About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Raha Azadi with his back to the camera wearing a blue hoodie

Raha Azadi

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Photo and interview by:




Hannan Dormiyani

“I felt that being in Iran meant my death and I wanted to be alive and live,” says Raha Azadi (pseud, 35), currently living in a camp in Germany. “That’s why I left everything and came here.” Raha says he started protesting conditions in the country when he was 18, and more recently was a “political opponent of the Islamic Republic” – one of the reasons he left. The journey was hard, he says, involving police, smugglers, and animals, among others: “As soon as you sleep at night and feel that you may not be alive tomorrow, it may be the worst experience.” Thinking of the future – and a special person – helps him cope. “I had lost the past and … only the future can help me,” he says, adding: “When I think of my mother, I get the energy that I have to go this way and achieve results.” The former manager is currently waiting for his asylum interview. “My wish was to be an immigrant in the country I am entering and to be a useful person for my family and surrounding community.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Hello, dear Raha.  

Are you ready, sir?  
Yes, I am. 

So … I would like to ask you a few questions regarding the current situation. What kind of housing do you live in? 
We live in a camp named Curuye. 

Could you explain the situation there? 
I assume we are roughly 1,500 people, and I believe the situation is not bad. The rooms are clean. The washrooms are appropriate. It has a kitchen and we can cook there. This is a great blessing for us. 

Who do you live with?
Alone. We are five people in a room here. 

How do you spend your time here?
Most of the time I am busy learning the language. We have a two-time breakfast and for lunch, we go outside. And I hang out with friends and walk in the malls. 

Do you work here? 
Yes. I work for about one hour per day in the kitchen. 

What makes you happy here? 

My happiness is the acceptance of the asylum request of my friends and the happiness of the people. When I see people with difficult situations live happily really makes me happy. 

How has life been since you arrived in Europe? 
I have not had any experience because I did not enter Europe officially. I just entered a camp. I cannot describe it. 

What is the benefit of living here for you? 
The only benefit it has had for me may not be the only benefit because it has been beneficial. I lived alone for years and I was not in a group. I did very little group work. Now I am fully aware of this issue. The biographies of others have been like a book to me. 

What has been hard for you here?
Living together because I haven’t lived like this for years, shared house and shared bathroom. We are all the same. It’s so hard for me. 

Can you describe how living here has made you feel?
I don’t have a special feeling to tell you. In all, I am not happy here because I feel like we are in a hospital with a certain illness and waiting for treatment. 

How does being away from the rest of the family and home make you feel? 
Naturally, in the environment where I lived, I was away from my family most of the time and I don’t feel homesick here. Sometimes I think about my mother. 

How does the feeling of not belonging and being discriminated against, affect you? 
I would like to explain to you that the people here are very kind. But sometimes when I see harsh behavior, I feel very bad. I feel that I have become the burden of a group. 

Did you ever imagine that you could cope with this situation? 
I never thought like that in my life. 

How did you manage to cope with this situation, overcome it and live? 
Humans are forced to cooperate and this is in the nature of humans. I have to fight myself or I have to cooperate. I preferred to cooperate. Day by day, with these conditions, it is better to say that I got used to it. 

Do you think that the ability to deal with these problems was learned or innate? 
This ability is definitely in our nature and I feel that I also benefit from this ability and can deal with these conditions. I feel that I can be successful in this case. 

Now the questions are about your past. 
Please ask me.

Why did you leave your country? 
This is not an overnight thing because many things happened. I think that since I was 18 years old, things were happening inside me and I started to protest against the conditions of my environment, and in these latter days, I was a political opponent of the Islamic Republic system. All these factors made me leave the country. 

What did you feel at that time
I just wanted to get out and I felt that being in Iran meant my death and I wanted to be alive and live. That’s why I left everything and came here. 

How did you travel to Europe? 
It was tough. I came by land and traveled a long way. 

Could you explain more? 
It was very hard and I had a lot of walks. I had to pass through several countries. Problems like the police, people smugglers, other animals, kidnappers, killers, a bad place to sleep and, and, and were in my way. 

Do you have a particularly difficult experience that you would like to tell me about? 
As soon as you sleep at night and feel that you may not be alive tomorrow, it may be the worst experience on this path, I can’t tell you anything worse than this. 

What did you feel at that time? 
I was going back and why did it happen and why am I here now? There was nothing I could do and I just hoped to get myself to a safe place. 

Do you often think about these events? 
One hundred percent, always until the end of life, even at death. 

When do you think the most? 
When I am alone and think to myself. Especially when I look back and I had built a good life for myself and now it’s all ruined. 

Is there anything in particular that you think about often? 
Yes. Maybe my past is the most special thing that I think about, how I left it and came. 

How do you feel when you think about it?  
I have a very bad feeling, I hate it, and I cry. Because I had good conditions, I left everything and came. 

Does the situation you faced today affect you? 
One hundred percent. Even if I get married and have children, these events will be passed on to my children. 

Have you ever imagined managing these events? 
I never, and I say this decisively. I never thought something like this would happen and I had to think about managing it. 

How did you manage to deal with that situation and overcome it? 
My only hope for the future, and nothing more, I had lost the past and I am now and only the future can help me. 

Have you created any strategy and mechanism to deal with those difficult days and difficult memories?  
Definitely not, but when I fell into it, I should have created that, I think, maybe I could not do something right about this case, at least I think about it. 

Where do you find strength and support? 
From the faith of my heart, from within myself, because I have no other way. When I think of my mother, I get the energy that I have to go this way and achieve results, reap the seed that I planted. 

What was your dream about the incident that led you to run away from home? I want you to start with my narrative. 
My dream was to be able to reach a point where I could transfer my experiences to others, especially small towns, this was my dream. 

What did you wish for the future when you left your home? I want you to say that this was my wish.
My wish was to be an immigrant in the country I am entering and to be a useful person for my family and surrounding community. 

Let’s summarize the questions. Before leaving your country, what would you describe as your strengths? 
In general, due to the experiences I had gained in my work, I saw myself as a very good manager, despite the fact that I was not completely technical. 

Have you felt this yet?
Definitely, this has been institutionalized in me. 

What you’ve been through sounds really difficult. Do you feel like you’ve grown in any way as a result of this experience and that something positive has come out of it? 
Anyway, it is a kind of travel. A one-day trip also gives a person many experiences, but this type of trip will have negative effects on us more than positive. 

Now, what are your hopes and dreams for the future? I want you to say that my dream is that… 
My dream is to grow up in a new society with a new culture and have a child and raise a good child in the new society. 

Thank you very much for answering all these questions. Is there anything you would like to add that would help people in Europe better understand the life of refugees? 
I feel that a refugee or someone who immigrates to another country will not be at the economic disadvantage of that country, and he can bring the knowledge and technology experiences he had in his country and continue in the new country, and it will definitely be fruitful for the new country. 

Thank you for your reply. 
You are welcome. 

I wish you success. 
God bless you, sir. Goodbye.

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.