About Refugees, By Refugees
So I am recording this, I just, I mean, I know you know me personally, but I need to tell you that I am Nour. I am a part of this project called One Thousand Dreams, one thousand stories of refugees around the world. And for, for an organization called Witness Change. The purpose of this project is to connect refugees and local community here.
And to help them understand our story and where do we come from. So this is why I’m doing this and I’m focusing on women, on refugee women. I’m not interviewing men. I will ask you a couple of questions, um, it’s about you, it’s personal. If you feel uncomfortable, you can tell me “Nour, I don’t want to answer this, please ask another question,” and if you feel you need a break, you can tell me as well.
You have the choice to cover your face and change your name. You can, like, I know your real name, but we’re not going to – if you, if you wish, you can use another name like, um, I don’t know, Jessica, whatever you want, okay? And, um, let me see if I miss anything. Yeah, everything I said is understandable?
Yes, understand. Yes.
Okay, good. So let’s start. Can you tell me a bit about the living situation here? In the house?
This house? Yes. Uh, I came this house, um, last year, maybe, I think. My first time I came this house, I am too much scared and afraid and depression. “Oh, my God, who people live with me?” Too much in depression, tension, and quiet, totally quiet. But day by day I talking with other womans and looking house, uh, kitchen, bathroom and then I said “no, it’s good, it’s better.” Starting month, uh, I’m not feeling good. May, June, July, August, September. Slowly…slowly I…every time I go to for shopping, in park, and meeting with the others…find, I find other groups, ladies groups. Then I find in library Pakistani women’s one group, Lily Chai group. I join and, uh, before came this house in Croydon, I joined Pedal Power. Maximum three, four, five month. I feel like strong. Two group join: the Lily Chai group and Pedal Power. Now I feel totally relaxed.
Amazing. And how many, how many people live here?
Twenty one maximum. But every time fifteen, like twenty, fifteen, ten, some go, some come. But everytime come, go, come, go.
Is it all asylum seeking women?
All asylum seekers.
So once you have your refugee status they will take you out?
Once – so when you, if you have refugee status, you will go out of the house or stay here?
No, stay here, stay here. Yes, stay here.
Okay. Is good?
And how, how do you spend your time here?
Yes, I was every time busy. Maybe people thinking she’s, uh, crazy. Morning time, I wake up – prayer finish, house clean, cooking. I think maybe do the shopping, go bicycle shopping. Finish, come house, watch drama. After prayer, knitting, stitching, and, uh, any learn English, and Pedal Power check message. Like full day, until 12:00 o’clock until I am busy.
I…I make my scarf for knitting wool and gloves and totally busy. I am free then I have depression.
What, uh, what brings you happiness?
Scarf or mask?
Yeah, bring you happiness. What, what makes you happy?
Uh, what makes me happy? Mmm…maybe for stitching, yes.
You like it?
Yes, like it. You know, I see colorful threads. My mind is busy, hand busy.
Then my mind no go in depression.
My mind is too much depressions, Nour.
Yeah, I know.
And the tensions… But in Pakistan, my life, you… listen my full story.
Yeah. I will ask you now, I will ask you. Um, so when, when, when did you come to Europe the first time?
No, when did you come, when did you come to the UK?
UK? Uh, last year 2019. Five February.
Okay, and what has been from then till now, what has been difficult for you? What’s, what’s the biggest – yeah, since you’ve come to the U.K from February 2019 till now – what was your biggest challenges?
Me…and me and my husband…me.
Yes. Too much of…challenges.
I came 5th February with my daughter. That time, my situation, my mind, my…and my daughter’s situation is not good. She’s weak and... My story is long, but, um, came airport and go Uncle house – family friend – no real uncle. I want relax. I…I can’t asylum on airport. My situation…I feel…I didn’t see…I can’t see police question maybe I feel like….
