About Refugees, By Refugees
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“My biggest wish and hope is that someday everyone is treated the same as humans,” says Pejman, a 28 year-old Iranian refugee currently living in Germany. After leaving Iran in 2015 in search of greater opportunity, security, and freedom, Pejman lived in a series of refugee camps around Berlin. During this time, he says his “mental state was horrible.” Ethnic tensions within the camps often made life difficult, and he “didn’t have the feeling of being safe and secure.” He eventually found work and met a woman with whom he began sharing a flat. Now, after six years of learning the German language and culture, Pejman says “life is much easier,” and that he is “happy with where I could bring myself in life.” But he still doesn’t feel at home. “You always have this feeling of being a foreigner,” he says. “You can never say that ‘I belong here.’” Pejman hopes that someday people will learn to look beyond their differences. “We are all human,” he says. “Humanity is the important thing here.”
When I first arrived in Berlin, I was in a temporary camp. It was a sports hall. There were 100 to 200 people in there, on single beds. Then they sent us to the government, so we were all registered as refugees. After that we went to a – more or less – permanent camp. There were around 10 people living in each room. Everyone had their own bed. Single men and families were living in separate places. I was living with 10 people – it means we were 11 people with me – together. After two years they decided to destroy that place, so we were transferred to a different camp. We were living in Marzhan. It was a bit better there, because you could be 2 people in each room. You were allowed to choose a person who you could get along with – a person with the same language or same nationality – to live together. I was living there for some time, then I found a shared flat in which I was living with a German lady who … The main good part about it was that you could say I have a place for myself called “home”. It is not easy to live with a person who has a completely different culture and also has a different gender. It is easier generally for men to get along with each other even if they are from different nationalities. But when there is a lady there, things are very different. Then… I lived around one year, one year and half there… right! Then I met Mana. I moved where she lived and I also registered there and we are living together since then.
How was your psychological status when you were living in the camp?
My mental state was horrible of course… You don’t have any personal space to relax… Maybe with 4 people you can say it’s ok, now let’s turn the lights off and sleep, even with 5 people, 6 or 7. But when you are 8, 9 or 10 people, you cannot! Another issue there was that there were people who were there before me or before others. And those people had to go to work, for example, at midnight. Or one was sleeping the whole day and we had to be quiet during the day because they worked at night and they needed to get some rest. It was a really horrible situation. Imagine we were in a school which was turned to a camp… It was literally the school that they gave us. They turned half of the school to a refugee camp and we could see the German children going to school from the window. They were going from the other side to school, and since this part of the school was a bit older, they gave us [refugees] that part to stay. From what I heard from the head of the camp, there were 400 people living in that camp. For 400 people, there were 2 containers as showers. There were only those two showers that you could use. For toilets it was a bit better, since it was a school and there were toilets on each floor. But even that, it wasn’t like school where you think there are 20 children on each floor and that’s it. There were 100 people living on each floor. Or they had small kids there. Sometimes you were saying it is finally morning time, I can finally go out, then you saw that a child had defecated there and the whole corridor smells horrible and you cannot sleep for some time or you even couldn’t pass that corridor [from the bad smell]. It was very horrible. You can never have the calm that one might have in a room of his/her own, while living in a camp. All these aside, there are other issues like that people might steal from you or… You didn’t have the feeling of being safeand secure. You always needed to keep an eye on your belongings, so you wouldn’t lose anything. Even when I was closing my eyes, maybe it looked like I was sleeping, but my brain was awake and with every small sound, I was immediately awake, because I didn’t know what might happen to me. Or for example, after some time that we were there, I remember that they wanted to deport one person. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. There were 12 German police – special forces – broke the door of our room and suddenly entered into our room. They were showing us pictures – it was like FBI forces in the movies! – They were showing us pictures of a person and asking if we know him. I remember that I was really sleepy, I opened my eyes and saw there is a flashlight in my face and a photo in front of my eyes being asked: “Where is he?” [I thought] “Who is where? I just woke up! What is happening?” Then the only people who could speak English in the room were me and another person. Afterwards they were bringing us and questioning us like criminals, asking where this person went! “How would I know where is he? I just know that he is not there! Yes, that is his bed, but as you also saw, he is not there! How would I know where he is?” Then they took all of that person’s belongings and left.
