About Refugees, By Refugees
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“I want to go to a country to be able to get an education and be able to help the refugees who live in Greece,” says Omid Qarizade (24), a refugee from Afghanistan, who left home to escape conflict and seek a better future. He managed to enter Greece on his first attempt but, like in Afghanistan, is not able to study or find work. He has also not seen his family since leaving home. “It is even like losing our family because I haven’t seen them for seven years. It is very hard for me and it is not clear if I can see them in this life or not.” He says he encounters discrimination as an Afghan. “We are totally exhausted being refugees.” Despite his struggles, Omid volunteers to help other refugees and wants to further his studies to make the best out of life. “It is life, and you can live it in whatever way you want and you can work hard for it.” He says he will be happy when his family is at peace: “when I am no more worried about them in Afghanistan and be able to do something to help them.”
Trigger Warning: Discrimination, death
First of all, if you do not want to answer any of the questions, you can tell me that you do not want to. You can also tell me to stop if you do not want to continue. First, please introduce yourself.
Uh-huh, Ok, is it starting now?
Yes, you can introduce yourself now.
Without any camera? (laughing)
We only take photos.
Uh-huh, Ok. Well…
Keep it close to you so that the voice can be clearly heard.
Ok, no, wait, I wanted to ask where I should start first. Should I introduce myself?
You can start by introducing yourself. Then I will start asking questions.
OK. First of all, hello. My name is Omid and I come from Kabul province. My surname is Qarizadeh and then, please go ahead.
Where do you live and in what type of house do you live in?
And who do you live with?
I am living in Greece now. There is a region called Evangelismos. I am currently living alone.
Have you rented the house yourself?
Can you explain how it is? How is the situation?
The situation now in Greece, as you can also see… Here is not a place to live in. And those who receive an ID and passport, their money is cut off. So you have to leave this country. But when you want to leave the country, you cannot do so with those documents. One cannot leave with social documents and the political ones cannot leave as of recently.
How long has it been since you have received your approval?
It has been six months.
How do you spend your spare time and hours and how do you spend your days?
I sleep the whole day and go out during the night. We go out at night since there is no job. Greece is not somewhere you can work. And when you find a job somewhere, it is only two to three Euros per hour which is neither sufficient nor worth it.
What makes you become a little happy? What should you do to become happy or what makes you happy?
Uh huh, when I am happy… I can become happy when my family is at peace, when I am no more worried about them in Afghanistan and be able to do something to help them.
How has your life been from the time you came to Europe? Did it have anything good or not? What problems did it have for you?
Well, the only good point about it is that you can build your own life here. You can make it when you get an approval and be able to find a good job. But what I see in Greece, one cannot find a good job here and it is very difficult to find a job.
How has your life changed when you came here compared to the time when you were in Afghanistan?
My current life is better than the one I had in Afghanistan because you can do whatever you want since Afghanistan was not a place where you could do anything that you loved to do. You can do what you want deep in your heart.
How about its hardships? Did it have any hardships for you?
It was full of hardships because it has been seven years since I left Afghanistan and immigrated. Also, it has been seven years I haven’t seen my family. I was in Turkey for five years. After Turkey, I came here and it has been two years or two and a half years since I’ve been here. I haven’t done anything yet and I cannot do anything either because my financial condition is very bad and I have got my own problems.
How has living here affected your emotions?
Here? Well, it doesn’t make any difference here for me and it is like Afghanistan because I can neither get an education nor can I work. Here, it is like Afghanistan for me and there is no difference between them. The only good thing about this place is that it is safe.
Can you explain how you felt when you left your family and your home? And how could you cope with it?
Well, when I left my family, I didn’t know anything because I was very young and it was my first time traveling. When we came on this trip, after seven months, we understood that it is even like losing our family because I haven’t seen them for seven years. It is very hard for me and it is not clear if I can see them in this life or not.
Have you ever imagined being in such a situation and being able to manage it?
No, I have never thought about that.
How could you cope with it?
Well, it is life and you can live it in whatever way you want and you can work hard for it. Because I have experienced both its difficulties, its good things and its miseries. We currently have a situation which is not good because wherever we go we can see that there are a lot of Afghan refugees. Now, when we say we are Afghan, they even hate Afghans. They don’t want to have you neither in work nor in other things. We are totally exhausted being refugees.
Do you think the challenges that you have faced and the problems that you have encountered have helped you improve your abilities and created something good in you that you did not before? For example, I want to give an example here. For example, you used to study before and now that you are stuck in this situation, you have become more hardworking and study harder or vise versa.
No, it has been the other way around for me here because we can neither study nor can we work here. When you cannot work you cannot study and you need to have money to study here. You need to have money to live somewhere.
How has Covid-19 affected your life and your emotions? Covid-19, Corona.
Corona has caused just misery, not only for me but for the whole people. And, yeah, we are getting along with it.
Now, I want to ask questions about the past. Why did you leave your country? Can you explain what happened that made you leave your country?
I left my country because it was not safe in the first place. Second, I couldn’t do anything in my country because the money you earn for working in my country for one month is not enough for paying for your own expenses let alone helping your family. These were the problems that I had in my life for which I left my country and came to another country to work but now I have come here and it is worse than that.
How do you feel when you think about those moments . . . when you were forced to leave your country?
Well, when I think about those moments, I would think that it is good that I have left my country. But now when I think about it, I regret it because it was my own country and I could do something if I would try harder. But my country was not safe and I couldn’t live there.