To Pakistan, not to Pakistan. Pakistan to continue before one week, two week, some happens in my house. Thanks God I came UK. My flight in the airport…thanks Shukran Alhamdulilah (thanks to God) and go uncle house. Second day, I went to (inaudible) and, uh, take asylum. And, uh, uncle house I am relaxed feel. Fifteen days, twenty days, but slowly, slowly, Uncle’s son is rude. “Why she is live there? I want alone house.” Uncle say, “She’s my daughter…like my daughter. I love too much my daughterand this and her husband.” He said “No.” He’s born here…Uncle’s son is born here. He’s totally mind changed, but Uncle is very nice man, he’s very old, 80+. Slowly…slowly I feel he’s maybe one day throw out. I say, “Daughter, please, please call to Migrant help.” They give me accommodation and a two month continue migrant help…no give money me… my daughterand me. I no need, I only food and accommodation. Uncle house…everything my mind…no go for shopping…no. My mind no go for clothes…for anything…no. Only crying and phone, “Where is my husband?” I, I no understand, my husband at house? At city? Or other city? I don’t know. Continue two, three months my husband no contact me. Why? Maybe call record in Pakistan? He know, my husband, where any…my mother, my sister, my relatives, my friends. He know Ruby…here I’ll go. Like, uh, you know what word….
So who is following you and your husband?
Uh, my community name. I am Muslim.
Ahmadiyya Khadiani, you know?
Yes, Ahmadiyya but, uh…Sunni, Sunni dislike my community.
Yeah, Sunni…Sunni Muslims dislike Ahmadiyya Muslims.
Yes, yes. You understand.
Before I came here…
But why they’re following your husband in Pakistan?
Yeah my husband sometime he know anyone…I am where. Sometime Islamabad City, sometimes Lahore, sometimes my big city, Rabwah, Ahmadi city.
But my husband told me “Ruby, go with me every time.” My husband…no visa…he have no visa that time.
This is why he’s in Pakistan and you….
Yes I am here, my husband in Pakistan. I am came here, too much happened with my husband. Some people by call, by letter, threats, but…
Threaten? Threaten you?
No, my husband.
And me also on phone. Sometimes I block my phone…some calls…some numbers are totally block. Before came in UK…31st January…yes, 31st January, my ticket is books. My daughter’s ticket booked. I am ready for coming in UK 31st January…night time…al fajr (daybreak) time. Three or four…maybe maximum…I can’t say too much. Shut my door…knock…too much.
Who, who’s banging on your door?
I don’t know who. You know every Sunni people like Mullah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The extreme Muslims.
Yeah…my husband….you know, my husband, uh, my community Ahmadiyya is president.
President on the…
President of Pakistan?
No, no, no, no, no, my community. My community, like you had on project (inaudible), like…
Ah okay, they’re the majority?
Yeah majority. We have too much majority.
Ah okay. So Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan are more than Sunni Muslims?
Uh, Sunni Muslim is more than.
Ah Sunni Muslim. So you’re a minority?
Okay, and they, because they’re extreme Muslims, they want to, they don’t want any Muslim minority, they want to…
No, listen, short words. Sunni says for, uh, Ahmadiyya, he said, “We have permission, kill all Ahmadiyya. Woman, daughter, son, husband, wife, any. And God give me go Jannah (heaven).”
Yes. Sunni kill Ahmadiyya, go Jannah.
Yeah, and in Syria, it was the same. You have extreme Sunnis who, like, will kill the Christians. Will kill the Alawites because we want, this is how we go to Jannah.
Every night…my, my sisters, my brother, my full relatives in Pakistan…I am every time…sometime I feel… Why I am busy every time…I am busy, not thinking…I’m thinking then…oh my God…maybe my…my husband go out and fight. Every…every month, two…three Ahmadiyya killed by targeting.
I was a 10 year old, only child time, in my house…my papa house. Full burn…full burn…Sunni…and with Quran.
So you told me that you feel very scared for your husband and your family back home?
There too much. But I want…I no go back to Pakistan for life.
I decide. But I want my husband come safe, then I relax. Only one person, one is my husband, come here and I am relaxed. I need no money, no anything. Only safe, safe, safe. Here I feel safe. My community safe.
