About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Nasir wearing a green jacket

Nasir Ahmad Ahmadi

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Asif & Shawiz Tamimi

“My only enjoyment now is my family,” says Afghan asylum seeker Nasir Ahmad Ahmadi (37). As Hazaras, his family faced the threat of persecution in Afghanistan, prompting them to flee to Iran. But life there presented other challenges: discrimination, trouble obtaining legal residency, and the fear of being deported to Afghanistan. After Nasir Ahmad was arrested twice, he and his pregnant wife left Iran and embarked on a journey to Greece. “I had no idea what difficulties would lay ahead,” he recalls. On the way, a car accident left his wife with a broken shoulder. It took days for them to obtain medical care. Looking back on these experiences, he says, “We have become nervous, all the family. We become easily agitated and are stressed. Today, Nasir Ahmad lives in a refugee camp with his wife and little daughter. “We are hoping that somewhere accepts us finally, that finally we have a job and a life, ” he says. “Right now, my dream is that I get approved somewhere, with peace.”

Trigger Warning: Death, violence/murder, discrimination

full interview

Can you start by introducing yourself?
Nasir Ahmad Ahmadi
From which country are you?
I am originally from Afghanistan, the capital of Sharan.
How old are you?
I am 36, going on to 37.
In what kind of housing do you live?
In a container home, in the camp. We are two families in a container home and we have lots of problems.
Please explain briefly how the condition is?
The condition… There is no attending! And for example, you go to see a doctor, I have its picture too, it took them 3 months to get me an appointment.
How is the attendance to administrative tasks or the problems in the container home or the camp?
There is not much attendance, they say that you got to be grateful that you’ve come to this place from Moria, and we say we are grateful, what else can we say? It is not like we have any power.
With whom do you live here?
With… Do you mean my own family?
My wife and my daughter.
You said there is another family in the container home, right?
Yes, another family of four live there as well. A man with his wife, a daughter, and a kid.

How do you spend your time here? Do you have work that you get paid for?
By God, no! Nothing, we just go around day and night, what can we do? There is no course, no entertainment, nothing, with the corona happening at the moment.
Exactly how do you spend your time?
Nothing, we make calls on the telephone, what else can we do? (laughs)
Tell me exactly if there is anything good here that would make you happy?
If there were any courses. So that we can learn the language. We have been living here as strangers for 2 years and have learned only a few Greek words.  We haven’t learned much because there hasn’t been any course. We have pursued it, have written letters, there is no attendance. If they would create any clubs or workshops that we could join and so we could use the skills that we have. So that it would benefit both them and us.

Is there anything specific that would you make happy as a person?
My only enjoyment now is my family, that are at peace now.  That is my happiness.
How has life been for you since you have reached Europe or Greece? Tell me, what has been difficult, what has been good?
Well, there have been lots of difficulties. In Moria, for example, we were 3 in a container home, they gave us a space of 1.5 meters. The size of 1.5 X 2 meters. And there was not much care there either. There were lots of difficulties until we reached here.
Well, briefly, what were the good things? What changes have been made that you mentioned as positive?
Well, the changes are that our place expanded to 3 meters from 1.5 meters!
No, I mean from the past?
Aha, from when we were in Iran and have reached here! We are hoping that somewhere accepts us finally, that finally we have a job and a life. I have skills myself for example, I can work and get things done, if they just accept us and treat us like a human, without any racism, if they would just tell us that we are the same. That they‘d say this person can work as well, he is a human being, the same job that the other person is doing he can do as well, the document that the other person possesses, he owns as well. Then of course we wouldn’t have any problems. This is what we really want. We came only for this purpose.

