About Refugees, By Refugees
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“My dream was to come back home with a lot of achievements. . . and go back there and help people of my age and my countrymen,” recalls Negin (23), about her thoughts upon arrival in Sweden from Iran. Her brother and mother remained in Iran, and Negin felt “estranged” being apart from them. Still, Negin says that it was worth the struggle so that she and her family could escape the harsh scrutiny that they experienced in Iran: “My family’s past was more focused on by the government there.” Being Kurdish in Iran, she says, is “like it’s a crime.” As a student in Iran, she says she would be forced to practice a religion that was not hers in order to receive a good grade in school. She could not be open about who she was: “You had to hide everything about you.” Now Negin is reunited with her family in Sweden, and wants to find a way to bring work to those in her home country who need it. “My biggest dream,” she says, “has always been to help those who are there [in Iran], as much as I can.”
The first question, in what type of house do you live?
Now, in an apartment, shall I say its size?
No, only the type.
It is an apartment.
Can you please explain its condition a little bit?
It has three rooms, a hall, and there are four of us.
Four people? Can you say who you live with?
Mom, dad, and my brother.
How do you spend your time here? Do you work?
Yes, I work.
What is your job?
IT, admin request, in an IT company that provides IT services to other smaller companies and schools.
What is it about here that makes you happy? What brings joy to you?
You mean generally in Sweden?
Yes. you talked about living here.
Its peacefulness, the opportunities that it gives to people for what they want to do. And you can reach exactly what you want and the goals you have. This is what makes me happy the most.
Next question, how has your life been from the time you came to Europe? What has been good about being here and what have been some problems and difficulties?
Ok, shall I talk about the first experiences that I came to Sweden and how it was? The first thing that caught my attention when I first came to Sweden, was its cold weather. Because it was September that we migrated and came here. And of the things that the first time I entered the airport was weird to me, was that there were two police officers standing in front the door with two big bulldogs. Then I felt a cold breeze on my face that made me feel estranged. It was there that I figured out what had happened. That you are no more … that it is not home here. Then … you asked what things troubled us?
Yes, what has been good about it and what were the problems, from the time you came here?
The good things here were… I was not very disturbed because I was a stranger here. It was because my uncles were here and I had families here, and my uncle’s sons were around me. I wouldn’t feel very much alone. But from the other side, its people, and how to enter the society, especially when I was in a younger age. Being in your 13s is a very sensitive age and one’s personality is just being formed. It was a bit hard to communicate with people in a country where I didn’t know anything about its language and culture.
You didn’t mention what was good about it?
It is so hard. Ah … the things and the opportunities that were provided for us in school … because its system is very different from Iran. It was a harder educational system in Iran and they were more focused on the competitive skill of people in schools. But here, they could find your talents. One has a lot of options to become the person they want to, from the beginning and from the basics. There were extra classes that you could choose like photography, music, besides the main studies. These points were really good. It would help you a lot in finding out who you want to be in the future.
Can you explain how living here makes you feel?
The feeling that it gives is that I feel secure, very much. It means whether it’s employment or education, you can get a lot of support here. It means, it is not like many other systems that you go to work today and they tell you to not come tomorrow, collect your belongings and leave here. There are a lot of laws supporting you… And a lot of opportunities are provided for you. This gives me a very good feeling.
When I asked you earlier how do you feel being far from your family but now that I know you live together with your parents and brother. You said you had the experience before, can you explain how being far from your family made you feel?
Well, first, is there any other question?
A few. When you said you felt lost and not belonging. How did it affect you? Can you please explain this one too?
Well, the first time that I came here, I came with my father and then, after one and half year, my brother and mother came too. The difficult part was that I was very much attached to my brother. I mean, we were very close to each other. He is seven years younger than me but we were emotionally very close to each other. That gap that existed between us, didn’t let me go to his room and hug him any time that I needed. Or, I couldn’t call my mom to ask for things or I needed something, whenever I wanted. This was very bothersome. Especially since I was in my puberty period and girls mostly needed their mothers during that age. This was very bothersome… feeling like a stranger. It took me a lot of time to get used to this. I still do not feel very attached here. It means, it is just because of the support that one receives here or else, I don’t feel very attached to this country and environment because they are culturally very different from us. I kind of, still have remained Iranian, from my personality perspective. Their people have a coldness between each other and there is always distance between its people. They don’t have that warm feeling here. I know that if you ask someone on the street to show you an address and they might come with you until you reach that address, but still people wait until you ask them. They don’t come and help you voluntarily, or talk to you. I mean, for example, you are sitting somewhere crying. No one comes to you to ask why you are crying. Unless you ask that person for help. That is when they help. No one gets engaged in other’s business. This can be both good and bad, for example, in some situations. But it took me five to six years to get used to it, used to here. Here, where I live too.
How did this issue affect you?
I had become more fragile mentally. If you mean this. Its mental impact was that I have become more mentally fragile. I had become so sensitive towards everything. The loneliness was more pronounced.