Amazing. And… So you were telling me about…that you escaped Pakistan, you and your daughter, because you are targeted by Muslim extreme Sunnis. Is there other reason?
Other reason mean?
Like for you to be an asylum seeker, other reason than religion?
I can’t understand.
So, uh, you are an asylum seeker.
Why? Because you’re a Muslim, Ahamadiyya…and? Or that’s it?
I came here asylum.
What can I do?
No, I mean, like, are you for instance?
Oh no, no, no, I understand. No, no, I’m nationality in Pakistan. My nationality – Pakistani.
I born Pakistan.
OK, and your daughter is?
As my husband. Yes, my relatives are.
All of them?
Yes. Too much, long time live Pakistan…born Pakistan…nationality Pakistan. I have ID card by Pakistan.
Okay, do you think a lot about what happened in Pakistan?
Do you overthink?
With me? Yes, too much.
This is why you keep busy?
Yes I busy. Before, you know, all Ahmadiyya is not safe in Pakistan. But what can we do? Business, houses, and big problem…they have no visa other countries. And my brothers no, they live Pakistan. Everytime he thinking…maybe I go outside and come back. Nothing. One happened maybe 8 years ago, 10 years ago…my two mosque in Lahore…big city Lahore…two mosque…mosque at a time – bomb blast. And my one cousin, my one other cousin died. Too much you see in YouTube…Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque, yeah.
At a time…at the time and too much peoples died, children die. And that time I am crying and maybe my brother in mosque…all people is brother and Jumaa…they is Jumaa. And three year…four year ago…quickly, quickly happened with me and my family…my family…my daughter and my husband. Now my mother…my…is before marriage, separate. Now my family…my husband and my daughter. My…I have two house in Pakistan – one house with my shop and other house live my family, full house. My husband and me and my daughter go Lahore. My main city…Mandi Bahauddin…my husband’s city – full house, three floors, burn.
Burn with…inside my shop…my, my husband’s shop…his shoes’ shop. Big shop, full burn – shop is (inaudible).
From what? Who did it? Who did burn?
Police came…police come. Check…he said…“No…electricity fire.” Someone is right, but who?
Maybe some people who don’t like Ahmaddiya?
Police no help me. Please…police no help Ahmadiyya community. Really he see and joking and laughing and go. Behind police…big…
They don’t like Ahmadiyya Muslims?
Why they don’t like Ahmadiyya Muslims?
You know…police and Government Pakistan is together. Government Pakistan afraid Mullah.
Yes. Sometimes Government want a full country is a peaceful, but Mullah on road and shouting, and abuse for Government, for President, for Prime Minister…then Government quiet.
And then my house burn and, um, same month…same month…me and my husband, my uncle and auntie go other city, my relatives one, that one person. I come back…nighttime…my husband told me, “Ruby, this time is not good,” and I said, “No.” And before going…I…we no telling anything, we go to other city. You know why…for safe, for safe, no telling. Go…that time…oh my God, that… Noor, I am sleeping on car behind seat…my husband and driver, front seat…my uncle and my auntie, I am… First car told quickly, “Stop!” I said “What happened?” and looking, oh my God. Three people…black…is covered, and the gun and then, “Stop car!”
What did they do? Did they search your car?
They say, “Come, come. Yes. Come outside.” And they…my husband catch…only my husband catch…and behind the truck. And I am like…
My mind is totally asleep.
So you fainted because they took your husband behind the truck?
You thought they could…
But he hit here. My husband is a strong man…mindly strong, body strong. But he, “Okay, okay. You want anything? Money? Car?” He said “No, only I want hit you and, uh, why you – I know you are name redacted” he said. Then I said “Oh my God.” Yes, this month too much happened with me and my husband, oh god. “I kill you…your daughter in college…and you, your shop, your wife at home.” Only threat, threat, threat. And my husband, uh, we…no…they hit my husband, here…here…here. Gun with injured my husband and completely. You know, that time totally quiet is good. No…
Because you’re scared?
That they would shoot?
