don’t know what happens, at least from Egypt to Italy at least.” We got eight days in the water and they didn’t know if I will survive or not. That’s why he said, “OK, we got all together. We survive together, or we die together. I cannot live without one, without one of my son. I lost one in the past and the one that’s the second one,” or something like this. Yeah.
And my, my small brother, who was three, three months, and the other one who was three years and 12 and 16 and I was in that time 19. Yes, and then we moved in the water will come to Europe, in Italy, in Catania. The first day it was OK. The next day morning, they tell us, “OK, the police are going to be out here in two hours. If you want to stay in Italy, you just only stay here. If not, you need to run.” And then we run. We go to the train station. We got that time, I remember, one thousand dollar. We didn’t know that in Europe they used euro. It was really confusing, because we really didn’t know that Europe like only euro. So we thought dollar is everywhere. And then it was one guy who was really, sorry to say this, was really an asshole. He used us. He said to us, “OK, no problem, I change for you and I buy the ticket. I speak Italian.” He spoke our language, too, uh, “I buy for you the ticket. And you drive to the North Milano, my land.” And he took that the whole thousand dollar, just to move us from Catania to Milano and they give us 20 euro to buy some food. You know, and when it come in Milano, we got really no money. We didn’t know to what we should do now. It was really hard. And then we got to call all the family. Like we have some family in Belgium and some family in Turkey, some family in some, because of the war they all are out everywhere in the world. Yes. And then we got some money and the guy who bring us some money because we didn’t have passports and we didn’t have Visa, and that’s when we kind of go to Western Union and took out that money. And there is no option to do it. The only option, it is somebody who take it and he give it to us. And he’d take that time, I remember they sent us two thousand eight hundred and he’d give us 2500. He said 300 because the money come on my name. Yes. Yeah. It’s really hard because like when you think like there is no humanity anymore. Then from there we move to France and from France, the last station in France to Strasbourg and from Strasbourg to Karlsruhe in Germany and from Karlsruhe to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Hamburg. Then Hamburg, my three months brother, he is now four months. And at all times he was really sick, he got sick because of the temperature changing, you know. And then in Egypt, it’s really warm around 40 degrees and you come to Europe 20, like it was in August, end of August, 21 of August 2014. He was really, really sick. That’s why we, we couldn’t move anywhere, anywhere else. We need to go to hospital. That’s why we go first to the police in the train station in Hamburg. Yeah, and there, they’re just bring us to other big, big police station and they just, they just look if we have money. It was really confusing. They look everywhere if we have money, they look what we have. And then they send us, they give us this only address; no money, nothing. They didn’t bring us anywhere, to address. They said, “OK, you got to this address where like, you find like your refugee camp where you can apply for refugee.” It was really confusing. Like you came in one country, you didn’t know anything. They just look, if you have money and the then they tell you, “OK, this address and go.” How? They didn’t tell us. It was stupid that time, but in the end, we arrived in a refugee camp and it was the wrong one. We took a taxi and taxi bring us to the wrong one. And then there was one guy, though he told us, “No, you are here wrong, but no problem. Here’s ticket. Like a train ticket for family, ticket 5 persons. You can use it. You don’t need to buy a ticket.” And he told us how to move like from this camp. When you move to back, to back to the city to Hamburg. We move there then we come in the big refugee camp, the first refugee camp. From there, the next day, no, the same day in the night, they sent my mom and my small brother to the hospital and they stayed three or four days there. When they come back, we make all our affair to the end. We apply for refugee and that they send us in another camp, where we were, in that one that have taxi, when the taxi bring us the second one. They bring us there. We stayed there one week. It was really hard for my mom because my mom is she wears hijab. And the first thing what happened, it was misunderstandings between the one, the social worker in the camp and my mom was because one reason. No, two stuff, first, he need to bring some papers. We get a bus and he wouldn’t bring it. And then I just only open the door. He put us in the room and got out like he didn’t respect our privacy. My mom, she was like really angry of that. And then we go down. We spoke to him. “Why