How did you feel at that time?
Horrified! I personally like action movies a lot! But when you see that this is really serious, it is different! 10-12 polices just ran into the room and each one of them went next to each person who was there in the room, so no one can do anything! Because they didn’t know which one was that guy and they had to check everyone. In that situation, we all had to show our ID cards and show that we are not that person that they are looking for! Then they treated you a bit nicer. But you were still not allowed to come out of your bed, wear clothes, or touch anything. You had to stay there and answer their questions. They were looking for a specific person, if they could find that person, they were taking them away, if not, they were taking all the belongings of that person with them. After that, you were always living in this stress of who is the next person that they want to deport? Because they [people who were deported] were not telling anyone that they are supposed to be deported so no one can reveal where they are. Even if they already had the official documents and being deported, they were not telling you, since no one was trusting anyone there. And it made sense, because you don’t know anyone there. I lived there around one year and half, but the people that I met there… Just to be more comfortable, I was leaving during the day and coming back at night, just to sleep. It was just a place for me to sleep. I was trying to get up as early as I could, leave the place, go outside, meet my friends, learn the streets and the city, and come back at night just to sleep. Something like this. That’s why there was no time to get to know people who were living there. Some people were brothers there, that’s ok… you know your brother and you can trust your brother. But someone like me who was a stranger from another country… There were people who could like your nationality or not. We had an Iraqi in our room. An Iraqi who was around 60 years old and took part in the war between Iran and Iraq. We had 3 Afghan people, who have had very bad experiences in Iran and they were looking at me in a way that I had the feeling that they might kill me if I say I am an Iranian! Then… There was one Pakistani, we had one Syrian and there were two more Afghans who were from some area that we couldn’t understand their language. That is why you didn’t have anyone to be able to speak to them. I could talk to people who could speak English, but they couldn’t. Once you were coming back [from outside], you had to stay silent for 8 hours, couldn’t talk to anyone. If you had the internet you could browse in your phone. There was not even an Internet there that you could use. That is why you should forget about entertainment, safety and security, you just have a place to sleep – temporarily… And you should be still thankful! Because it might have been that if you do something, they kick you out and send you to a worse place. That place was like a hotel compared to other camps – if you compare that – that place was very good! It was good, you were treated well, as in you would queue, the chef was giving you some amount of food that he wanted, and that was it. You were not standing there and saying “I am hungry!” The chef would say that is how much we cooked and that would be your share and that’s it. That’s why you couldn’t complain, because it wouldn’t change anything. You want food and maybe next time you wouldn’t get what you got before. So you just had to keep your head down and get whatever they give you and that was it. And you cannot choose and say that is ok, I won’t take food from here, give me the allowance instead. Because when we were there, there were two types of camps. Some camps gave you food and the government deducted the money from your allowance. Some camps were not giving you food, but the government was giving the money for that. The difference was maybe 250 euros – which is not much – it was only enough for food. But sometimes you even didn’t have that. If you were talking about it, they were telling you that is your own problem. That camp is giving food and you don’t have a choice. Otherwise you will stay hungry. No one cared that there is a young person that needs more calories… The worst part was that it was at specific time – like in the military. If you were arriving at 7 p.m. the kitchen was closed. Imagine that I am a person that my whole life, I ate food whenever I wanted, had breakfast whenever I wanted and woke up whenever I wanted to do my work. Now they are telling me that you can have food only at this time, if you want, it is there. If not, you can starve. And that early! At 6:00 to 6:30, latest 6:50 p.m! At 7:00 p.m. it [the kitchen] was fully closed and you couldn’t eat anything! And if you are hungry, then you are hungry