Yeah, yeah. And he…one man…come on car…came on car…get my bag and check anything, anything. My uncle’s rings…gold, and hit my uncle and driver.
Oh God, so hit all the men?
Men. Okay, and me only two or three, I said “Please, please, please, I am…already I am in depression. Please!” My husband, “Leave it please.” And they were, “Shut up! Shut up! I kill you woman! Please shut up!” I said my husband, “Please…” “Ruby, please quiet. This time is quiet only.” I say “Okay.” They kind of… hit and they say “Go!” Driver start car, then again one man come, and driver…a gun here. I said “What happen now?” “You bring, you give anything? Money?” Maximum forty thousand in pocket my husband he give and he said “Go.” And then after, after…
And so you went after they hit them all? They beat them up, all of them, and they took your money and rings?
Yes. And after a five minute drive, I called < i>daughter, “Daughter! Some people on gunpoint hit your papa, driver, uncle. And me and my auntie only shouting and he wanted to but, uh, my husband “No, no touch woman! My…my wife already is sick, mentally deficient. She take tablets!” “Ohh…” Too much, too much…
Too much, yeah. So with all of this happening back in Pakistan, did you have a dream? What was your dream when you were in Pakistan?
Yeah. For back Pakistan? No!
No, no. I mean when you were living in Pakistan.
Before coming here.
What did you dream of? Did you dream of becoming a doctor? Did you dream of, what was your dream?
What was your dream? What did you want to be?
Yes. Then my husband, uh, 2018 continue, threat letter, threat phone. But I am thinking, yes I have visa, my daughter have visa… I want to go, but you are here. My husband told me “Ruby, please…God want my life than anybody no touch me, but God not…then… Please. I want you and my daughter only safe. I stay no at home. I go other city”. Totally…morning time…4:00….dark time…my house…Noor, too much, big house, very beautiful. Life’s totally set, beautiful curtains, furniture. Only I take one luggage, and no safe, no lock, and go by car…by port. Khalas (enough) and one time I look in my house and my husband…. (Cries)
Two year continue I not looking my husband.
I hope he will come here.
Inshallah (God willing).
You know, you, you feel this situation. My marriage is love marriage and my cousin, my husband is my cousin and he is…he no go airport, my husband. He went on street and other people’s… He understand Ruby is here, my daughter is inside house, he no lock outside door, he only looking me. “Okay daughter… okay Ruby…God wish, I see you.”
Again. You know, in Pakistan, men…he want, every time “My family’s safe” and…100 percent…he…he have, he had visa, then he come with me.
Before he every time came in UK…every year…every year came UK. But that time, only my daughter and me visa. Him visa, his visa is finish. He applied but they reject.
Oh god. So would you say your dream now is for your husband to come here?
Yes, yes. My…only my wish, only one wish…I…no money…nothing, money is not for me need…nothing, house nothing. Only my husband came here.
Can you say my dream is for my husband to come from Pakistan?
Safe…only safe, I want only safe.
Okay, can you repeat, can you say “My dream is for my husband to be safe?”
Yes. I want my, my dream is every time in my mind, like stuck. My husband come, came, coming here UK and safe feel my husband is here. My husband in Pakistan, I am not relax.
Okay, no I’m telling you to say the quote because I don’t want to change anything that you’re saying. I want you to say it yourself. Can you say “My dream is for my husband to come to the UK and be safe?”
From my dream.
My dream, my husband come to UK and be safe.
Thank you. And did you have, um, before – now that’s your dream – before when you were in Pakistan with your husband and everything, what did you wish for? What was your wish?
Me? Only I, my wish I was happy in my house but nighttime I can’t sleep. Three, four years continue. You know threat letter and, uh, is disturb me every time. Sometimes I am cooking, um, landline is bell. I go maybe my mama, my sister, I… “Hello. Who are you? You are Ruby?” “Yeah.” “Robina?” “Yeah.” “Oh you are Ahmadiyya. I want to go Jannat. I kill you, your and your family. Your daughter now is in college?” Then, I…oh my God, my daughter in college. I could totally…quickly…I close phone, call my husband in shop. “Husband. Where daughter? You go…” Every time like life disrupt so then my husband go….
