About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Nasrollah with his hand on his hips and head tilted to the side

Nasrollah Jaffari

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Zahra Gardi

“My dream was to continue my education,” says Nasrollah Jaffari (23) from Afghanistan. He describes how he was threatened by “an armed group in our region who is tyrannical” and, fearful of being coerced into violence, “was forced to make a decision with my family and escape from the region, to run away.” It was, as he puts it, “a matter of life and death.” Yet on the long journey to Europe, he recalls, “there were a lot of difficulties … I have seen people losing their lives.” Memories of this time are still with Nasrollah, especially first thing in the morning and at night. “Being far from all my family members is really hard,” he says, but it is also his family who keep him strong: “My morale has not been harmed and I try my best.” Now in a camp in Greece, “the worst possible situation for a human being,” Nasrollah feels “hopeful about the future.His dream is a career in sport, he says, to help “my family, then my surroundings, and then to help people who are truly in need.”

Trigger Warning: Death, violence, rape.

full interview

Hello, can you please introduce yourself and tell us your name, your last name, how old you are and where you are from?
I am Nasrollah Jaffari, 23 years old and I am from Afghanistan. 

Where do you live now?
I am currently living in the new Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos Island (in Greece). I was in Moria camp before, which caught fire. I am currently living in Kara Tepe camp. 

Can you tell us about the situation of the camp where you live now? How is it?
I can summarize its condition in one sentence, and that is that it is the worst possible situation for a human being, for a society. Since 12,000 people are living there, it can be called a society. Even the most minimal medical facilities are not available there. 

Can you tell me who you live with?
I live with “Energy” team members. We have a sports team where we exercise together as well as live together in one tent. 

Can you tell me what you are busy with [these days], and how you spend your days?
My days … When I wake up in the morning, I mostly think about my memories of Afghanistan, the hardships, and the journey I made. After that we have breakfast. Later on, I go to this small organization. It is a small gym which is called Yoga Sport. I could say that I spend my whole day in this gym doing sports exercises, and don’t have any other special activities to do.

What do you enjoy doing the most? 
Doing sports. 

Can you tell me how life has been in Europe? Has it been a good life for you or a bad life? Please tell us how it has been.
Life in Europe, from when we arrived here, it has been almost one year since I have been living here. Naturally, it has not been satisfactory. We are still in a camp where we are refugees. Our immigration request (asylum application) is not clear yet and we are living in uncertainty. It has not been good so far. 

How has living in such conditions affected you?
Life has taught me that I must be strong, I should be bold, and I should be more independent. 

How has being far from your country and homeland affected your emotions? Being far from your family? Has it harmed you or does it make no difference for you? Could you explain?
Naturally, it is very hard emotionally. Being far from my father, my mother, my friends, family, relatives and comrades, being far from all my family members is really hard. But ahhhh … thank God, we are in touch through phone calls, and we are in touch through social media. It is hard now but I try to … No, I have got a good spirit, thank God. My morale has not been harmed and I try my best. 

Could you tell me if you ever imagined being in such a condition before? For example, the long waits in Moria camp and the situation that you have now. Would you have ever imagined it before, or not?
From the time I decided to come to Europe and immigrate, when I was forced to leave Afghanistan, become separated from my family, I had accepted all the difficulties. For example, during our trip, from the Afghanistan border to Iran, from Iran to Turkey and from Turkey to this place, I saw death in front of my eyes three times. I saw people being killed. 

Can you tell me if corona disease, the COVID-19 pandemic, has affected your daily life or not?
No, it has not affected my life. My only concern is for my family. My father and my mother are old, and they are far from me, they are in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the place where we live is Daykundi province, Ishtarlay district, where there are really very few amenities. My only concern is for my father and mother and my family, that I am far away from them. 

Has this situation taught you anything? Do you think it has bettered or worsened your personality? For example, do you think you were patient before or have these difficulties made you more patient? Or have they taken that patience from you? How is it for you?
Ahhhh, the situation and the difficulties have all given me experience. I have gained a lot of experience and it has taught me to be much more hard-working, to be much more patient, and to put my trust in God. 