and there is nothing that you can do about it. If you have money you can go and by something, if you don’t have money, then that’s it. Or maybe someone else might have come and give you some food. You would eat and say thank you and try to be well behaved [sarcastic tone] then next time you can have that again! This is the situation in the camp that I was at the beginning there. Then it was better, because we were cooking ourselves. That had also its own problems. There were so many people that were not cleaning the kitchen. Also the bathrooms and toilets, because the camp didn’t want to pay someone for cleaning, we had to clean that ourselves and this was always causing fights there. Because some were doing that and some not. You always had this stress, like oh, I need to go through that argument again with some people: “why didn’t you clean the kitchen after cooking?” Something simple that everyone should understand, but most of the people were not doing that. And then your work was starting there, although you cleaned that [the kitchen] yesterday, you had to clean it today as well, and also tomorrow, because – obviously – that person is not going to clean that any more. These stories are always there, sometimes it was good, and you could relax for a couple of days, but then again at 12:00 midnight, there’s a fight between two different rooms. Then you were stressed that what if someone got some problem with some Iranian and they might hurt me as well? Or what if it is the fight between Iranians and Afghans? Nationality was always playing a role there. You couldn’t say easily that it is ok, I come from this county. You had to hide it until you could trust that person. For example, the first camp that I was there was a sports hall. It had some securities that were treating you well if they liked you. If not, they were treating you so badly that you kept asking yourself: “what have I done to them?” You know? Your nationality plays a big role during this time.
How did it make you feel?
It made me feel horrible.
I mean did it make you angry? Upset?
It was a mix of being angry and sad. You cannot say it is only one feeling. Sometimes you are sad about your country being so bad in other people’s views – although it is not bad – each country has its good and bad politics. But the fact that everyone has a bad view of you, is very horrible. And they say if your country is bad, you are also bad! This will bring anger back to you and you might ask yourself: “Why was I born there?” If you want to calculate, the possibility for being born there is 1%. The world’s population is 8 billion and we are 80 million in that country [Iran], so the possibility is 1% to be born in Iran and you are part of that 1% and you think shi**t. 1% is also 1% and it can be important for such things! This makes you both sad and angry at the same time and also disappointed after sometime, because you cannot be – it’s different from being a patriot – but if someone asks you where are you from and you cannot answer comfortably – not even with pride – just like that you just say that is the country that I am from and no one judges you. It is very different if you as [for instance] a Swiss “where are you from?” and he answers I am from Switzerland, is very different. You would say Swiss, ok. But if you say Iran… Then the questions will begin! And this issue continues… that is why when they ask me where are you from, I answer I am from planet earth, I grow partially there and it continues here. You need to always hide it, because it doesn’t have a good look and you don’t know what would happen next. Especially in the asylum seeking process. You are next to people who are from Iraq or Syria. Because, as they put all bad things about others [other countries in the region] into our minds, they also told them bad things about us. It is very difficult. You think that what happens if I say now where I am from. What will happen? I am standing here alone and telling them [that I am Iranian]. The other issue that also plays a big role there is that you are the minority there. If you go to camp in Berlin, maybe you find 10 Iranians, but you will find 10,000 Syrians. And that is really horrible. I saw so many fights… You see a person who never had anything to do with that guy, just comes and hits the other guy during the fight to support someone else! That is why you say “they were 10 to 5, if I go there it’ll be 15 to 1! So I don’t belong there at all… I better go!” This feeling of safety is not there at all in the camp. Even if they are all Iranians. That will have its own problems. Because you cannot feel safe until you find your own place and live in your own apartment. You don’t have that feeling of settlement and being safe till then.
Before you migrate, did you think that it is this difficult?
