About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Rasta wearing a hijab and hiding her face with her cap

Rasta Hekmati

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Mahdiyh Haidari

“My dream was to be able to save our lives,” says Rasta Hekmati (pseud, 19) recalling the time before her family fled Afghanistan for Europe over 3 years ago. “We were threaten to death, murder, theft, loot and these things,” she shares. “It is very horrible and I cannot speak about it.” Rasta chooses mostly not to think about the past: “I want to think about my future,” she explains. “I have faced the difficulties and have become very strong and I can overcome everything.” Now she is waiting in Nea Kavala camp in Greece. “I have 50% security,” says Rasta, but also: “I get one step closer to my dreams.” When the camp offices closed last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, Rasta felt that “time is gold and now our time is very vital.” Covid has also meant she “cannot freely go to class [and] we are afraid to lose our health,” she says. Still, Rasta focuses on her future: “When I am with my family… and when I have hope for my case to get resolved soon, this gives me a happy feeling.”

Trigger Warning: Death, Violence/murder, talk of dysphoria.

full interview

Can you introduce yourself?
In the name of God. I am Rasta Hekmati, I am 19 years old and I am from Afghanistan.

In what type of house do you live?
Inside the camp, in one room.

Can you explain your situation there for us?
It is better than other camps like Moria. It is like a building with rooms inside. And ,for example, ummm … it is a building and there are rooms inside it, one family in one room and another family in another room and we are in one of these rooms.

Who do you live with?
With my family.

How do you spend your time here? Do you work?
Ummm … No. Most of the time, I go to class and after that, I come and sit with my friends for like five minutes. And that is how it is.

You do not work?

What makes you happy?
When I am with my family, when I am with my friends, and when I have hope for my case to get resolved soon, this gives me a happy feeling.

How has life been from the time you entered Europe? What has been hard for you and what has been good for you?
When we entered Europe, it was very hard at the beginning. It was very hard on Lesbos island in Moria. We truly had nothing, no facilities, it was very hard. And I was feeling very much hopeless but thank God it is good now. I have a little hope and it means I have faced the difficulties and have become very strong and I can overcome everything.

So did anything hard happen to you or any good thing that you would want to talk about?
Ummm … why not. Not to myself but horrible things have happened to my close relatives that I still have its fear in my mind.

Can you tell us what has happened?
Like fire, fighting, argument inside camp and these things.

Can you explain how living here makes you feel? What is your feeling?
Living here … My feeling is … ummm … one of my feelings is … ummm …. It is good and I have fifty percent security. Although there are fights inside the camp, it is still good. The other thing is that I get one step closer to my dreams and I am getting closer to reaching my goals.

How does being far from your home and other members of the family make you feel?
It is a sad feeling. It means … ummm … when we are far from our region, our country and our people, well, as the time passes, since we are newcomers here we still feel like strangers.

For example, do you feel sad being far away from your country and home?

Have you ever thought that you would be able to overcome such problems? How could you deal with these problems?
Well, it was very hard at the beginning, very hard. It means, there was only a 20 percent possibility. But when we came and faced the difficulties, it means we got stronger, it means we witnessed all the problems and overcame them. Now I have a strong feeling and I feel able to overcome all \ the problems and be able to have a good life.

Do you think you have gained the strength to fight these challenges or you had the skill and strength before?
I had it previously and it has increased further.

How has Corona affected your daily life and your emotions and feelings? You can say, “Corona has affected my life …”
Ummm … this Coronavirus has had this effect that we cannot freely go to places, cannot freely go to class, we are afraid to lose our health. Ummm … it means we are mostly afraid because we cannot do our work very well. The offices are closed as well as our classes and we cannot … because our time passes and time is gold and now, our time is very vital.

Why did you leave your country? Can you explain what happened?
Because we were not safe.

And we were threatened to death, murder, theft, loot and these things.

Can you explain what happened or you cannot do that?
Ummm … I can’t.

What was your feeling at that time?
My feeling was that I was too worried. I was afraid and, for example, ummm … I thought that God forbid, I wouldn’t be able to reach my dreams one day. And, for example, very … I had such feelings.

How was your journey to Europe? Did you have any specific difficult experience that you would want to tell us about? From the smuggling way that you came, during your trip?
I did not have any experience but it was extremely hard. It means, ummm … we saw our death in front of our eyes for 95 percent of the time. The smuggling way was very hard and we were very much afraid of the smugglers. There was the possibility for us to get robbed or looted. Finally, it was very difficult.

For example, wasn’t there any specific hard incident that you would like to talk about? During the road trip or on the sea inside the boat?
Yes, it happened but it is very horrible and I cannot speak about it.

What was your feeling at that time?
At that time, I had this feeling that, for example, I was totally horrified. I had come with the hope to save my life and have a better life but when I saw those terrible incidents, it means, I would hardly, for example, control myself and remain hopeful. And finally there was a hope at the bottom of my heart that we would finally make a good life and I will succeed.

Do you sometimes think about these things? When do you think about them?About the past incidents?
Most of the time I think about them at night but I mostly try not to think about the past because I want to think about my future.

What is your feeling when you think about those incidents?
I feel like I have been very strong for being able to overcome all of those hardships and I will be able to continue my path after this as well.

Has the situation that you have faced today affected you? How?
Yes, it has affected me. It means I have become stronger, more vigilant, and more active. More experienced.

Have you ever thought that you would able to overcome this situation?
Yes, I would imagine it. I would think to myself that yes, if you want it a hundred percent, you can do anything.

How could you come out of these problems? Did you have any special strategy to fight them? Where would you find your strengths and support?
Ummm …. well, since I was facing many problems since my childhood and had this strength, but well, the thing that would give me more energy was my family’s support. My parents would very much encourage me and, for example, they would give me a lot of energy to cope with such problems.

What were your dreams before these incidents happened and you were forced to flee your country?
Before I came here, my dream was, … just … Well, we have always had problems and difficulties in our life. But well, we were not safe during these final times home. So, my dream was to be able to save our lives.

What are your dreams now that you have come to Europe?
Now that I have come here, my dreams are for example, ummm … to reach the best places and achieve my goal and realize the dreams I have had for myself.

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.