You wish, you, when you were in Pakistan you only wish to be peaceful?
Peaceful, nothing. No peace.
Yeah, so, you, you hope, you were like, “Inshallah, I will be peaceful.”
Inshallah. But, uh, in Pakistan, Amadiyya continue no relax…no peace…no safe…no nothing. My child time to continue now I see, I told you before that I done 10 year old, I was…my house burn, some people want my father…hit my father, my full house burned, then I changed city…my father. After marriage I go Mandi Bauhaddin…then again continue. Oh my God…
I will just try to tell you, okay.
In my city 2010, one mosque in Ramadan, zehri time. Two people come, too much, because people were fighting.
I would ask you what was your dream when you were in Pakistan?
(trans) My dream in Pakistan was… my daughter’s life is good…my family…my daughter marriage…my daughter’s jobs…for only my daughter and my husband…my husband safe, me safe. I have a good house, good business, my husband, money problem…no money problem.
So you just wanted a simple…
But safe life.
I want safe. Yes, I want safe life. But I understand, now Ruby your family’s not safe here.
Okay, so can you say “My dream in Pakistan was for my family to be, to have safe and simple life”?
My dream in, to Pakistan safe and, uh, peace in Pakistan.
Like your dream was…
And what is your strength, strength? What is your strength that kept you going through all the challenges?
What do you think?
I think before I told you, maybe…I was before marriage to continue in Taekwondo. I have inside strong and, uh, stamina. My stamina before marriage, after marriage, after my daughter born, everything I feel, “Ruby, you fight, fight.” But the last three years in Pakistan, slowly, slowly, my stamina is gone. You know, daughter, son, and husband is a weakness for women. He want my…my daughter, my son, long-life.
Okay, so you had to stop your Taekwondo for your…?
Yes, after marriage, stop. But I feel inside, stamina. My stamina, yes I still feel. My stamina for my daughter. I want, I want, I die for my daughter…I die but my daughter safe, my husband safe. But I don’t know what happened with me. I can’t call, I listen letter, see letter, but I feel, oh my God… Again? One day, one letter with blood write – blood – you know, blood?
Blood in write on.
Whose blood is it?
Maybe animal, maybe animal. He use, they use, they use animal and write on you and your family, your daughter…this blood is your family blood.
I keep this letter in my solicitor.
That time my husband decided “Ruby, we are not safe. You go. I go other city.” But he have business in city, sometimes he come, he go, he come, sometimes he didn’t return my call. Then I am afraid where my husband. Two, three days after, he call me, “I am safe. But I am at other city”
One day I came by about to, about to come back home after work, one man come behind me on motorcycle. He hit…big stick…hit in my hair. I fall down like face, front face. Too much injured here, here and behind. And he goes quickly on motorcycle. Early morning, early morning.
Huh? Why? I’m Ahmadiyya!
How does he know that your Ahmadiyya?
Before one day he on call “You go on park everyday I know. I want to kill your family, you are Ahmadiyya, you are blah, blah, blah.” I told my husband, my husband said, “Okay, Ruby, you no go. Only you work on roof, in house, you no go.” But I feel everytime outside is good.
Maybe I early morning. I said “Early morning, who?” With neighbors womans I go park, but that time, I am alone and very close my house like a car and hit and go.
Wow. Do you, do you think you’re still strong now?
Here? I am strong, totally changed. In Pakistan everytime I, my face and thinking, looking TV. But my thinking, my husband in shop, maybe not safe maybe quickly he call me: “Your husband is die.” Sometimes I feel sometimes “My daughter, you are safe in college?” “Mama, I am in class. But somebody he disturbed me.” In colleges, universities, too much disturbed girls and some…
And boys. She dislike teachers, like teachers: “You are Ahmadiyya? You separate here.”
What? There’s a lot of discrimination?