No. Not at all. No one thinks like this. The only thing I knew about Germany was that it has “Berlin” it has Hertha Berlin [soccer team] and Ali Daee [an Iranian soccer player] used to play in that team. That was all I knew about Germany before I came. I was in Austria at the beginning, I wanted to seek asylum there, but they told me – I will never forget – there was a man there at the border, I also don’t know who he was and what was his responsibility there, but he was a lieutenant at the border. He came and started to speak Farsi with me. He told me that he was in Austria’s embassy in Tehran for some time and that is why he knows Farsi. When I started to speak English with him, he told me: “Don’t stay here. It is so full here that all the refugees who were on the way from some time ago, they all stayed here. Because they are so tired and also because they say it is beautiful here and here is the best place to stay! Go to Germany!” “I asked, how should I go to Germany?” Then he told me: “Do you see these people in this queue? Just follow them! We put all of them into a train and will send them to Germany”. I went there by train. I arrived in a city – that I don’t remember the name – then they told us to go and get on a bus, it was night and I opened my eyes and I was so tired that I didn’t ask anything about where we were going. When we arrived and I was taking off the bus I asked “where am I?” They said “Berlin! You are in Berlin.” I said “ok!” Then I called my cousin who was in Austria and told him that I am in Berlin. I knew another person in Hamburg, I called him and he came to Berlin the night after to talk to me about Berlin. That is how I came to Berlin with so much [sarcastic tone] information! That is why sometimes I walk into streets and ask myself: “Where am I? What did I have to do with Berlin?” Because many Iranian people have this dream to go LA in the US or go to Canada, or if it is the EU, it’s more about going to Scandinavian countries to see how life is there. Germany? Berlin? Before I come here, we didn’t know anyone living in Germany. After I came some other relatives also came, but before that, no. We knew that Mercedes Benz or BMW are coming from Germany. Thank you that you make good cars! And that was all. That is how much I knew from Berlin when I came. But it is very different now.
What is different now?
It is not Berlin anymore, it is ‘Mir zu Hause” [it is my home]. I say “Ick Ick” [me in Berliner accent] and walk into the streets!
You mean it is like your home, now?
No, it is not like home. You always have this feeling of being a foreigner. You can never say that I belong here, even if you speak a strong Berliner accent. It is obvious. You never feel like this. At least for me it is like this. I don’t think that one day I can say I am from Germany or I am from Berlin. I cannot see that coming at all. But now because I know the city, I know the people and I learned about lifestyle here, life is much easier for me now. By easier I mean that during my spare time, life is much better. But if you need to do something in public offices, it still has its own difficulties. If you want to request something, find a job or get comfortable at your workplace, all of these have their own difficulties. But when you don’t have some work to do and you just want to take a break for fun and entertainment, Berlin is great. There are clubs and bars and you can find the right people in there who are multicultural and you can hang out with. This is possible. But at the beginning that I came, imagine in Spandau [an area close to Berlin] you find a young student and sit in a bar with him and talk! That is impossible! There in Spandau everyone was looking at you like “who are you? What do you want here?” Or in Marzahn, when I was in the camp, people stared at me in the street and [asked you with their eyes] “Where are you going? Where have you been that you ended up here?”
Because you are a foreigner?