you didn’t knock on the door. We open for you. Why you open the door and you don’t respect our privacy. That’s wrong.” And he was like, he got shame. And the first thing what they do is he got out like the hand of my mom and like mom, was for her like, like culture shock. Normally, friend, like not her husband or like that, not from like family. He can, he don’t do that, like just only catching the hand. It was for her really cultural shock and was and actually it’s really wrong. Why? Because you are working with a refugee that’s when you need to know the rule of every culture. OK, maybe in the future it will change. But first they are only, the only since one week. It’s really confusing. Yes. And week after that, like it was a really small story where my mom like it was for her, the shock, cultural shock. I remember that, for me it was like too much culture shock. I was like, I came with nineteen. You came into freedom. Well, there you are not allowed to do anything and here everything is allowed. It was hard to get in this culture. To be part of it, to understand it, to understand how the human thinking here, how they work. They’re not writing that there is rule where they are never written for every culture. But we don’t know it. We haven’t seen it. What you need to see it and analyze it. And then you understand it. And that’s what is, what for us is really hard. You know, I didn’t speak English since long time. That’s why my English is not so good. But I’m doing my best. Yeah. And then when we continue about my perfect life story, we go back to this second refugee camp. Then we got transferred to the third refugee camp. It was in the middle of forest. We have four bus, four bus times they come in the day. One – one at six o’clock in the morning. One at nine o’clock in the morning. One at 12. One at three and that’s it. And it (refugee camp) is in the middle of the forest, five kilometers to one first shop and other five kilometers for the other shop – like really in the middle. It’s one that the border between the two, between Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommen. And it was really bad, this camp. This refugee camp, it is really bad. Really, really bad! They are! You don’t have dolmetscher (interpreter) like translator. They don’t translate to you anything. You have TV. German TV was closed at 10:00 in the night. You have no German class, nothing at all. You just only stay and play and play or something or speak with each other. That’s it. Where do you see all your dream, what you builded during like all this way to come to this Europe. Every day you are dreaming, it’s what gives you power. This dream, OK, I will get to freedom, then you come there and it all dream like it’s gone.
Why yeah. You see that German Council for the first day you don’t got anything. You need everything. You need to fight for it to get even if it’s your right. Then we have to stay there three months. After that, we come back to here, to Wilhelmsburg. We lived in a container. It was really container, like, yeah, we lived there around six months. In that time, I decide, OK, I will not go to a German course I think. I will learn German by myself. What I did, I knew that I knew that Cafe Exil here in Hamburg where they had refugee and I go there and I said, “I want to work with you. I don’t speak German. I speak only English, but I speak Arabic. But I want to work.” I work with them six months helping refugees. And also, they tell me where you can get for free German classes. I go there. I learned it. And after that my family got transferred to a flat, but me not because I was older than 18. They said, “No, you stay in the camp.”
And then I find a flat with sharing flat with other hippies. It was hippie hippie flat. So it’s a big house with 13 persons. It was really nice time. Two and half years, the best time ever. I came the first day, they tell me two things. First, if it’s OK for you, we will walk naked in the flat. Second, they tell me you speak English. We speak English, but you want to learn German. OK, for the first day we have time. We are here. I love them. You repeat your German sentences, then we understand and that’s what happened. They help me to speak German after this long life, they help me to get a German course. Really, they tell me like they’re from this 12 persons, I was a son, they were older than me. They all 20 years older than me at least. I was their son; son of them. They help me took a German class first, like till I got, till I got the right to go to university. They help you with everything, really. At the same time I work into the restaurant, I was in A2 level of German, but I got a friend of mine. I told her I need work, I have to buy. I have because two thousand eight hundred euros I have to buy back. Yeah. That’s why I have to work. That’s why I told her I need to work. I have no money. She told me you go to one restaurant and the name of it is Backport, but now it’s closed. Backport mean left in the, in the port driving.