Okay, and uh –
Don’t touch this class, you are Ahmadiyya. But I say “I am Muslim. Prayer five times, Quran same.”
“Like you! I am like you!”
Quran same. Yes, prayer same. Kalmah same. Zakat, Hajj, (inaudible), everything same, everything. But he’s no…
They don’t care, they think like even if you pray like them, you’re not like them.
You, you told me you were strong back in Pakistan because you’re a fighter? Right?
Yes, yes, yes.
From your house. You still think now you’re a fighter as well?
I am here. I am here is more better strong. But Pakistan, my strongness is slowly, slowly gone. Every time I am on bed, sick.
Now you’re, you’re so, so much stronger?
Is too much, uh, so much Nour. In Pakistan every time doctor for me came my house, sometime I am freezing, sometimes my fever. Sometimes I like, you know?
Yeah, fainting. Every time, every week and too much medicines. Now I came UK with my depression tablets, my sleeping pills, and my pain pills. After I go to GP, they, they give me maybe maximum six month, four month, I continue start, but now all medicine stops.
Only thyroid stop.
Amazing! Very strong woman!
Really! Really! All medicine, depression, tension, pain is stopped.
And because you feel safe?
Safe, too much safe!
And because you’re like, you know, that your daughter is safe?
My Daughter is safe, yes. I, I, my daughter go outside. I, nothing thinking “Where is my daughter?” No. Only for one anywhere, “My daughter, where is my dress? Like only just got.” Nothing. “Daughter, when time? When are you coming home?” She come sometime late, sometimes not.
It’s fine! She feels safe. I am happy!
Okay, so now your dream only is for your husband to come here?
Come here and safe yes.
Well, um, I’m done with my questions. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Would you like to say anything else for other people?
Other people which?
Like, just say in general, if you want to add anything?
People, uh, this area, my community, especially Ahmadiyya community. First I came in Romford, I find my community people. Uh, he called me, I called mosque, my mosque Imam. He called me, “Okay, one woman came your house. I use, you give him – give her – your telephone number, blah, blah, blah.” Then he quickly come for my help. I have that time, I have no blanket, this house came very thin, I feel cold. He gave me, he bring for me and my daughter anything, food, but for my community my daughter, no by self. Every time I feel some, no nothing money, nothing, I feel depression I call my community womans. He say, “Okay auntie I will come and time spend with you. Very good people here.
Yeah, okay. So you feel a part of a community?
No other communities. He touch, we touch me in library, Lily Chai group. No my community group. Yeah. Sunni, Shia…
Yeah but he know…not know I am Ahmadiyya.
But no, he said nothing…I am in the UK, UK…you know what…uh…all communities is friend.
Yeah, it’s very mixed.
Mixed, yes. British and black and Albanian and Pakistani mix.
Everyone, this area peoples.
And you love everyone.
Yes, everyone. At this house, this house, I came, but I am afraid…this black girl….this is not my language. But now I feel like family. Every family here.
Okay, great. So now you love everyone?
You don’t mind everyone? Okay.
Slowly, slowly. You know Marrin? Marrin lived there, Marrin?
Maureen, yeah, Maureen. Maureen live there with me this house and she go. One my friend, very Zafi he go…and any woman go, all girls crying.
Because you’re like a family.
Yes, like a family. But in short sentence I feel Nour, they’re totally changed in Pakistan and there. I feel safe, I feel happy, I feel like…uh…fit. Everyday I go to outside and feel more better. At home…
I’m happy you’re happy, Robina, and I’m happy to be your friend.
Yes, I am happy! You are, Nour, my friend and you are…I, every time I zoom your picture, she’s very beautiful. (Both laugh)
In Pakistan I forget laughing. Really. My one picture in Lunar House Croydon for a screening interview, you see different change, different my face. My face like slim, like yellow and eyes like sad, but now my pictures –
Smiling. This so far.
Inshallah always smile.
Every time I sit down here knitting and watch movie and cooking is great.
Well thank you so much.
You let us do the…
But, uh, only…only husband in Pakistan not safe, not safe.