Because you are a foreigner. Because you look different from them. Because they don’t know you. Because you speak another language that they cannot understand what you say. All of this together causes people to look at you like this or stare at you like this. Because from one side, you might understand them. Especially people who grow old here saw many things in their lives that they cannot get away with this [refugees live in their neighborhood]. Because all the history that is in their minds like that “I lived for 50 years in this area and now all these people are now taking the whole area for themselves. Now these people came and started to live here.” It is like that you lived in an apartment for 15 years and you lose one of your best neighbors and another neighbor comes to live there instead. That new neighbor will never be like the previous one. It is the same story here for people who have lived here for a very long time. But they make it difficult for you. Because in that example, there is only one neighbor, but here in Berlin, or in Germany, you are always that new neighbor for everyone. You have this feeling everywhere. In the public offices, in the hospital, at your workplace… You are always that foreigner guy and that is normal. And unfortunately, it is also becoming acceptable for everyone now, that when you are a foreigner, you are a foreigner! That is the first question that people ask you: where are you from? They never ask who you are or how much you like it here. The first question that they ask you here in Germany is always this: where are you from? They want to know first which country you are coming from. They don’t know who you are. Asking “who you are” is very different than asking “where are you from”. I had a classmate, we grew up in the same area, and we went to the same school and studied in the same university. He is selling drugs, and I rescue people. Or it happened that one became a judge, the other one ended up the criminal in the same court. So asking where you are coming from doesn’t play a role, it only matters who you are. But no one here asks you this. They all ask where you are coming from, it takes long, very long. Maybe after 3 years you are in contact with one person… I had a tandem at university time, we were teaching each other languages. She was studying English literature, and I… because I studied this at university and I was following it here as well, we were in contact. She was teaching me German and – not that I taught her English – it was more like we were practicing our English homework together. And she was practicing German with me in return. We still know each other and still I don’t know where she lives and she doesn’t know where I live. We always meet each other outside in the city and if you meet us outside you might think “wow, these two are great friends for each other!” But you don’t let people easily enter your life in Germany and that happens very often. You cannot know each other easily and they don’t want to know them easily. So you are always the foreigner outside and you are always the one who is left behind. Maybe they are the same between themselves [Germans] as well. I cannot judge, because I don’t know. But that is how I felt while living in Germany. Within young people, friendships and having fun is very different, but you learn these things during daily life. A student who lives for 6 months in Germany cannot see these things. Because that person just hangs out with people around them. But for someone like me that is around 5 years here, is very different. Because I went to each corner here and saw all these things. The treatment of a student in a public office is very different from an immigrant who is a refugee and you can completely feel that. And where do you feel that? I can give you an example! The foreigners’ office for students is in Mierendorffplatz and is located in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district. The Foreigners’ Office of Immigrants who are refugees or asylum seekers is in another street. If you go there and talk to the securities there… even the securities who work there are different! In Charlottenburg [the office for students] they are all Germans! On the other side they are Arabs, Turkish or other nationalities. People who work there treat you with respect. They come out, call you, and help you to find the room that you need to go. [they ask you] Do you have a translator? [You would say] No I don’t have. [They ask you] Do you speak English? [you might say] Yes.[they say] It is ok! So let’s speak in English. But at the refugee office… you might tell them that you speak French, Italian, Russian, English, they ask: do you speak German? If you say no, they will say go and bring a translator. Both are there to do the same thing. Both want to extend their visa, both cannot speak German, but they get along with them [students] but in the other office, although you know a thousand languages, they tell you to go and bring a translator who can speak German. Why should it be like this? And you always face such things. Always when you want to do anything at any office, you see all these differences between these two groups. Once I have been in the other office with a friend of mine – who was a student – and I could see the difference between the behaviors in the two offices. Why is it like this? Why should you have separated offices for these people in the first place? Why should you have two offices as foreigners’ office which one of them only does the work for refugees and the other one only for other immigrants. This is separating people and behaving them differently in the first place! And you can see that everywhere. And it is completely normal in Germany. These are all feelings that are always there, not only when we talk about it – like now. These feelings stay there forever. Maybe my biggest fear is that someday I have children and my children might feel all of these as well and start to talk about it with me. Then I tell them “yeah, it was the same when I came here as well.” This might become a reason that my children do not get along easily with them. No one can say “it is ok, it is fine that you treated my parents poorly, I can understand!” So they will also, unconsciously, feel that they are foreigners and they don’t belong here, even if they are born, grow up and study here in Germany. But still, they cannot feel that they belong here. These are all feelings that cause stress and sadness and pain…maybe not pain, you cannot call it pain. But these are things that make you sad and make you worry about the future. Instead of thinking about the future of your children and thinking about how to grow them to be successful, you need to worry about which kindergarten you should choose that my children wouldn’t experience bad behavior due to being an immigrant. You see all these a lot. I had a colleague that one of his children in kindergarten saw that a kid came with his mom and they had Berlin pass. The other kid comes to the lady who came with Berlin pass and says to the kid: “You are poor people! You don’t have money!” How should a 5 year old kid know that a family that doesn’t have a lot of money, would have Berlin pass. Because they can buy cheaper tram tickets. When I see such things I just tell myself “shit… where are you living?” Such a kid who was taught such things at that age, how would he act as a grown up? And you have all of these stresses and think that what if the same happens to me [and my family]. So you need to try hard to be 100% at all times. Because if you are for a while lower, some kid might come and tell your kid that you guys are poor, you don’t have money. These are things that I didn’t grow up with and I don’t want my kid to experience such things. I also don’t want to grow my children to be like the second kid to be so selfish that they say to other children such things – like you don’t have money! It should be something in between, something neutral. We are all human, we all are living next to each other. One can make more money, one less. Humanity is the important thing here. But if you need to teach children such things, it shows about all these pains that exist in this society. As a foreigner, all of these are stresses and things you need to be worried about for your future children, all of these are things that remind you that you are a foreigner and you don’t belong here.