Were you ever thinking of being able to overcome such situations? Like being in a foreign country. To survive and live with it?
Yes. I always knew that I have a strong personality and can be in such conditions, I knew it. But I didn’t think it would be this much. I mean I wouldn’t think I would be able to cope with the situation at a very young age. To be able to … for example, cope with the situation in the absence of my mother and brother during the first years, until they come. It was hard but I overcame it very well. I mean, I wouldn’t really think that it would pass this easily. Actually, we think it was easy, now that we think about it. But the feelings and the conditions that I had at that age were very different from what I have now. Because a lot of time has passed. But, I knew but I wouldn’t think it to be this way.
Do you think this habit was newly created in you when facing the challenges or you think you had these abilities before; to be strong and cope with it? Or has it been created in you?
Well a part of it existed before. One part of it existed in me because I had grown up very independent from my childhood. But the other part was created in me. It means, as time passed it seems like the difficulties make us stronger. You can overcome the things you thought you wouldn’t be able to. I think it is a habit in human beings that they get used to the problems and challenges that they face, after some time. They adjust themselves with it.
Ok. We will now talk about the past. The next question is about the past and it is; why did you leave your country? Can you please explain what happened?
First of all, the country was Iran. I need to say it before anything else. The reason was that in Iran, there are a lot of limitations if you are a minority. Minority … It was harder for me because both my language and my religion were in minority. And … ah … My family’s past was more focused on by the government there. It was because of my uncles’ family background who were political. It had made the situation harder. I mean … we could not study most of the time at university, most of the time we could not do governmental jobs. It means everything was getting harder for us by living there. And, my father didn’t want us to face all these challenges in that country. I mean he wanted our talents and abilities be somewhere else. Somewhere that has a better situation and opportunities. That is why, my father would talk about going somewhere else when I was younger. It was something that I knew would happen when I was a child. I knew that I would go one day. Anyways, soon or late. That is why, it was not a shock for me. But the main reason was that they made the situation very hard for minorities there and it was not a place to make progress.
Can you please explain what religious and language minority is that? It can be short.
Yes, well, we are Kurd. Being a Kurd was … it’s like it’s a crime. And our religion was Yarsanism, we were not Muslim. That is why it was very hard. That is a lot of pressure on our fellow citizens with the same religion and language. It is not hidden from anyone. Almost everyone knows what incidents happen. Well yeah, it was very hard. When we were going to school, we were not fasting because it was not the time for us to fast. But we were not supposed to eat anything. Then, we could also not tell anyone we are not fasting. Or, in a school where … which was located in our own city, we couldn’t speak our own mother language. Even the teachers couldn’t do that. One thing that I remember, we had a teacher who had the same religion as ours. She would come and sit in the class during the time Muslims were fasting, she was sitting in the class and I would see it in her face, but she couldn’t say anything. She couldn’t show it. One more thing which was very strange was that we had to write “Muslim” in our documents. Shia, not even Sunni. But we had to write Shia so we could study. So this is … very strange. But, you had to hide everything about you. This was one of the biggest problems.
Then, were you studying the lessons that were about …?
Islam, yes. Like religious studies, Quran, the Quran and Arabic tests that they were taking. These subjects were really hard for us. Those class hours would pass very hard. We had to read and pass the things that were not related to you. But you are forced to.
How would these issues make you feel in those times?
It was not a good feeling at all. I even remember one Friday, I was crying and sitting at home, and when they asked me what had happened, I told them that I need to attend the Friday prayers today in order for my teacher to give me a score in my theology class. I mean … I was forced to go to the mosque just because I could get a score in another subject. There were so many constraints. It really had its own special difficulties.
How was your feeling?
It was not a good feeling at all. One gets very sad and it is very hard for us. They do not consider your talents and they force you to do some of the religious practices that are not even related to you. Just because you can earn a score in another subject. This is not good in any part of the world and it does not give a good feeling.
The next question is, if you have had any special trip, you can answer it. But if you have come with an airplane, you do not need to answer.
Yes, we came by airplane.
So you came by air?
Yes. With an invitation letter.
So there is nothing special to talk about?
Do you ever think about these issues? The things that you said? If yes, when? Or is there anything special that you would still think about?
To think about?
Naturally, I review it in my mind that what happened that I am standing in this position now. Most of the times that I get tired of something and when something makes me sad or puts me under pressure, I sit and think to myself that I have passed a lot of difficulties to reach here. And the famous idiom that says “anything that cannot kill you, will make you stronger”, is exactly what I always tell myself, and I try to think positive and look at the positive side of things. But, I review my childhood, the problems we had, and the fact that security services would come each month and take my grandfather with them although he was very old, just to ask him where his sons were. Even after many years that we had come here, they would come and take my uncle with them, in Iran. They would name us, and although we were very young, they would still ask what we do in Sweden? Well, this is very strange, for example. It is concerning and sad, not because of us, because we are here. But because of those individuals who are there and the pressures that they still experience. Most of the time I sit and think about these issues.