Can you describe how living here feels for you?
Life… I pass my days and nights with the hope that life will come better in the future.
Do you have a feeling of hope?
That’s it, I am hopeful!
Can you tell me how it feels for you to be far from home and family?
It is very difficult. Here, for example, there are so many other problems, but while the hope for the future lasts, we remain calm {mumbling …}
This feeling that you mentioned is hard to bear, has it distinctly affected you?
Yes, it has, how is it possible that it doesn’t? There is a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot… in the situation that we are in, we have a lot of anxiety.
Did you ever imagine yourself in these situations, camp, container home, being with 2 other families and to be able to overcome all these problems?
Well, I thought we would reach somewhere, and all would be over soon. I never thought these situations would exist even in my dreams, that for example it’d be this crowded, there’d be such problems, we didn’t see it even in our dreams. We would say we reach anywhere in Europe, and they don’t have racism. When we get accepted, they would say you are a human being, and as a human being they don’t care what your beliefs or religion are, they don’t care about your race, we thought they would accept us as a human being. We thought it this way and I am still hoping that is still true, but we have seen a lot and the camps are difficult.
How did you overcome all these problems? If you could tell me what capabilities you see in yourself? What is your supportive power?
I didn’t understand exactly what you meant.
For example, you might see an ability in yourself, that you might be hardworking, for example, which of your abilities enables you to overcome the problems?
I tolerate them for the future. Wherever that we go… well I used to have a job, only we did not have a secure future, there is no future there. I haven’t lived in Afghanistan, but I have heard that there is racism there. My father for example, the things that they have done to my father {he doesn’t say what} just because he was a Hazara. That’s the situation there, and similarly in Iran, there is racism as well. They keep calling Afghani, Afghani and they are not allowed to work and or to go to school. Well, we thought here it would be better. That my daughter can learn the language and be like them and be able to study and go to school. This was our hope, and we thought that we’d go and work.
Do you think you acquired the skills to tackle these challenges, did you get used to them, or did you always were facing these challenges? Or even worse ones?
Well, I had all these stresses in Iran as well. We had all these stresses in Turkey as well. On the way with the smugglers there are lots of worries and anxieties. Compared to the anxieties of the journey, thank God, here is less. Here, there is anxiety of being approved.
What would you say about the Coronavirus? How has it impacted your life, your mood, your feelings, and behaviour?
One problem is that, hmmm, when we are in an environment, there used to be a course and or you could go out freely, and now you are banned from those. The doors are closed on you. It gives you a depressive mood…
Why did you leave your country? Can you please briefly explain what happened?
Well, we of course didn’t leave Afghanistan. My father told me long ago that Taraki took my grandfather and buried him alive, and we were scared and escaped to Iran. And we were in Iran, until the year of 2010, they told us that Afghanistan is now secure, the U.S is there, Karzai is there, it is safe. If you want, you can go back. He left for Afghanistan and until Herat I remember that he did call us. In Herat he called us and said he is going to Kabul, with bus or minibus, and from then and there our communication had stopped until now. He used to tell us that there are Talibs along the way, and I suspect that maybe the Talibs have taken him during the journey. He is missing, we don’t know if he is dead or alive. And all along, we have been in Iran and never seen Afghanistan.
And so, why did you leave Iran?
Iran, well… We didn’t have any documents. When I went toward Kuwait and came back; they didn’t give me any documents. Once or twice the police arrested me, and I bribed them. I said it is better to leave before they arrest me for the third time and deport me to Afghanistan, because I had seen what happened to my grandfather and father there as well, the racism that exists there against the Hazara and the killing of the Shias. I said, Let’s leave here.
How was your situation in Iran? What made you leave?
We didn’t have documents as I said, the police arrested me twice, and it was good that they took bribes, if they didn’t, it was uncertain where we would be now.

