About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Morteza smiling while holding a child in his arms

Morteza Rezaie

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Photo and interview by:




Mahdiyh Haidari

“Having no security in Afghanistan was an issue for us… As well as there was clan discrimination,” says Morteza Rezaie (30) who identifies as part of the Hazara ethnic minority group. “They have restricted Hazaras in all ways,” he says, adding that being Christian added another layer of conflict with his family. So Morteza, his wife, and two children left Iran, where they had been living, for Greece. “The route that we came through water felt like we died once,” he recalls. Being far from family has also made him feel homesick and sad, he says, but focusing on his children’s future helps: “One day my son can become a scientist, a good student, or a good and useful citizen in society, and this gives us hope every day.” He also has dreams for his career: “My dream for the future is to get accepted here and… Continue my education at a senior level and be a teacher and achieve all the things I had in my dream,” he says. “I don’t want my dreams to be buried in my chest and not reach them.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Can you introduce yourself? 
Hello, I’m Morteza Rezaei and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m 30 years old.

What type of accommodation do you live in now? 
Now we live in an organizational house owned by the UN.

Could you explain the conditions of it? 
The conditions… In each house, two families live there and we are four people and there’s another family with us. Eight people living in a house.

Who do you live here with? 
Me and my wife and my two children.

How do you spend your time here? Do you work? 
Unfortunately, since we don’t have an ID, we don’t have a work permit and in Greece, the work rules are really hard and the work fields are low.

And how do you spend your time? 
Since it’s COVID now, we don’t go to school and we’re mostly at home and study online through the internet.

What things make you happy?
Our happiness… it’s mostly… the aim that we have chosen in our lives and continue it and finally reach it. My aim is to be able to study and have a good future for my children and this really makes me happy if I can reach my aim. 

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been? What was difficult for you and what was good for you? 
Here… we have security and it has been really good for us. The second step is that in the difficult conditions of the camp, where we were there for around eight to nine months… it was really difficult. Our children haven’t studied as well and even we couldn’t study. This annoyed us a little. 

Can you explain how living here has made you feel? 
Living here, unfortunately… since there are a lot of immigrants, the government can’t handle much, and rights such as human rights and other rights get trampled easily just like in Iran.

What feeling do you get being away from your family members or home and how has it affected you? Can you explain? 
Being far from family… anyone that becomes far from their family will get a feeling of homesickness and sadness but since we didn’t have any security, we were forced to leave and our family is still in Iran. We get the feeling of homesickness but we were forced to. 

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition? How were you able to overcome this condition and live?
Since… when a person immigrates, it’s completely natural for their rights to get trampled on. There might also be places that are cold or places that are hot, anyway, until our condition in the country isn’t settled, we have to cope and overcome these difficulties. We didn’t imagine it but it has been a year and three months that we are living here on this island. 

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had the strength to cope with these issues? 
Well from before… Since we lived in Iran and experienced immigration… but maybe the immigration is different and the system of immigration is different for each country but in Iran, it has been around 28 years that I lived there and was able to experience a normal life after 28 years despite having some difficulties at some points. Here was also almost the same as in Iran but the camp really annoyed us.

How has corona affected your emotional and spiritual daily life? 
Corona, well, the first step is to be healthy which is the first thing a human need to have. And corona is all over the world and it has had a bad impact on us but we are forced to stay at home and not be in society until the disease is completely gone… And it’s for all of us but unfortunately corona…

Why did you leave the country? Can you describe what happened? 
Our country, well, as you know, there has been a war in Afghanistan for several years and in our country, the war has made all of us lose our morals and not be able to predict anything for our future because we don’t have any security. In the first step, we didn’t have security and in the second step, we were Hazara. And the Hazara in Afghanistan can’t have good skin, and can’t become president. They have restricted Hazaras in all ways and apart from country-level security, we didn’t even have national security the last step is that personally I’m a Christian and I had problems with my relatives. I had problems in all loops, imagine the first loop being the security of Afghanistan, the second loop which was tighter was the national security, and the final loop which is the tightest was from my family and relatives. If a person was Christian, he would have a lot of problems in all frameworks.  

What feeling did you have at that time when everything happened? 
During that time, when I saw that having no security in Afghanistan was an issue for us, and many were killed, as well as there was clan discrimination, unfortunately. On the other hand, there were religious and personal issues that we had in Afghanistan. 

How was the journey to Europe? How did you come to Europe? Did you have any specifically difficult experiences that you can tell us? 
The trip to Europe, in my opinion, the route that we came through water felt like we died once. As in, we experienced death when we were in the water. We personally… in dreams we’ve actually seen these scenes for example sometimes people die in water or have an accident. It’s just a dream. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll see that you’re healthy and everything’s fine but when you’re awake and see these dreams, in my opinion, is really hard. For example, you’re in the water, and when you are awake and you think for a second that you will fall into the water and you can’t do anything about it, and at that time you’ve experienced death in the water and I think this was the biggest experience in my life.

What feeling did you get at that time? 
The feeling that we got at that time, was to give ourselves hope and say things like once we pass through this water, then we won’t have to experience the wars that we had in Afghanistan. In the country that we will reach either Greece or Europe, we won’t have war, clan discrimination, or racial threats and dangers. These gave us hope to overcome that difficulty. 

Do you often think of these incidents that happened? When do you think about these? Is there anything specific that you think about often?
Now, most of the time, the thing that’s engraved in our minds… The difficulty that we faced might not be forgotten but it may fade. When we… for example reach our goals like experiencing life without any danger, it might fade away but it will never be forgotten from our minds. 

What feeling do you have when thinking about them? 
When thinking about them, we think about how unaware we were at that time and we thought everything would be over after we reach but nothing changed. We are still immigrants and in camps. It was more difficult than in Afghanistan but we at least had security.

Has the current condition that you faced had an impact on you? How? 
The current condition that we have at the moment with respect to Afghanistan, is a bit better because there’s no longer war around us and this gives us a bit of hope that we are in a place that has security and this is giving us more hope in life. 

Did you ever imagine coping with this situation? 
Well, we never imagined that it would take a year or a few years for the immigrant case to complete and no one can estimate how long they will be in this uncertain condition. Give or take, we have been immigrants here for a year and a few months and we have coped with all of its difficulties.

How were you able to get along and move on from these conditions? Did you have any strategy or mechanism to overcome the difficult days and memories? Where did you get the spiritual strength and support?  
Mostly, the fact that we are mainly thinking about our children and we personally are people where half of our life is just gone, we have another half of our life and despite that, we are going to continue under all circumstances. But our main focus is the future of our children and this gives us hope. For example, one day my son can become a scientist, a good student, or a good and useful citizen in society, and this gives us hope every day. 

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country? 
Our first dream was to… For example, security to be there in Afghanistan and to live under the umbrella of security to be closely acquainted with all relatives, neighbors, and friends and to be kind to everyone. Our dream was this, to have peace and security. Our second dream was to increase my knowledge since I’m a teacher myself and I wanted to go to higher levels such as university professors, not just a random teacher in an institute. These were my dreams in Afghanistan.

What are the hopes and dreams you have now for the future? 
My dream for the future is to get accepted here and start to live here from scratch and continue my education at a senior level and be a teacher and achieve all the things I had in my dream. I don’t want my dreams to be buried in my chest and not reach them. I also want to create and have a good life here.

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.