About Refugees, By Refugees

Roghaia Mohammadi

Pictures taken in:

From:

Nationality:

Photo and interview by:

Greece

Afghanistan

Afghan

Zahra Gardi

When Roghaia Mohammadi (34) left her home in Afghanistan, and then Iran, her dream was to “experience a peaceful, war-free life and get ahead by working hard and studying.” In pursuit of this dream, the mother of three has endured robbery, deportation, violence against her children, and separation from one of her sons. The most difficult part of her journey was in a smuggler’s car. “My son panicked and couldn’t breathe. I begged the driver to stop… he told me he did not care if my son died, and that if he died, we would throw him out of the vehicle. I just cried and fanned my son with a piece of a cardboard box.” Now, as she seeks asylum in Greece, her thoughts are elsewhere: “most nights before bed or when I am alone, I think about my second son in Iran. I am physically here, but my soul was left in Iran.” Still, she finds hope. “Thinking about a better future for myself and my family helps me. I have always been a strong person, but this trip has made me even stronger.“

Trigger Warning:

full interview

What kind of home do you live in?
I live in Mitilini and in a home given by Al-Iqteda. 

Describe your situation.
This is the third home we have moved to. We did not have good neighbors in the previous two houses. And because we didn’t speak the language, we had a lot of problems. Although this home is small and old, it’s better than the situation in Moria. 

Who are you there with?
I live with my husband and three sons. It is very hard. Each family has only a small room to live in. 

How do you spend your time here? Do you work?
No, I don’t work. I was taking English and Greek language classes before the pandemic. Our classes were dismissed because of Corona.  Now, I do yoga, swimming, and jogging. 

What are some of the things that make you happy?
Whenever I am sad, I always spend time listening to music, exercising, and doing handicrafts, like knitting, or going out with my friends. Sometimes, I go to the market and buy myself something, as a treat or gift, to encourage myself to persevere through the difficulties. 

How has your life been since you arrived in Europe? What has been easy and what has been difficult?
Life has been very difficult for me and my family ever since we arrived in Europe. Nothing is how we thought it was going to be. I used to think that when we arrived in Europe, we would have a safe life, and that my children and I could go to school, but when we arrived in Europe and I saw the conditions in Moria, all my hopes were destroyed. The things that have been good for me so far have been the ability to exercise and take language classes, before Corona. I loved school, and I still do, but because my father did not approve, I couldn’t go to school. 

Can you tell us how life here makes you feel?
Life here and in this situation has only made me feel hopeless and defeated, especially when I see that my children, my husband, and I can neither go to school nor progress, and not even find work. I separated from my husband. My three sons and I set out on this journey.  The Turkish police deported us back to Afghanistan on our first attempt. When we tried to go back to Iran, illegally, we ran into Taliban on the way. They threatened us mercilessly and mistreated us and robbed us of our money and belongings. They hit my son on the head with a gun, causing a mental problem, which has worsened with living in poor conditions in Moria. This makes me very sad, and I always ask myself why I cannot have a comfortable life like everyone else. 

How does it feel to be away from family and home (feelings of not belonging / discrimination / shame)?
I grew up in a closed-minded family and I have never been able to do the things I loved – all my work and choices were made by my parents, even my marriage – and my opinion did not matter to them. They always preferred their sons over their daughters. Now, they are still not talking to me and have no relationship with me because I separated from my husband and came to Europe against their will. So, I have no feelings about it. 

Did you ever think that you could handle this situation? How did you manage to overcome it and survive?
No, I could not even imagine that I would have to deal with all the things that I have gone through. Onlyhope for the future and my sons encouraged me not to give up. 

Do you think you have mastered the strength to meet these challenges now, or you have always had these abilities?
I have always been a strong person, but this trip has made me even stronger.   

How has Corona affected your daily life, mood, and emotional well-being?
My oldest son, who suffers from nervous complications, used to spend the whole day outside. I was worried about where he was and what he was doing. I always wanted to talk to him but we couldn’t. Now, because he can’t go outside- due to quarantine – we spend more time together and I get to talk to him more. This spending time with my children is very valuable to me. I try not to be like my parents, and I pay more attention to them. 

Why did you leave your country? Can you explain what happened?
Because of poverty and war and family quarrels over a piece of land.My father quarreled with some distant relatives over a piece of land and was sent to jail. They took everything from us by force, even our carpets and dishes. When my father was released from jail, he went to Iran and about three years later he came back and moved us to Iran, illegally. 

How did you feel at that time?
I was happy and eager to see Iran as soon as possible because I had heard that Iran was a very nice place that had all sorts of good facilities like electricity and gas. Because I was living in the village until then, I had not seen electricity, appliances, or gas.  

How was your trip to Europe? Was it a difficult experience to talk about?
It was very difficult and expensive for me. I separated from my husband and set on a trip with my three (15, 12, and 5 years old) sons, which everyone was against. I was so tired of living for others that I decided not to care about anyone anymore and to live only for myself, so I started this journey.  I used to be someone who always did what my elders and others told me to do, even if I did not like it—I would do it just to make them happy. But at some point, not to continue down that path and I decided to pursue my own life goals and aspirations.The most difficult moment in this journey was when I was sitting in a smuggler’s car heading from Turkey to Greece. The vehicle was crowded and it was difficult to breath—there wasn’t enough air.  My son panicked and couldn’t breathe. I begged the driver a few times to stop the vehicle because my son was dying, but he was unmoved. He told me in a coldblooded tone he did not care if my son died, and that if he died, we would throw him out of the vehicle. I just cried and fanned my son with a piece of a cardboard box so that he could breathe some cool air. 

What was your feeling at that time?
Fear, worry, anxiety, and regret. 

How often do you think about these things? When? Is there anything particular moments that you think about?
Most nights before bed or when I am alone, I think about my second son, who stayed with his father in Iran.He came with us the first time. But for the second time, after the hardships of the journey, he got tired and decided to stay behind and also to prevent his father from following us. Now, I am physically here, but my soul is left in Iran. 

How do you feel when you think about it?
Longing and wanting to see my son again. 

Did these hardships affect you? How?
Yes, I have become more patient. 

What kept you alive / or helped you to deal with such hardships? Do you have a specific way to get out of these difficult situations or difficult memories? Where does this power and support come from?
Thinking about a better future for myself and my family helps me. Whenever I remember those bitter memories of the past, I try to keep myself busy by doing art and sports. 

What was your dream before you were forced to run away from home?
When I was in my country, I wanted to become a good and kind teacher for the children because my own teacher always punished the students. 

What was your dream for the future when you left home?
To get to a place where I could experience a peaceful and war-free life. To find a place where people’s race and nationality is not important and where I can get ahead by working hard and studying.

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.