About Refugees, By Refugees

Mohammad Yamani

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

United Kingdom



Amer Raawan

My dream was to start a new life,” says Mohammad Yamani (pseud, 35) reflecting on his decision to leave Yemen. “I left my country because of the war and there was no ability to live, and die [death] was everywhere.” He is safe now in the UK, but haunted by the past and concerned about the future: “I am so worried, and I can’t think clearly, like the past. I feel that something worse will happen. I don’t know what is the future will be.” Thoughts of what he’s been through continue to trouble him. “Now I take medicine to help me to sleep,” he says. Waiting for his asylum application interview, by himself, in the hotel room provided by the British government hasn’t helped. “I feel so lonely,” he says. He tries to deal with his difficulties by “listening to music, call one of my friends, to forget that.” He says he needs to be “more patient.” Despite all he’s been through and all that he still struggles with, he says “I feel like I am stronger than the past because I am more experienced.”

Trigger Warning: Violence / Murder

full interview

Hello Mohammad how are you?

Ok let’s start by you telling us  little bit about yourself.
My name is Mohammad Yamani, I’m 35 years old. I am married.

So I’m going to tell you a little bit about this project. This project is called ‘1000 Dreams’. We take pictures and we interview asylum seekers and refugees in order to change the negative attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers in Europe.  Of course if you don’t want  to show your face, or if you don’t want to be identified in the interview, that’s totally fine.  The interview or the picture will be available on the internet. So media might use it, so like, family, friends might see it.  So we have some forms that we need to sign. And also, if you feel, if you feel, uncomfortable at any time because some of the questions are very personal questions, so if you feel uncomfortable at any point, you can just skip the question. You can take a break whenever you want and you can end the interview whenever you want, ok? and yeah, that’s it. Do you have any questions before we move on?

Ok.  Let’s do the forms first, and then we’ll be back.  So first we will start with your current situation. Ok? My first question for you is: What kind of housing do you live in?
In a hotel.

Can you describe the conditions?
It’s a good hotel but the food not bad.

Is it provided by who?
By the home office.

Who do you live with?

You live on your own?

How do you spend your time here?
I just stay in the hotel, nothing to do because I’m not allowed to go out.

And just stay in the room of the hotel.

Ok. What are some of the things that bring you joy? That make you happy?
Internet. And chatting with some friends.

Yeah. Any other things?

Ok. How has life been since you arrived in Europe?
It seemed it would be easier than now,  but when I arrived there, it was more difficult because I have to wait more, a long time. And I don’t know what would happen next. Like now, I’m just waiting for more than 5 months and I don’t know what will happen next. Will I be accepted or rejected?

What’s been good about being here in Europe?
It’s a safe country and there is freedom. I can say, in my opinion. And there is a good environment to study.

Ok. Amazing. What’s been difficult?
The process of asylum seeker. The asylum program is complicated.

And how do you feel about this?
I feel so bad, I’m just waiting as I told you, just waiting, for, for nothing. I don’t know what will happen next. That makes me so worried.

So you were saying that living here made you feel worried about, or like maybe the  asylum process made you feel  worried right?

How does being away from the rest of you family, home, friends back home, make you feel?
I feel so bad about that and I feel so lonely here because I didn’t, I’m not used to it, to live alone.  Yeah.

Yeah. You mentioned before that you have a wife right?
Yeah. My wife

Is she in Yemen?

How does the feeling of, if like if you feel any of these things, like not belonging, discrimination or stigma, impact you? How does that make you feel?  Like how does that affect you in any way?
I feel so bad, because I’m alone.

So do you feel that you don’t belong here?
Sometimes, yeah.

In what way? Can you say more?
Because, well, because you know, I’m on asylum and in many ways they treat me  different than others.


And how does that make you feel?
I feel so bad. It hurts me.

Ok. Sorry to hear that. Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle the situation?
No. In the past I didn’t imagine myself to be here.

Ok. How have you been able to overcome survival to live with this situation?
Now I’m frustrated. I’m just waiting, but  I don’t know what will I do in the future and will I be accepted and to be able to study and to join this community or not?

Ok. Good. Do you think that you developed the ability to deal with these challenges or do you think you always had those challenges or strengths or mechanisms that you’ve been using to survive with the situation? To live with the situation that you are in now? Do you think that you developed them here

after you came to Europe or like you’ve always had these strengths or mechanisms or skills?
I think now I’m more patient than the past and now I get experience how to be patient more and how to deal with difficulties.

Ok. Amazing. And how has COVID-19 affected you in terms of daily life and your mood or feeling or emotional well being?
I couldn’t communicate with people and to be socialize and to improve my English because of the COVID-19. I am isolated in the hotel. Yeah.

Yeah OK. And how did that make you feel?
It makes me feel bad. And COVID-19 even impacted my situation as an asylum seeker because now the process takes a longer time.

Ah, OK, OK. Yeah OK. So now we’re gonna move to talk about your past. Ok, so why did you leave your country?
I left my country because of the war and there was no ability to live and die was everywhere, and sickness and the war, the ballistic missiles and Houthis gang they are killing people and trying to make them work with them as a soldiers, because of that,I left my country.