How do you feel when you think about it? About the issues that you mentioned.
It is a bad feeling and makes me sad. And at the same time, I try to stay hopeful that the situation might change. One of my biggest wishes is that one day when I go, I should not need to have a luggage and put my homeland and every memory inside that luggage and leave the land that is not my homeland, my home. But, it is a hopeful feeling full of hopelessness that I tell myself that everything will get better one day.
The situation that you had faced before, does it still affect you? If yes, how?
Being affected by the situations that we had before?
You mean if it is affecting me now?
Being affected … well for example, I was very young. It means, I myself had no political background but if I want to go back to that country, I will be under stress whenever I go. I am always thinking that a problem might happen, or something might happen. These concerns never end. It will not be finished until the situation continues like this. But, yes. It has affected me.
Since you were very young, this question might not relate very much since the time you came. The questions ask that were you able to handle that situation?
But since you were very young …
Well, handling it, as I said before, I was thinking that I will be able to handle it. But it was hard exactly because I was young.
How could you live with it and overcome it? Did you create a way or found a strategy to come out of these bad memories? To get rid of the bad memories?
By giving hope to myself. I mean, it was like I had lit a fire and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Something will happen and it will not stay the same forever. And the fact that … I tried to live for myself in a way and set goals in a way that if I go back one day, I would be able to do something for my people. For example, I have tried to not forget what had happened in the past and what it was, the path that I am going. I try to live better and help those that might have a problem living there. This was the only strategy that I had, I think.
What are your strengths and where do you find your supporting points?
I didn’t get it exactly.
Where do you find strength and support?
From my family. From my friends who are like a family that I have chosen myself. And from my hard-work and goals.
The questions that I ask here, as you have already read it, you can start your answer by “my dream was …”. Before these incidents happened and you left the country, what was your dream?
My dream was to become a doctor and a heart surgeon. Well, I knew a lot of people who had heart disease in Iran and I loved to become a heart surgeon and treat everyone for free. This was my dream.
When you were leaving your home, what was your dream for the future? You can start by saying “my dream was”.
It means, what is my dream coming here? When I was leaving there? Yes. While moving. It was to come back with a lot of achievements. My dream was to come back home with a lot of achievements, from the place that I am leaving now. It means with … it was like I wanted to come back and gain a lot of experience. And for example, to be able to find a way, a job, a business, and go back there and help people of my age and my countrymen.
The time that you were leaving?
We are left with three to four questions. Can you explain what your strengths were when you were leaving your home?
It means when I was there?
Yes, before you left. Do you still have them? If yes, how? If not, why?
My strengths. I was very independent from my childhood. Very … I had a supportive personality. I was always trying to help people as much as I could. My strengths … These two were the bold ones.
Do you still have them?
I still have them.
How could you keep them?
Those strengths were actually very empowered by time passing. Because, well, when I came here my situation got better and I could easily pursue my goals. I could do more things for the things that I mentioned, which were my dreams for those who are there. My biggest dream has always been to help those who are there [in Iran], as much as I can. And here, the situation was in a way that I was freer to do something for those dreams. So, that is how I kept them, I empowered them. Being independent was … the time I came here without my mother, which caused me to know myself better and even become more independent. And …with gaining those goals, I could easily help them.
Do you think you got more mature with the incidents that happened to you?
You mean did it make me grow further?
Did it make you grow?
The experiences that I gained. Yes, very much.
Did something positive come out of it?
Yes, it helped a lot. It helped me a lot. It helped me with knowing myself better. I now know what are my weaknesses and what are my strengths, what makes me happy and what makes me unhappy, and it makes me want to follow my happiness more than ever and do the things that make me happy more. The situation I was in, made me grow earlier than my age even in my childhood. Maybe because it was needed and I couldn’t behave the same as some of the people my age. So well, … it made me grow considering …
Please state “my dream is” again. What is your dream for the future now?
I want to start up an IT company. And give the projects that I get here to those who work in Iran, I mean those who work in IT there. We have very wonderful developers there in Iran, who really do not receive what they are worth, because of the situation that they have there. They don’t get compensated the way they should and are worth. I like to run a company and give projects to individuals in Iran.
Thanks for answering these questions.
In the end, is there anything you would like to add that can help immigrants in Europe and to the people who need to understand the situation of immigrants in Europe?
Those who are immigrants, you mean those who are already here and those who are coming …
Those who are already here.
The thing that I would like to say is, it is hard in the beginning. Nothing is easy. Nothing can be achieved without hard-work, struggles and difficulties. They should set goals for themselves. As time passes, better things will happen to them that they had never thought of. It means, it might not come very soon, it might take time, but the time that it takes brings a better outcome, if they really want to have a goal. They should work hard.
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.