How did you feel when you were leaving Iran?
It was hard to begin the journey not knowing what awaits you in the future. But we decided to get going, we said our hope is in God and we will move forward, and good things will happen.
You were hopeful?
Yes, I was.
How was your journey towards Turkey, can you talk about the things that happened along the journey with the smuggler?
By God, it was hard. In the midst of the journey we had an accident with our motorcycle, on the way from Iran to Turkey. The police signalled to our motorcycle, the driver didn’t stop, a truck came along, hit our motor in the back, broke my pregnant wife’s shoulder, and my own hand was cut. We were in a very bad situation. Two nights with the broken bone situation they left us alone in the field. They were scared to take us to see a doctor. And I have videos of it with me, that we were left all alone in the field. It was hard, but we had started the journey, I wanted to turn back, I told myself maybe it is better, maybe it’s not in our destiny to go ahead, but then we saw that they didn’t take us back. They {the smugglers} said now that we’ve brought you here, we won’t turn you back. In Turkey we made it to a hospital and they healed us.
How long were you on the way from Iran to Turkey?
Three days, almost three days.
How was your journey from Turkey to Greece? Did you go through land?
No, we came through the sea route. That was hard too. In the dormitories of Turkey, we had to sit for 6, 7 or 8 hours; 30 to 40 people in an enclosed motor {don’t know what motor refers to here.}. The sweat gathered from above…. We went twice to the shore and came back. The third time we came again, and we reached. The Greek police came and took us.
How long were you in the water last time?
Almost 2 hours, 2.5 hours. Because we didn’t have a watch. All the phones were disconnected. I am saying this from my own feelings of the past time. Approximately.

If you tell me briefly, how did you feel with all the bad and hard incidents through the journey?
Nothing, we just said God whatever you have written for us. We have started this journey with the hope that good things happen for us. Now that you have written these to happen to us, we accept them. What else can we do? Because we didn’t have a place to return to as well. We said we must go ahead, my wife’s documents were not in good order as well, we said if both of us don’t have proper documents in Iran, then we will be in trouble. There was one way only at that time, and that was to go to Syria and fight so that we give you 10-year residency. But we didn’t go.

Do you often think about the incidents of the journey? Is there a special thing that makes you think about those difficulties?
Whenever there is a noise, suddenly I am reminded of all that happened on the way. Every once in a while my wife has nightmares about the incidents from Iran to Turkey. There are problems.
When you think about those, how do you feel?
I feel anxious.
How have all those incidents affected you?
We have become nervous, all the family. We become easily agitated and are stressed. I think this is the same for me, my wife and daughter. We will get better over time.
Did you ever imagine yourself amid these struggles? I mean did you ever imagine these situations?
No, not even in my dreams. That it’d be like this.
You mean that you weren’t even prepared for overcoming it?
We didn’t know any better at the time that it would be like this. We thought we’d begin the journey, we’d sit inside a motor, walk for 2 or 3 hours, then we would go and sit somewhere else… Well, we didn’t have any perception of all these troubles.
How do you think you’ve become capable to tackle all those challenges, and reach here successfully?
The fear of deportation from Iran to Afghanistan. Whenever I thought about it and I even told my wife if God forbid Afghanistan captures us, what will happen to us. We don’t have anyone, we don’t know anybody there, nothing. There may be Talib who captures us and kills us. So, we thought about all this and said we don’t have a way back and the only way for us is forward. We said there is death on both sides.