Can you explain your journey to Europe? What happened to you along the way? Can you talk about them?
Uh huh, the journey to Europe. When we started the trip, we first came to Pakistan because, as you know, there are different types of people in Pakistan who come from the mountains and valleys and there are some thieves among them. There were thieves who stopped our car and took our clothes and whatever we had. Then they sent us to Pakistan. We came to Iran after that. We walked for 14 days, through the days and the nights, until we reached Turkey.
From Iran to Turkey, …
It took you 14 days to come from Afghanistan to Turkey?
Did anything happen to you at the Iran and Turkey border?
How about from Turkey to Greece?
From Turkey to Greece… Since I didn’t have the experience of coming to this side, it was my first time and I wanted to give it a try and come here so there was no special problem along the way.
It means you crossed at your first try?
How many people were there in the boat? Did you come with an inflatable boat?
We came with an inflatable boat and there were more than 50 people there. More than 50 people.
When did you come to Europe? When did you enter Greece?
It was late 2016.
How do you feel when you think about those trip?
About the Turkey and Greece route?
Generally, from the time you started your trip, from Afghanistan to here.
Uh huh, generally, we played with our lives. It was a matter of death or life.
How do you feel now when you remember it?
Now when I remember it, it feels like we passed a deadly incident.
Do you mostly think about these incidents?
No, sometimes. Because…
Sometimes on my bed, in my spare time or when I’m sitting at home and those memories pop up in my head.
Then, how does it make you feel when you remember those moments?
Well, that time, I say thank God I came out of those moments alive. When I remember the people who have been killed on this trip, I thank God for being alive and coming out of those dangers alive.
How did the situation that you have faced affect your life?
Its impact on my life, there were a lot of people telling me that Europe is not the place you can go to and it is not a good place to go, it is not a city where you can go and live, it is not a city but a place for psycho people, I wouldn’t believe them but now that I’ve come all the way, I can see that whatever people told were true.
Have you ever imagined coming on this trip, facing its difficulties and being able to manage it?
No, I would never think about it.
How could you cope with the memories of that trip? We all have come along this trip and I know about the difficulties of the road and that the things that happened to us come into our head and bother us. How could you overcome it? Were you able to get help from anyone or was it you who decreased the impact of those memories on yourself?
No, I myself wanted it because I didn’t want to remember the past memories. I myself wanted to forget it.
What strategy did you adopt?
No, generally, when I came here, I first tried to learn the language. Then, I came and worked as a volunteer to help other refugees.
So you kept yourself busy with these things and it helped you?
What dreams did you have for your future before you decided to come here and leave your country?
I wanted to make a future for myself in a way that my past would kneel and salute it. But, unfortunately, it didn’t happen when I came here. I wanted to come here and study and return to Afghanistan with pride, but when I see it here, if I go back…
No, I mean the time you had not decided to come here yet. What was your dream for your future before you decided to start this trip?
I wouldn’t think about such things back then because I was at a very young age. In Afghanistan, as you know, people at the age of 15 or 16 do not think about such issues. Because it is not the right place. There, you are always thinking if you can be alive tomorrow or what you should do tomorrow to feed yourself. You do not think about your future there.
What was your dream at the time you decided to come on this trip?
Well, I made this decision all of a sudden. I had a little argument with my family. Then suddenly, I took my bag one night and left home all of a sudden.
You started without any goal?
Can you explain what strengths you had before you left your country? Have you still kept those strengths?
What does it mean?
In Afghanistan, I am going to give you an example. Some people are very hardworking and some are very smart and clever. Everyone has their own moral habits that make them more successful than others. Did you have such a thing?
Yes, of course. Well…
What was that? Can you tell us about it?
What it was… I am sorry about that, I cannot say it. Yes.
Have you still kept that habit with you?
The trip that you have come through, we all know it was very difficult. Have these difficulties made you become more mature or created any positive point in you?
Definitely. Not less but very much. Because, it is again that proverb. In the past, my father would tell me that such things might happen to you along the way. There are thieves, kidnappers and all types of people out there. I would tell him let it be because I was thinking that he wants to scare me. When I came on the trip, I saw along the way that they had suffocated a lot of people, had taken people’s money away. They stole our money and after that, I said No, whatever they had told me was true. Such things were really happening.
Have you become more realistic now than in the past?
What hopes and dreams do you have for your future and what do you want to do in the future?
Well, I want to continue my studies in the future but I cannot do that in the present country and the current situation where I am in. I want to go to a country to be able to get an education and be able to help the refugees who live in Greece. I want to come back here and help people as a translator or as an assistant.
I am done with my questions here but if you have anything to add to change Europe’s people’s perspectives about the refugees and their situation in Greece and make their situation better, do you have anything to say?
The perspective of the people of Europe, not the refugees. To make Europe ‘s perspective better about the refugees, so that they do not think that refugees are only there to ruin their country or anything like that. To make them change their perspective about us.
Well, I have an example for the people of this country and for the European people. First of all, we are satisfied with them. They are very good people but if they are not satisfied with us, I accept that because I know why they are not satisfied. Because there are good and bad people among each nationality. It is true that we have our own bad people in our country and they have bad people as well. When some Afghans do a bad thing here, they should not think that all immigrants are bad, thinking that they are all the same. No, they are not the same. Also, I want to kindly ask them to see both good and bad. This is what I’m asking of them.
You’re welcome. Thank you.
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.