You go there, you ask for a guy. His name is Mike. And you tell him, I want to work. They have work for me. I got there and he told me, yes, can you work in the kitchen. I told him yes. He told me it’s going to be hard. I told him no problem. I’m OK. And then I worked there eight month. I earned enough money that I can, I couldn’t first two years of my study like all the what I need for my study, from laptop, equipment and everything, and then move to the other city because of my study. I got all from the job. Yes, but after that, I moved to Fulda. It’s in Hesse, near to, between Frankfurt and Kassel. It’s on the border to Bayern, and DDR. It is worst city ever. They are trying to be, like, really open but the people there, they are really racist. Five years I lived there; I haven’t felt myself accepted, even if I got… If I got like, a card, they asked me if it is fake, yes, why? Because I’m a refugee. Just only. On one time it was really hard for me what it was like. Fuck, I teach mathematics at the university. I teach one and half year the student mathematic. And after that, I got friends where they, when they need help. They ask me about helping him in mathematics. What’s happened? One day I was sitting, it was exam time while sitting in the university learning and we buy some stuff like snacks and we decide to finish studying and everyone can to go home. While the rest of snack, one girl, she come to me, “Moaz, do you want to have it?” It was for me. Fuck. I told her just because I’m a refugee, that’s me, I need snack and take it from you. And you don’t want to throw it in the rubbish so you give it to me. I was, I was really angry in that moment because for her, it was like she think like with good heart. I was like, oh, I need to help or something like this. But I think for me it’s like. No, I’m like you. You don’t need to do that. I’m like you, and that was a really hard thing for me and also. I didn’t feel myself like the… didn’t I didn’t feel that I am from this culture, even like the people who they came from my city, but they are long, they lived a long time in Germany, they don’t see me like them. No. Even girls. Even girls, they don’t see me that are like, OK, Moaz, he’s smart, but as a boyfriend, no he is a refugee. That’s going to be hard – never. That’s really what do you think, OK, what should I do? My father, he decide to bring me in this life in other countries. And your father decided to bring you on this life for, in this life, in this country. It’s not my problem. I’m not his problem. Yes, and I didn’t say what I’m studying and study, electrical technique, electrical engineering, the electrical technique and renewable energy, and I write my exam right now, write my thesis now, sorry. Yes, but I got enough of this country because the last time last year I got Corona. One, one and a half months I need to be in my bed and this one and half month, I asked myself, what are you doing in this city? Feel yourself really bad. You have no friends because they don’t see you as a friend. Then I decided to move out as quick as I can, and that’s what I did. Then I came to Germany, sorry, to Hamburg, I stayed with a friend for one month in it till I find a flat where I’m living now. And where, you know, and then I did. I saw the work. I saw the work where we were working together.
We got to know each other. And then I replied to it and I got accept after two, two, not accepting two times, not accepting. That was a really nice time when they accepted that. For me personally, it’s really important moment. I called my aunt. Two days before and I told her, “Hi, how are you?” Everything is fine and I feel something wrong that she’s not in good situation. I didn’t know it and she’s living in my country, in my city, but I didn’t know it. But I got a feeling that I need to have not, I have no work at that time, but I have a feeling that I need to send her something. And I told her, give me your document. I will send you transferring some money. And then she, she said thanks and she closed half an hour later, she called me and she said, “Hey Moaz, I have to to tell you something. I’m really thankful because you think about me and you know that I have operation in one month and I need this money.” And they didn’t, I didn’t know it really, as I was like, just I was looking just to send her money because I feel that she’s and I call her not, she didn’t call me to ask about money. I call her. And next morning I got a call from the job and they said, we need to have you on board. Yes. It was really awesome. I need to say something, what I forgot to say. And one bad thing, I live, I lived in Egypt where it changed my mind and changed all my life. I was working in the, in the company to making ice. And I lost my finger in it. I was working like one, one centimeter of my finger. I, I worked for 12 hours. I got 3 euro 50 cent after 12 hours’ work. And when I cut it and they had the operation and all this. It was the first question in all my life to say, “Who I am, What I want, Where I am.”
And after that started other open minding life and all the question, all the accepting all the tolerance from other human. After discussions. Yes, I think that’s all what I want to say. Do you have a question?
Um, yes. Thank you for sharing your story. Um, quick question. Before you left your country, did you have dreams and did you achieve those dreams?