So it had a positive impact on you, not a negative impact?
Yes. Yes, one hundred percent. 

Can you tell me why you left your country? What was the reason that you left your country?
There is an armed group in our region who is tyrannical. I don’t know which party or group they belong to. I don’t know whether they are [allied with] the Taliban or the government. I don’t know who they are but they are thieves and tyrannical and do not obey any rules or any person. They do not obey the government and the government does not have any control over them. 

From the time I grew up till I graduated from 12th grade and got my diploma, they would come to our house and would tell my father that he has five children, five sons, so he should give one of his sons to work for them. What type of work? They can do anything with that child, including [using him to commit] theft, loot, rape and any other things. That is why I made the decision not to work with them, [but] if they were to hear a negative answer, they might do something to us. It could result in my life being taken. Therefore, I was forced to make a decision with my family and escape from the region, to run away. 

Well, you said you have other brothers as well. What happened to them?
I have one brother who is older than me. He is older and has a family. They cannot take him because he has a wife and children. There is another [brother] who is younger than me; he is very small. He cannot provide anything to them. That is why I could only take myself out. 

Can you tell me how you were feeling when they told you either have to come with us or we will kill you?
I had always loved to study from the time I was a child. My dream was to continue my education. I always used to sit with my mother and she used to tell me that your father is illiterate so at least you should study since your elder brother is also illiterate. He is doing construction work. She would tell me that I should study so that I would be able to at least improve my own life. Her words were carved in my mind. That is why, when they requested such a thing [from me], their request was pivotal for me, it was a matter of life and death. If I had to go with them, all my dreams would be destroyed. Then, I would just become one of the members of a tyrannical group who were thieves. 

It was the opposite of what your mom had told you?
Exactly. It was the opposite of my dreams. Therefore, it was either life or death for me, that I chose to take another way. 

Can you tell me how your trip was toward Europe? Do you have any good or bad memories from your trip that you would like to tell us?
When my travel towards Europe started from Afghanistan until I reached here, I almost saw death with my own eyes three times in three different borders. I saw people who died throughout this journey. 

How long did it take you to come from Afghanistan to Turkey?
I came to Iran from Afghanistan. Ahhhhh, it took 15 days in total until I reached Iran. During this trip, we rode Toyota cars which are like Nissan cars with open backs for three days. They would put 30 people into those cars, seating people very close to each other. Sometimes they would tell us to stand up in those cars, and other times they would ask us to sit down, and we would travel that way. It was not a direct route, we would take different roads from the mountains and the deserts. There were people who fell off the car and died. I survived all of these dangers and … ahhhh, it took us 15 days to arrive in Iran. 

How were you feeling when you saw people dying?
My feeling was that I have chosen my path. It is not important to me. I have accepted all of the dangers. When I have accepted to be far from my family, then it makes no difference to me if I also encounter all these difficulties. I have to move forward. 

How about those people who were dying? When you saw their families and what had happened to them, how would you feel? What would you do?
I would help them as much as I could. For example, there were people on the way who had no money left in their pockets, and could not afford to buy anything. Because the smugglers would provide only a little amount of food to us, and would sell it at a high price. There were people who would run out of money and would starve to death. I helped them as far as I was able to, in a way so as to keep myself alive and be able to help them too. 

How often do you think about the incidents that have happened to you during your journey? For example, when …?
The hardships I faced during my journey make up my everyday life from the time I got separated from my family. There are things that make me stay stable, make me become stronger, make me hopeful about the future. I have already passed all these difficulties so it is not important to me what difficulties I may face in the future. 

When do you mostly think about it? Is there any specific moment, like when you are alone or when you are sad or happy?
Right when I want to go to sleep because naturally, one cannot immediately go to sleep [when they lie down]. It comes into my head right then, like a dream. 

You go through all of those incidents in your mind?
Exactly, it is remembered and comes into my mind. 

