About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Roya with a hijab holding a child in her arms

Roya Ahmadi

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Mahdiyh Haidari

“I wanted to study. Make a living… a future for myself,” says Roya Ahmadi (pseud, 23), who left her birth country of Iran due to a strict government regime which persecuted her for being an Afghan national. Crossing into Turkey, she lived there for over a year before reaching Greece. Now in a camp with her husband and children, life is difficult as living conditions are bad. “It gives a feeling of emptiness. We feel we are being destroyed moment by moment,” she explains. Away from home, Roya also feels homesick, depressed, and lonely: “Every moment we look around, we see that our families are not here… We are alone. You are in a city where you do not know their language. You do not know where to go, what to do.” While she never thought she could endure these challenges, Roya decided to stay alive, and found the ability to deal with them “by praying and asking God for help.” Her dream for the future is to be successful at work: “I feel that one day I will get to it, it makes me happy.”

Trigger Warning: Discrimination

full interview

Can you introduce yourself?
I am Roya Ahmadi. 23 years old. I was born in Iran. Right now I’m on Lesbos Island.

What kind of housing do you live in?
At one of the houses of the organization. Alekhteda.

Can you explain the situation?
It is a two-story apartment. The kitchen is shared. That means two families live in the apartment. It has two bedrooms. It means that there are pros and cons. Because we have to use the apartment in partnership. It has its own problems. The supervisor comes to visit us late and all the problems are on our own and this is not good at all.

Who do you live with?
With a citizen who is a neighbor. We are in an apartment. With my husband. We also have two children. A girl and a boy.

How do you spend your time here?
We exercise. For example, we go to an online language class. That’s it.

What are some things that make you happy?
That the Corona disappears, that these children can study, that we can think about our own future. Everything is really boring.

What has life been like since you arrived in Europe? What was hard and what (were the difficult..) was good?
Our life in Europe was very difficult, that is, on the island, that is, in the camp. Conditions were not good. That is, there were no amenities. There was no such thing as civilization. The situation was not good at all. Seeing immigrants in hardships really torments you. And… That’s all…

Can you describe how life here has made you feel?
Sadness. It gives a feeling of emptiness. We feel we are being destroyed moment by moment.

How does being away from other family members or home make you feel? Can you explain?
Homesick. It really gives a person depression. In general, one gets closer to depression. Every moment we look around, we see that our families are not here; mother, brother, sister. Neither is by your side at all. We are alone. You are in a city where you do not know their language. You do not know where to go, what to do. It’s really hard. Very lonely.

Could you ever have imagined that you could handle this situation? How did you manage to overcome these problems and live?
I really did not think I could pass on problems like this at all from the first time I came. I can’t believe I was able to get out of the camp and endure the difficulties for eight or nine months. Fire, I do not know how I could endure other problems with two children and this. I really do not know and I cannot believe it. Maybe I had the perseverance that I probably could.

Do you think you have the ability to meet these challenges? Or do you think you have always had these skills?
I think I have found the ability to deal with these. Because I saw that everyone was there. They are trying to survive, I mean, not to live. I also decided to stay alive. And I try to get over the problems. That’s why I think I learned.

How has the Corona affected your mood and emotions?
I am more depressed. For example, wherever you go, you feel afraid that you might be affected by a virus. Next, your kids, you are always nervous.

Why did you leave your country? Can you explain what happened?
In our country, we were in Iran, we were in a city, in the city of Qom, it was very difficult, very strict – women (for example) were not allowed to do anything. I do not know what it was like for men. We are not men. It was very hard for women. How to dress should be in the hands of the government, how to walk, how to eat, in general, everything should be determined by the religious government, that is, the Sheikhs. These problems really irritated us. That’s why we are really tired of this strictness. We said we want to live for a while, not for someone to tell us what to do and what not to do. Or, for example, we are immigrants. And someone says: You don’t have an Iranian birth certificate, you have to get out of here and leave the family. This is so hard. Then we left our country.

How did you feel at that time?
A really scary feeling. I saw that we were leaving, our family was there. We are going to separate from them. It is really a sad feeling when a person is with someone and then wants to separate from them. It really cannot be described. No one knows if there’s a chance that we will meet again or not.

How was your trip to Europe? Did you have a particular experience or difficulty that you wanted to talk about?
When we came from Iran, the border between Iran and Turkey was very difficult. Because we were at the border for a few days. It was very cold in the tents there. There were no amenities. No electricity, no chargers, no phone to tell our loved ones that we are alive, whether we crossed the border or not. It was very hard there. After four days, God helped us, we came to Turkey from Iran. We were on the road for a day or two. When we got to the city we wanted. We got a house there. We waited. Because we did not have the cost of travel to move forward. We stayed. We were there for almost a year and two months. We worked in Turkey and continued our normal routine. But Turkey was not a really good city (country?). Because our religion was different from what they are. That’s why we couldn’t stay there long. That’s why we moved forward. We came to Istanbul. We talked to one of these smugglers from Istanbul. It was a very scary and dangerous inflatable boat, for an hour or two we were in the water. We were in the water several times, but they caught us. They returned to the camp. It was a kind of prison. They forced us to eat, they forced us to walk in the yard. I got sick there. They didn’t bring me to a doctor. Seeing that I was sick, they threw me out of the camp, telling me: You are free. I could not even walk! The situation was not very good. It was our last chance. My daughter was very small at the time and the situation wasn’t good. Until finally, in one of these throws, we passed. We passed and came to the island. With thousands of fears, whether they will accept us or (if) they will return us or not. Until the police came and welcomed us, we went to Camp Moria and this is where Moria’s problems started.

How did you feel at that time?
At that time a feeling of emptiness. That why… Why should Afghanistan see so much oppression and so many problems that we, the people of Afghanistan, people who are Afghans, all have to endure these problems, flee from one city to another. Why should it be like this? Why should this happen to this beautiful country? I had this feeling that what we really are? Why is this happening to us? Why don’t we have a chance? I had this feeling of emptiness.

Do you often think about these things? Is there a specific time? Is there a specific time to think about it?
When I am alone with myself, I think about these problems, the sadness increases every moment.

How do you feel at that time? When do you think about it?
Feeling angry, upset. Anything that is negative comes to mind.

Does the situation you are facing today affect you? How?
Yeah. That breaks a person mentally and physically. It means getting old.

Have you ever thought that you could handle this situation? How did you manage to overcome these problems?
I do not believe that I said how I solved these problems, but, by praying and asking God for help, I was able to overcome these problems and pass through them.

What were your dreams before the accident that you wanted to leave your country and your home?
My dreams were that I wanted a guitar since I was a child, I wanted to learn the guitar. I really liked the music and these things. I wanted to study. Make a living, (have) a job, a future for myself. Next, I want to go somewhere comfortable, I want to go somewhere in the country, for example, this way of the country, the other side of the country, I want to go easily. I mean, I want somewhere where there is nobody to tell me where I go and where not. These were dreams that seemed very small, but in my opinion, there and in those circumstances, they were the greatest dreams, but I did not achieve them.

Now, what are your dreams, your wishes for the future?
For the future, it is to be successful in my work. The dreams I had to achieve in the future, the same wishes. I feel happy when I think about it. I am really happy when I see that I (might) achieve my dreams. I feel that one day I will get to it, it makes me happy.

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.