To be honest, I didn’t. I wasn’t planning on my life to move out of country. It wasn’t for me as well like I grew up in a culture where it’s like, really, you have no dream. The dream is like really small, small dreams. Big dreams, you are not allowed to have it. You are not allowed to ask about big dreams. Yes, but better life, it is like freedom, like stability, stability and yes, stability. I was looking for, looking for it and acceptance as I am, as Moaz. I was looking for it.
Did you achieve them?
Some kind, I have to say, I still have this problem. Here, you are not accepted. Why? Just because a German language is the hard language, it’s not easy. Just only when you find, when they find out that one word is wrong, you say it wrong or one sentence and you would just like it’s grammatically correct, but it doesn’t say like this. Next question came, where are you from? They forget that you are an engineer. You will be finished like in what, some months you will be an engineer. They forgot that like all the positive stuff that you are doing, they just want to know where are you from? And when you said, “Oh, I’m from this country.” “Oh, I’m so sorry. How was your travel? How was your, how was it?” It became like this like mother feeling.
And how do you deal with racism and discrimination that you face in Germany? Do you have a coping mechanism with it?
Oh, actually, some I got into it one time with my professor… So I came to the exam. I have like muendliche pruefung (oral exam), I think is an exam. But I mean like when you speaking exam, I don’t know the language. So yeah, it was in like about energy. Yes. Electrical, motor, electrical cars and renewable energy. It was two exams. And I came down, the professor asked me, “Where did you put your camel? Did you park it outside?” You come inside an exam, just think about it, you come inside an exam and your professor ask you about your camel? That mean yes, you are Arabian. That’s mean you, you don’t have, you don’t have cars, you have only camel. Where is your camel? And I got zero points for that exam. Yes, I have to repeat it just only like this. He asked me, “Where is your camel? Did you park it outside?” Was joking way that you cannot say that he is racist, you know, because he is joking actually. Right in that true, he is joking. But he is like, this is racist joke, when you come to exam, you want to give your best? You hear something like this, you’ve forgot everything. You got only angry. Yes.
And how do you deal with those? Do you ignore or do you…?
It depends, like sometimes I don’t ignore it. Sometimes you have to ignore it. Like in this situation with the professor, I cannot say anything, to be honest. What should I do? How can I prove it? Yeah, but like when a, when in the street, you heard you say, what do you want from me? Or like this, you can fight with it like you can handle, you can speak. But what once somebody who has more power than you, you cannot say anything. Same when you come to the government worker when he said something like this, you cannot do anything for it because you have no right. He has more power than you. He has more power than you. Yes.
And, um, do you have dreams now?
Yes, two dreams. First, I want to be as a teacher in the school. I want to let the whole people know that refugees can arrive. They can be part of this, of this culture, first. Second, I want to build schools in my country, but not normal school just a working school. Yes. Where they can teach because they are, we have too much children, to too much children, they lost father or mother where they are now forced to work to earn a little bit of money, and I don’t want that, that they work and they lost all the future because they have to work now. No, I want to, I want to that they work in the school. And after that, they can get continue, they’re learning something where they got certificated and the same they earn money from it. Yeah, that’s my dream. And I will do it. And really, I think the big reason why I moved to Hamburg back because of this thing, because I know that from Hamburg, I can start with something like this. Yes.
Do you think as a result of this whole experience, have you grown up?
Yes, I’m not 26. I’m not 26 anymore. I cannot say that. I see the 26 guys, they grow up in my city, in my country or in Germany, but they are not like me.
Not like you?
No, and somehow we are older but we have a baby face.
Has anything positive came out of this experience?
Yes. You get peace with yourself. You get to know yourself. That’s a big thing, what I learned that the hard thing. You got to answer a few questions. That’s what we need, the answers that we are looking for.
And um, the last question, is there anything you would like to add to say that might help people in Europe like Europeans to understand better the life of refugees?
Yes. I can say it is only if you are thinking you want to, you want to help, help refugee to feel better, don’t do it. No, but if you want it, if you are thinking, I want to help refugee because they need help. Do it. Not to feeling better, then do something else. Play sport. I don’t know, get drunk or whatever, but don’t do that. Don’t play with the emotion of others. That’s first thing what I can say. I think what I thought all was in that interview, but here in Europe, they want to help just to feel better, not to helping. Yes, that’s it. Thank you.