How do you get along with these feelings of inequity and not belonging and where do you tell yourself: well done!
I am happy with where I could bring myself in my life. I have my own life and I have a job. I have a great life with my wife and our dog and we enjoy our life a lot. I tell myself “well done”, when I am not that person who treats different people differently. I am happy that at the beginning, I maybe couldn’t speak German well enough that I could defend myself. But now, I can speak so good [German] that if someone doesn’t want to give me that I have the right to have, I stand up for myself. It happened a lot that in the offices I asked for the manager to come, since the employee there didn’t do my work. There, I feel very good, that I could reach a point that I can take care of myself and my rights. There was a time that I had to wait for 2 hours for someone to come and translate what I said, and that person was not always translating what I said, he was translating what he liked me to say. Now I don’t need to spend that 2 hours. Now I can speak the language very well, I can tell them in the office that: You don’t do my work? Here is the law, based on that you should do that for me. So they don’t think that I don’t know the law. Now it is great! Now if I want to compare myself with the time that I just arrived here, that I couldn’t defend myself at the time… Now due to the job that I have and the language that I’ve learned, I can easily defend myself. So every day I tell myself “well done!’. Because I didn’t start here from zero, I started from minus a hundred! I’ve never had to queue in a line for someone to give me money! It was very strange for me. The first day that I had to go to the office to receive my pocket money [allowance], I had breakfast very relaxed and got to the train at 8:30 in the morning and went there slowly. When I arrived there, I saw there was a long queue till the end of the street! Then I went to security and asked what is happening here? I want to go to this office and I don’t have any appointment. He started to laugh at me and brought someone else to me that could speak English better. He asked me: “Do you see these people? They are all queuing here from 4:00 a.m.! Go and come some other time!” I thought: “4:00 in the morning?! Don’t even think about it!” I really didn’t go! I didn’t go there for so long, that I really didn’t have any money and I really needed some money! So I thought now I cannot say I won’t go! I went there and queued until I got the money. If I want to compare those days with now, I would say to myself everyday “well done!’ and it is all the result of my hard work. Maybe some friends helped me, but even having good friends here in Germany is very important! It gives you so much energy and hope, that you think “Yeah! Others could do it, so I can also do that! If that person could go through it and now has a job, then I can do it as well.” These are good things. But only if you have such people around you. If there is no one, life is like hell. One who doesn’t know the language and doesn’t have good friends around him, life in Germany would be like hell for him. Because no one would get along with him, no one can understand him and he cannot do anything with anyone. All of these turn to pain and depression and he cannot achieve anything. And everything that he built till then will also be destroyed. That’s why you should be careful a lot about these things.
What is your wish now?
My wish… it is not a wish, it is more of a goal than a wish.
What is your goal then?
