About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Parsa hiding his face with his hands standing against a colourful painted wall

Parsa Rad

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hannan Dormiyani

“How do you call it living when they feed you three times a day and you’re not allowed to work or live?” asks Parsa Rad (pseud, 32). An Iranian currently living in a Sarajevo refugee camp, Parsa left his country due to “work problems and political issues.” He describes the “harsh conditions and treatments” on his journey to Europe, arriving in Greece and being forced back to Turkey without clothes, and the mental strain of being “without purpose in life, without work, without happiness, displaced, far from family, and away from my children.” This limbo has now lasted five years and his resilience is being tested: “I have always been a person that could stand on my feet,” he says, but “for the past five years we’ve been trying in vain to start from scratch again.” Despite this, Parsa clings to his “small ray of hope for the future. This hope gives me the power to do something later.” He dreams of creating “a safe place for my family and myself… Overall, to be able to live.”

Trigger Warning: Violence; discrimination

full interview

These questions are about your current condition. Your answers have to be about your current situation. In what type of accommodation do you live?
In camp.

Could you describe the conditions of it?
They give us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s a place to sleep, hygiene and sanitation are average, they give us clothes, but they don’t always fit. Sometimes they give kids’ clothes to adults and adult clothes to children. But, well, the conditions are relatively average. It’s better than other camps that I’ve been to.

Who are you living with?
With my wife.

How do you spend your time here?
I just waste my time.

Do you work?
No, I don’t have the permit to work.

What is the cause of your happiness?
Cause of happiness… for now, I just want the current situation to get over.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
Really terrible, because we were mostly in jungles, fields, and deserts, on the way, without purpose in life, without work, without happiness, displaced, far from family, and away from my children. Like this.

What were the benefits of staying here until now?
Nothing, no benefit.

What was difficult?
Difficult?? What do you mean by difficult?

When you were on the way, what was difficult for you?
Jungle (interviewer interrupts: until now), walking, thirst, hunger, then nothing else, without hope… Just a small ray of hope, yet that [hope] kept us going.

Can you describe how you felt about living here?
Living here? We aren’t living here though. In this situation, who calls it living? How do you call it living when they feed you three times a day and you’re not allowed to work or live? This isn’t considered living. There is no saying what will happen to your situation, what will happen to your future, and also whether will they accept you or not, whether will they see you as a refugee, or will they see you as a stranger. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

How did you feel about being away from home or family members?
I feel hatred towards myself and my situation.

How does the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affect you?
What do you mean? I didn’t understand.

The feeling of not belonging here as in you don’t belong here and also discrimination against you and others, how do you feel about it?
Well, it’s natural. When you’ve come to a country and you don’t know their language, you can’t communicate. It’s natural for them to look at us weirdly. I don’t have any complaints. I don’t have any problem with this because it’s natural and it takes time. Even if I want to start a new life in a country, it takes time for me to adapt to that place and environment. I should learn their language and enter society. Naturally, it takes time.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?
I didn’t even imagine being in this situation.

How are you able to cope with the condition and stay alive or live?
Honestly, we haven’t overcome this situation yet. The situation has overcome us. We have no other choice.

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges, or do you think you have the strength or skill, or resolve to cope with these issues?
Honestly, no. (interviewer interrupts: have you created a situation where you can get along?) For now, we’re forced to get along. We don’t have any other choice.

These questions are about your past. Why did you leave your country?
Because of work problems and political issues that happened to me.

Can you describe what has happened?
In general, I can’t describe it, it’s a long story.

What feeling did you have at that time?
At that time… I just wanted to run away.

How was the journey to Europe?
The journey to Europe… well, we didn’t do a leisure trip to describe how it was. It just involved running away from the police and also a lot of other things which would turn out to be a political discussion. I don’t know if it’s right to say it or not. (Interviewer interrupts: how many attempts did it take to cross the border?) From Europe, we only got lies and lies and lies. In any country that we reached, as soon as we entered, they treated us harshly and when we left there, they treated us differently again. They wanted to show that they were good and chill, happy to see us, but in reality, it’s not like that. I think it’s all tricks. I feel like they are fooling us.

