About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Mohammad with his back turned against a dense plant background with a vine across his neck

Mohammad Heidari

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hasan Mohammedi

Before Mohammad Heidari (pseud, 32) left his home country of Iran, he dreamed of peace and reaching his goals. But oppressive living conditions under the reign of Iran’s Islamic clergy thwarted those dreams, and Mohammad left for Europe. He recalls this journey, over land, as “dangerous and bad.” On entering Greece, police showed no mercy “even to women and children… they would strip all of them,” he says. Crossing jungles with wild animals, he felt worry and anxiety: “These were all the difficulties on the route which we were willing to face.” Now in Sarajevo, Mohammad thinks often of what he faced on his way to Europe. “We can’t forget these incidents,” he says, but adds, “we have to cope with them.” Being away from family has made him feel uncertain, estranged, and homesick, but Mohammad believes he has the ability to overcome these challenges: “Anything might happen. We have to get along with it anyway.” For the future, he still dreams of reaching his aims of “better life, peace.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Hello, hope you are doing well. Thank you for your time
Hello, bless you. Thank you.

I had a few questions to ask you if you are willing to answer. I’d be grateful.
Sure, go ahead. I’ll try to answer as much as I can. (Interviewer: Thank you)

What type of accommodation do you currently live in?
Currently, we are in a camp. Bosnia camp.

Could you explain the conditions?
The conditions inside the camp? (Interviewer: Yes). Honestly, our condition is such that we live in a Conex. The facilities are limited. In terms of… No heating unit, no cooling unit, the bathroom and washroom are not good at all. It’s terrible. I don’t know… One would feel disgusted if they saw the bathroom and washroom. The taps are broken, there is no shower. The pipes are broken. Such are the conditions.

Who are you living with?
I’m living with the family. (Interviewer: great!)

How do you spend your time here?
With other refugees. Either the new ones or the ones from before.

Do you also work here?
No, I don’t.

What is the cause of your happiness?
Working in a country where we can go and be comfortable.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
Honestly, when we entered Europe… Truthfully, the European people are sociable and see us as immigrants.

What was the benefit of you staying here?
Being here… Just experience.

What was difficult for you?
The difficulty of the route?

The difficulty of being here, what was difficult for you?
Being here uhh… It’s not comfortable because nothing is certain. It’s because of that.

Can you explain how living here has made you feel?
The feeling of estrangement, and uncertainty.

How do you feel being away from home or family members?
We are anyway far from my family and relatives as well as the feeling of estrangement, not seeing my father and mother. All this… (Interviewer interrupts: homesickness?) Yes, homesickness.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?

How were you able to overcome, be alive or live?
According to 1,000 wishes, according to… What can I say… Anything is possible to happen on the way. We have to get along with it anyway.

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had strengths or mechanisms to cope with these issues?
Yes, anything might happen. We have to get along with it anyway.

How has Covid-19 affected you in your daily life, in your current life, your feelings and emotions?
It didn’t have any effect.

May I ask some questions regarding your past?
Yes, go ahead.

Why did you leave your country?
Our country… Because of the living conditions, because of the Islamic clergy’s reign and irresponsible authorities in Iran. Oppressing the people, they have made living difficult, and the authorities just want everything for their children. They are building their own future and it has become such a way that if any citizen protests, they will execute them. Whatever the excuse may be, the citizen has to get executed. So that no one dares to protest as to why this has happened, why that has happened. Because of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, I mean the Revolutionary Corps… The Revolutionary Corps will execute them.

How did you feel at that time?
A bad feeling because if such a thing happens to anyone in any country, they’ll be scared.

How was the journey to Europe?
Journey to Europe… We came through land, it was really dangerous and bad.

Did you have any specifically difficult experiences that you can tell us?
Yes, it was all experience. When we reached Greece and when we entered Greece, the police captured us. They don’t show any mercy, even to women and children. Those that we saw and were with us, they would strip all of them. They don’t distinguish if the person is a woman, a child or a man. They would search all their clothes… Even if a person has 10 Euros, they would take it and won’t return it. Completely stripped naked and send them to Turkey. They would also take away their shoes. They don’t show any mercy, the Turkish police… Sorry, the Greek police. They would annoy everyone and the path that we were going on is all jungle, walking is difficult, there are wolves and bears in the jungle, there’s everything… With a wife and children… How should one…? If you close your eyes for a second and get up, you might see that your child is no longer there. Maybe the wolves have taken them. These were all the difficulties on the route which we were willing to face.

How did you feel at that time?
A bad feeling, worrying, anxiety and thinking of when we are going to reach a country to settle down there and be independent.

Do you often think of these incidents that happened?

All the time, we can’t forget these incidents.

Is there anything specific that you think about often? When you think of it, what feeling do you get?
Yes, on the one hand, our family whom we have left… Father, mother, sister, brother, friends, and acquaintances. On the other hand, the bad incidents that happened… We have to cope with them.

Has the condition that you faced had an impact on you?

We are not in a country where we belong or, in other words, be stable enough to live in the country or be settled in the country for the government to help us, or to work ourselves. We’re not independent.

Have you ever imagined of managing those situations?

How were you able to live or move on from those situations?
Only through hopes and wishes.

What recollection was difficult for you or has created hardships? Where did you find the strength and support?
Hope for the future along with 1,000 challenges and misery.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country?
Peace, reaching our goals.

When you were leaving your home, what hopes or dreams did you have now for the future?
Reaching our goals and the future of our children was important. Living without any issues.

Before leaving your country, what did you describe as your strength?
Reaching our goals.

If so, how?
Only… To live without any concerns with the family. To work and continue with life.

What you experienced seemed really difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your improvement in any way or resulted in something positive in your life?
Yes, experiences.

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future?
The hope to reach our aims, better life, peace.

These are your dreams, right?

Thank you for your answering the questions. Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe?
As I said, I want the people of Europe to view refugees as humans because they only see us as immigrants. As in, if they see us as refugees, it would be a lot better.

Thank you for giving us your time Mr. Mohammad.
Bless 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.