Considering all those struggles that have affected you, what is your own plan to enable you to forget those bad memories and incidents so that their effects are eliminated?
My plan is to be accepted wherever that is possible. After acceptance, we’d put our efforts into taking courses to learn the language of that country. And after that you’d be absorbed in a job slowly, and overtime it would be forgotten. You can’t do it in a very short time. Whatever anxieties that you have, very slowly over time would melt away without you realizing it.
Let’s go back again to the past, those times that you still hadn’t planned to migrate to Europe, what was your dream for the future?
My dream was…. We were in Iran. That we be in peace of course, they don’t call us Afghani. That we’d get proper documents; my baby was born there and that she could go to a proper school. Not like all those other people who weren’t able to study. For example, the other Afghans that have come to Europe, they too have come from Iran. In Afghanistan we are a tribe that has been subjected to much cruelty, we have been oppressed there, there are a lot of problems for us there. The condition in Iran that we thought is a Muslim country, is even worse. Someone has left Iran for Sweden and is now a boxer. Another has left for Germany and has become an excellent painter. Someone else has become an excellent doctor. And yet another one has become, for example, a great soccer player. Well, what hope would you have if you stayed?
What dreams did you have for yourself? Personally?
Personally, to get my documents to get somewhere and work properly. They wouldn’t let me work there, they said we wouldn’t permit an Afghani to work. If you don’t have a work permit, how would you work? Would you work illegally so that the boss would not give you what is your right? My wish was to get proper documents. So that if the police came, I could confidently tell them, this is my documents, this is my work! But there was no such thing! This was exactly my dream!
What was your dream the moment when you decided to leave your country?
So that my daughter, at that moment she wasn’t born… I thought at that moment anywhere we go, we go find it. I didn’t know there would be problems that prevented us from reaching somewhere. I had no idea what difficulties would lay ahead. I thought we would arrive somewhere, and I could get a house for myself, I would get a job, I would get citizenship documents… I have heard stories about people in Europe, that they have become boxers, athletes, manual workers, doctors, engineers… I said we have money, and we go and get approved. Our life will improve, and my little daughter will have a great future. And we live happily together. So, there wouldn’t be daily anxiety and fear that any moment the police might arrest and deport us. It was for all these reasons that we started our journey.
Before leaving your country, Iran, what capabilities did you think you had in you?
What was your job there?
Because we didn’t have documents, with another person’s birth certificate I had found a job somewhere that was really growing, some work related to car radiators. Then my boss saw that the clients were growing, and after 2, 3 year he asked me to leave the job. I left and went and did some construction work. Not exactly construction work, but the electrical job prior to the plastering. After that, I got into some woodwork, MDF for kitchen cabinets and things like that. That was a little bit better. There weren’t that many police in that job, and I had less fear.
If you have the opportunity, do you still see those abilities in you?
Yes, I do.
Do you think you have acquired any positive experience or outcome from all the incidents and struggles of the journey?
I don’t get what you mean.
Has this journey added any experience for you?
Yes, of course, it has been an experience by itself.
What good things have you experienced apart from all the challenges? Was there any good thing or not?
One good thing was that it strengthened my faith.
Faith in what?
In God. That he sees you. Well, we have seen all the difficulties, there are a lot who drown, a lot who die on this journey. Hence we thank God, it was his protection that we have reached here. And we are healthy, praise be to God.
Now, what is your dream for the future? Right now.
Right now?
Right now, my dream is that I get approved somewhere, with peace. That I continue to do the job that I have been doing for many years. This is my dream, that I can have a peaceful life.
Thank you for answering all the questions patiently, for the last question, although it’s not a question, what message do you have for the other people? For the European people? Say something to the people of the world that are witnessing the crisis of the refugees so they can better understand their situation.
My message is that judge every person with his own doing, not with what the rest have done generally. See that person, his background, and don’t debase the whole group based on the faults of a single individual. People are a mix, judge every person based on his own individual behavior.

Can you explain why they shouldn’t judge everyone based on an individual?
Because people are mixed and there are all sorts of them, there is someone who for example has been in a more difficult situation and his thoughts are a little more messed up. Another has had better conditions and his thoughts are different, yet there is another who fights and does inappropriate things. Not everyone should be judged based on these. For example, if you go to Iran, there was a person called ‘the night bat’ he caught astray women, raped them, poured acid on them, and murdered them. They said he was Afghani, and just with calling him that, the Iranian attacked a lot of the Afghani people, threw them off the roofs and killed them, broke their limbs, they invaded their houses and hit many and at the end they found out that he had been Iranian all along. Don’t judge too quickly. Judge every individual based on his own actions.
So that nothing would happen that you’d regret later.
Yes. I have come just for my own peace and that of my family’s. We haven’t come here to make any problems. I haven’t come here to be judged by the actions of others. I just wanted to say you should differentiate between people.
Thank you very 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.