Did you have any experiences that were specifically difficult and that you can tell us?
A difficult experience was when I came to Greece from Turkey. They captured us, took all of our clothes, and with torn shorts, they forced us back into Turkey, and then again, we tried to re-enter because there wasn’t any place to live in Turkey. It wasn’t possible. It was difficult. We tried a couple of times and encountered the same treatment. Finally, we entered and went into camps, they treated us well and when we told them about our situation, they said that they were unaware of the incidents that happened to us. They either knew or just pretended that they don’t, which is 100% the case, or they just didn’t know. And in any country that we entered the same thing happened. I don’t know why it’s like that. As one enters a country, they face harsh conditions and treatments, but as they go further the situation changes. For example, if you want to enter Greece, you will face a difficult situation just as I explained earlier. But when you want to leave it, they will easily tell you in what direction to go for the exit. The next country is the same. When you want to enter, they treat you the same. I even heard from others, like my friends, that in Albania and Montenegro police have emptied their pockets and taken their money. The Greek police were also the same. As I said, it’s a really hard situation for a refugee. A lot of things will happen on the way.

How did you feel at that time when this happened?
Feeling… Uhh… the feeling of disgust and hatred towards Europe.

Do you often think of these incidents that happened?
Yes, I sometimes think of these incidents that happened (interviewer interrupts: when?) I say to myself, why? Why do they act like that at entry, and they act differently at the exit? I really don’t understand the meaning of their actions. I always think of this.

When do you think of these most?
It has always been the same.

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
In regards to what?? (Interviewer: with everything, your journey in general) Nothing specific, just my family, my life which is in limbo and uncertain, and not having safety and peace.

How do you feel when you think of these?
Feeling… frankly, I don’t have any feelings, or at least I don’t have any positive feelings.

Has the condition that you are in had an impact on you?
100%, my thoughts on the countries, my thoughts on the people of those countries, on the refugees, and humans in general. My thoughts have changed regarding humans in general.

Have you ever imagined managing these situations?
Well, yes, we are managing right now.

How did you get along and move on from the conditions?
We are forced to get along; we don’t have a choice. Is it even possible to complain?

Have you created a solution or a mechanism for dealing with difficult days or memories?
No, there wasn’t anything.

Where do you get support and strength from?
From where? …. No… From my mind, I don’t get strength from anywhere. Regarding support… no one has supported us on the way.

It mostly means where do you get your inner strength?
Inner strength… only the small ray of hope for the future. This hope gives me the power to do something later.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country? I want you to start with this sentence “My dream was …”
My dream was to, well, I did achieve my dreams, I didn’t have any problems to… of course, everyone wants to reach higher places. It’s a lie for people to say they don’t have any dreams and wishes. But, well, I didn’t have a bad condition. I had a good condition; I had a good life.

When you left your home what wishes did you have for the future? I want you to start your sentence with “I had a dream …”
I had a dream to start a new life once all this is over but, well, it’s been 4 years that we are in an uncertain situation, moving from here to there, from there to here.

Conclusion of the questions. Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength?
Before … can you repeat your question?

Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength?
I don’t understand your question.

Before leaving Iran, what was your strength?
Strength…. (Interviewer interrupts: that shows you were a strong person and would want to continue)
I have always been a person that could stand on my feet, I could start from scratch, but sometimes also failed. Now, for the past five years we’ve been trying in vain to start from scratch again. I used to have faith that I could start from scratch.

Do you still see that strength in yourself?
No, not now.

Because it wasn’t possible.

What you experienced seemed really difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your improvement in any way or resulted in something positive in your life?
No positive outcomes.

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future? I want you to start with “My dream is that ….”
My dream is to create a safe place for my family and myself. To start a new life. That’s all. Overall, to be able to live. The situation we’ve been living in for years can’t be called [a decent] life. This condition is against human dignity.

I’m grateful for your responses. Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe?
Well, all I can say is that everyone has entered this path out of necessity. No one wants to leave their homeland, the place where they grew up. It feels like a house… for example, leaving a house where you lived in for 20 years for an unknown place. The condition of all the refugees is the same. Nothing else comes to mind.

Thank you so much.
Pleasure, bless 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.