The goal of my family and I is to have a house for ourselves and have a business for ourselves. Also our children can live easily in future. This is our main goal for our life. The rest is always there. You can always find a job, you can always make money. Maybe the only thing that can be my wish here is that everyone acts like a human being. I am not a very empathic person maybe because of the things that I have done or the things that I have experienced, I cannot understand if someone says that my life is destroyed. I always blame the people, and say you destroyed your life yourself. No one else came to destroy your life. So you were the reason for ruining your life. But I can also see that slowly you cannot get along with anyone. You cannot trust people and you cannot see the humanity among people anymore. This is very bad. It will be really great if it happens. The rest is maybe more of a goal, the goals that I have for me and my family in Germany. My biggest wish and hope is that someday comes that everyone is treated the same as humans. That would be great. The rest are goals that you can reach by hard work.
Before we started the interview, we were talking about your previous job where you were working for a rehabilitation center. Although you are an immigrant, you worked as a translator there.
Yes. I was translating from the first day that I arrived in Germany! From the first day that I arrived in Germany, I was translating for others till now! There are still families that contact me and tell me that we have an appointment somewhere, and ask me to go and translate for them. This is something that is attached to me from the first day here and I don’t think I can distance myself from that [translating]. About the place that I was working in, first of all, I like to help people, then the other good part about it was that I was happy that I could finally find a job in Germany and see how it is like to work in German society. When I started there, they were very welcoming and were telling they are very happy I am joining them. They need me there also, because they wanted to improve and expand their Farsi language department. That is why they were teaching me the work and explaining that to me. But something that I could see for the first time in my life was that they wouldn’t care at all if you are not good with German language! They were using very difficult words that I was thinking” oh, shit, what are they talking about?” I mean, I had a colleague that he was that on the days that he was there, I was trying to not to be there and I was going to other departments or different rooms, so he couldn’t talk to me. Because it is a really horrible feeling when someone is talking to you and you cannot understand anything! And it is even worse when he says something and you answer something which is completely unrelated to what he said! That’s why I was trying to avoid him. Later on, things changed in a way that he was telling me that I have someone and want “you” to translate. We were sitting together and talking and it was very good. At this job, many things were good there, like the things that I learned there, workshops that I participated in or the training that I had. I learned a lot about life. Unfortunately because of all the things that you experience or see there, your soul will be destroyed. For example, I had a colleague, who had scars all over his arms – he used to hurt himself – and he was a psychological consultant there! That person was a psychological consultant for people who suffer from alcohol addiction. Because in Germany if you are addicted to alcohol, you go to one department and if you are addicted to drugs, you go to another department and these groups of people are never in the same place. He was responsible for the alcohol part. He was saying it is actually very good, because the clients can see that I can understand them and I also have experienced such things in my own life. That is why they trust me better and they talk to me more. I was working there and I was talking to them and I had to translate what they said or what my colleagues said to them. When I started to work there, it was very exciting at the beginning, and the job looked very dynamic to me. But at the end of the first year, I realized that it is not possible! Because this affects your own mental status. I always say your job will shape you after some time. Either you become your job or your job becomes you. There was the same, because I was talking to people who were either addicted to drugs, or they knew the drugs very well or wanted to rescue people who were addicted to that. What happened then? So my life was like this to anyone that I was talking to, it was about different drugs and their effects on the body and where they are being sold. Then I saw if I continue to work there, I might end up going to Mexico and become El Chapo or something like that ! [Sarcastic tone]. It was really difficult, you should be really strong in such jobs. I’ve always thought for being a doctor you need to be strong, because you see a lot of death there and there is nothing worse than death. But now I can get along with death maybe. But seeing death in every second. I couldn’t get along with it. Imagine that you know what can come out of that person and it makes it more painful that you are a refugee and immigrant as well and it was the same for him. You can see that a person like you, ended up there and dying. This is very different, because if someone dies of a disease, you say it is ok, he was sick, what could you do? It wasn’t possible to help him, but in this case, you can see that you can help that person, but that person doesn’t want you to help him and wants to destroy his life more and more every second. This is really hard. It is like that they have tied someone in front of you and every second their life is getting cut shorter by suffering. This is very hard to tolerate. You should be very strong there. You should either say that I don’t care, or you say I am that strong that I can get along with all these. And that is not possible. I have been there and I can tell that it is not possible.