Can you describe like anything that happened to you specifically or personally, any incident?
I lived near the store of the army, the Saudi airplanes hit that place by ballistic missiles many times a week. So it was so noisy and so dangerous to live in my home.

How did that make you feel at the time?
Nightmares. Whenever I hear an explosion, I feel that the next explosion will be in my home.

So were you scared of it, like all the time?
Yeah, yeah.

Ok. How was the journey to Europe?
It was so difficult. I have been through a very bad…situation.

Is there any experience that was particularly difficult that you could tell us about?
Yeah, dealing with the smugglers and put your life in danger.

Can you tell me more about this, like, can you tell me how you left Yemen and how like, how you dealt with these smugglers, how?
I left Yemen, I was living in Sana’a and I traveled from Sana’a to Aden because it is the only city that has airport.

Yeah, and it wasn’t easy to avoid the checkpoint of the Houthis.

So it took me so long time. And to  Europe I traveled through Ecuador.

From Ecuador?
Yeah. And smuggler did the process of the travel.

So first you traveled from Aden.
To Cairo, from Cairo to Ecuador, from Ecuador to Spain.

Oh wow, OK. Did you use a fake passport to go from Ecuador to Spain? Or was it…
Yeah, a fake passport.

Ok, Ok. Anything difficult about this journey did anything bad happen, anything… like did you feel unsafe? In danger?
They hit me in the airport of Spain. The police of Spain.

Oh my god, yeah?
Yeah, because I am an asylum seeker and I’m Arab. They treated me badly.

So they hit you?

Oh my god. How did that make you feel, at that time?
Very bad and I hated Spain at that moment.

Do you think about these events often, about what happened?
Yeah, yeah. Until now I take medicine to help me to sleep and I go to the GP near my hotel.

Ok, is there like something in particular that you think about very often?
Uh ddealing with smugglers and have been through dangerous things that affect me. I don’t want to go back to these days again. Yeah sure.  Ok does the situation you faced, yeah I asked you about that. You already told me about that. Um, could you could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation? No. To be honest, uh, I didn’t imagine that, but fortunately I made it and I arrived in the United Kingdom. Um, how are you able to survive or get through it? In the past? Um, no like now? Now? Yeah now. How did you handle the effects of the situations lik eof the situations like of the situations or the experiences that you went through? Now I’m taking medicine and I try to whenever that thought came to me, I try to avoid to change my mind to speak with friends, to not think about it anymore. Ok have you, have you created any kind of strategy or coping mechanism to get through the hard times or the difficult memories? SO is there like something you do that like whenever you think you are thinning too much about those things? Uh, listening to music, call one of my friends, to forget that. Ok so that you find strength and support with your friends? Yeah, yeah. Ok so now I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to start your answer with “Before the war, my dream was” ok? So what was your dream before the war started in Yemen? My dream was to… Yeah sorry I just need to interupt you here. I want you to start your sentence with “Before the war, my dream was” ok? Before the war my dream was to expand my business to deal with more people to have a very successful business in Yemen and to build a house in my country. What kind of business was this? A clothes market. But after the war now. I’m thinking to just live and save and dignity to start a new life

Ok, when you were leaving your home country what was your dream for the future? When you were leaving?
My dream was to start a new life and be, to study to just live in a good environment. To not be afraid to die on any day.

Ok so now we got to the last part of the interview ok? I’m going to ask you a few more questions. Before leaving your home country what would you describe as your strength?
My strength?

It was working in the business. So um, I wasn’t that brave to deal with smugglers and to travel in this journey  but the situation put me in that situation. 

Yeah but I’m talking about before you got in that situation, what did you feel like was your strength points?
I don’t understand the question.

LIke were you for example more, let’s say like, more cooperative like with like more active lets say, lets say you were more social, you were…
Yeah before the war I was more social and there was more calm than there now. But now, I am so worried and I can’t think clearly like the past I feel that something worse will happen. I don’t know what is the future will be.

Ok, so you haven’t maintained, haven’t kept these strengths?

Why not? Can you tell me why not didn’t you keep these strengths?
Because what I have been through wasn’t easy. It changed my personality and my thoughts and my dreams as well. Mhmm.  What you have been through seems really difficult. Yeah

Do you feel like you have grown in any way as a result of these experiences that you’ve bene going through?

Like has anything at all positive came out of it?
Uh, I feel like I am stronger than the past because I am more experienced than the past because what I have been through made me d__al. How to deal with difficulties and different mind people

Ok Amazing. What are your hopes and dreams for the future and I want you to start your answer with “My dream is…”
My dream is to study my Master.

Can I just pause it a bit to wait for the….Ok..
My dream is to study for Master and to enhance my language.  

Ok. Um, we really appreciate you answering all these questions. Is there anything you’d like to add to help people in Europe understand the life of refugees here?
Uh, here the asylum seeker and the asylum system not as easy as I thought to be honest. Uh, it need more time and I need to be more patient.

Yeah but what do you want to tell people who don’t know anything about refugees? Um, like what do you want to tell them so they can understand refugees better, and asylum seekers?
It’s not easy as I told you. You just need to be patient. I just need to be patient. Imyself thought it would be easier. I didn’t imagine it would be that difficult and need to be that patient.  

Yes yes I totally understand. Well thank you so much for your answers.
Thank you so much. 

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.