Can you tell me how you feel when you go through them in your mind?
There were a lot of difficulties on the journey I made. It is not a good feeling. It is not a good feeling because I have seen people losing their lives. I witnessed [these moments] myself and I don’t have a good feeling about it.

You get sad, right?

Can you tell me how the situations you encountered have affected your current emotions? How has it been [for you]?
The situations that I overcame, I can say that in one sentence. These situations have made me stay strong now. 

So it has taught you to persevere through the difficulties?
To persevere. 

Can you tell me if you had ever imagined being able to overcome all of these problems and tolerate them? Considering being alone in such a condition.
No, I had never imagined it. 

What do you think has made you stay strong?
In the beginning of all these problems and of being far from my family, when I took the decision to get separated from my family, I decided to be ready for all types of problems. 

So it has been your family that has kept you strong?
Yes, one hundred percent. 

When you were a child and all these incidents had not happened yet, and you had not immigrated yet, could you tell me what was your dream or goal for the future or for yourself?
My mother was telling me the story that when I was a ten-month-old infant, my family was forced to immigrate from Afghanistan to Iran. So, I have been an immigrant from the time I was ten months old. We came to Iran and stayed there for about six to seven years, and then the family decided to go back to Afghanistan when Karzai’s presidency started. Therefore, immigration has not changed anything for me because…

Because you became an immigrant from the beginning of your life.
Right, I became an immigrant from the beginning of my life. 

Then, when you started learning how to read and write, you should have had a dream for yourself. What was that dream?
Naturally. My dream was to become a well-known person one day, to one day be able to help weak people. 

It didn’t matter in which area? Like in sports, politics, arts, etc.?
It doesn’t matter. But now, my field is sports. I have chosen the path of sports so that I can move forward and reach higher positions through sports. In the first place my family, then my surroundings, and then to help people who are truly in need, to be able to take their hands [and help them]. This is my dream. This is my goal. 

What was your goal and dream for the future when you were leaving your country? For yourself now and for your future?
The time I took the decision to be far from my family, there was a request from that group. I sat with my mother and asked her what I should do and how I should cope with such a situation [that I was about to face]. My mother said that she also cannot cope with it. That is why, I took that decision at that time to follow my dream that I had from my childhood, regardless of any expense it might have for me. 

Now, I am done with my questions. Do you think there was a special part in your life or something that I have not asked you about and you would like to share? Or if there is any advice you want to give to people your age, the young immigrants or the young people your age in Europe who do not know anything about immigration. You can share it here if you have anything to add.
Yes, I have something to say in short. To the young people who are in Afghanistan and plan to immigrate to Europe, I advise them that if they want to come to Europe, try to avoid coming. Unless they are forced to, they should try not to leave their families. They should at least not leave their country. They should try to build their own country, stay with their families, it is truly hard. They should not do it because it is really hard to stand against all of these problems. It is possible for them to get addicted to drugs due to mental pressures and destroy their lives. I have seen a lot of such people. When the mental pressures are increasing, they get addicted to drugs, and ruin their lives while their families are on the other side. I have seen people in this Moria camp who have got involved in fights with other people due to mental pressures. They have lost their lives, for example. They have fought with knives and such things, and have lost their lives. It is true that they have been under mental pressure but they did not have the strength so they lost everything in the end. It is hard for their families and worse for themselves. I advise them to not travel to Europe until they are forced to. 

My advice to those who hear my voice in Europe and those who actually can do something, please, for the sake of humanity, if there is even a little humanity in them, try to imagine themselves for one day and one night and for one minute to be in the shoes of those who are in this new camp that the Greek government made for immigrants across the river and beach, where we experienced the first rain yesterday. There are families whose tents drowned into the water. I don’t know how they spent the night with infants, women, children, pregnant women. In summary, if there really is any sense of humanity in them, I want them to please take action for these people. I am not saying it for my own benefit, I am saying it for the people whom I see here and it is troubling me. Thank you. 

You’re welcome and thank you for allocating your time for us.
Thank you for allocating your time. 

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.