How did you come to Germany?
I came by train within different countries and then I decided to seek asylum in Austria, as I said, I came to Germany by train. Those were trains that German government put there for you to use. You were using a bus to the train station, then taking the train and afterwards there were again buses provided by German government there that were transferring you to the camp.
Why did you come to Europe?
How can I say. Maybe a better life. Something like this. The difference between here and Iran is that, here in Germany, after some time of hard work like a donkey, you can have a better life. In Iran also, but maybe after 10 years. Here if you try hard and if you want to reach something… You can build a better life everywhere if you try hard. That [to build a better life] is also my goal in Germany. Another reason could be also the freedom and safety that you have here in Germany. But it is mainly for making your life more beautiful. The other part – which I am thinking about it now – is that by having visa or passport of this country, you can travel easier and traveling is beautiful and I like it. This is something which was not my goal at the beginning, but once I’ve experienced it, I said wow, it is really great! You can travel the whole EU and no one stops you and no one tells you to stay here, “because you have an Iranian pass we need to check you first!” That is why it is very good. But the long term goal is just to have a good life. That is it. Also that you build your life and your future for you and your family in a way that in future, when you are older and you don’t have that much energy, you can sit for some time and say: ok, now I can get some rest. This is something that you can have here.
But you cannot have it in Iran?
You can have it in Iran also, but in special cases only and not everyone can have it. But here it is there for everyone. Everyone that loses their job, gets the same amount of money and rent. It is the same for everyone. Here they say if you are down, we are all together there. If you want to go high and advance, you can go. In Iran it is different. They say either you develop and advance, if not, you will go deep down alone. That is why it is difficult to go through such situations. It is different here. For example, here [in Germany] if you lose your job or something happens that you cannot work for some time due to sickness, you can support yourself and you can say I can address my primary needs. If you have children, you don’t need to worry that my children will starve. But in Iran, once you are down, you stay there and you are destroyed. No matter how much your friends and families help you. You reach the point that it doesn’t work anymore. And it is really not possible. And everyone knows this about Iran. There is unemployment insurance there in Iran as well, but you need to work for at least 10 years, then they pay you only one year after you lose your job! “Hello! Thank you very much!” But here in Germany, it is not like that. Once you are unemployed, you are unemployed [and you can use the insurance]. They give you some more benefits if you’ve worked, but there is no conditions if you haven’t worked before. But in Iran it is different. You need to have paid for insurance and worked for some time, then you can use it for 1 year. Then it becomes 70%, then 30%, then they don’t give you anything and say “go work”. I came that you help me, not that you hit me instead! These are the things that are difficult there … Here you can have a normal daily life and you won’t be in need for your primary needs if you lose your job.
This fact that you cannot move forward in Iran, how does it make you feel?
I didn’t have it in Iran actually. So I can’t say. I tried hard for my work to achieve things. I was trying hard the whole time and I could reach it at the end. That is why I cannot say anything about it.
What was your wish in Iran?
Hmm. What was my wish when I was in Iran. It was about my company and I really loved my company to be successful and everything runs well there and I was very excited about it. And once it happened, I moved to Germany..! That was it. That my company works well, that was my main wish… Or when I was getting tired or upset, I was telling: ah, I wish I could leave this place someday! Which I can say both happened for me and I could achieve both. Then that was it. What else do you want to know?
Last word. I hope that everyone can live in a good way and that is really my wish. That everyone has something for themselves and everyone can have a good life, not that they just have something to survive, in a way that they can have a normal simple life. Not everyone needs to live a luxurious life or have the best car and etc. It would be enough if you can be great with your family and support them and they also support you in happiness. That is great! I can say this is maybe my last word and my wish for everyone.
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.