About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Said with his hands behind his back looking to his left

Said Yaser Taheri

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Mahdiyh Haidari

“My dreams are to study and continue movie-making,” says Said Yaser Taheri (17) from Afghanistan, who, despite getting scholarships to university, had to leave home as he and his family were threatened by the Taliban. Passing through Iran and Turkey, they entered Europe by sea on their eleventh try. Now living in a camp in Greece, he has “feelings of depression” as things are not what he expected: “Being far from my friends was hard… It is impossible to meet them because of the situation. It sometimes depresses me.” But Said Yaser copes by making plans; it makes him happy even if he doesn’t succeed in them. Previous difficulties he faced back home have also taught him how to adjust to new conditions and people. “The hope I have helps me stand strong,” he says, while knowing Greek will help him reach his goals and strive more. “In hard situations, it helps me to be stronger… It cannot stop me from moving forward,” he says. “I will be ready for more difficult days and never give up.”

Trigger Warning: Mention of kidnap, violence and suicide

full interview

Could you introduce yourself? 
I am Yaser, 17 years old and from Afghanistan.

In what kind of accommodation do you live?
In Greece? In a tent in a new camp in Greece. I don’t know about the name of the camp.

Could you explain the situation at the camp? 
The situation of the new camp is worse than the Moria camp. Hygiene is not followed because there is no shower and the toilets are bad, similar to the previous camp, but worse. 

Who do you live with?
With my family. My father, mother, sister and two brothers. 

How do you spend your time here? Do you work or go to class? 
I do different things… Like studying, coming to refocus class and working on some projects. 

What makes you happy?
I don’t know what makes me happy. When I make plans about something, it makes me happy. It doesn’t matter if I succeed in my plans. Just making plans makes me happy.

How was life for you in Europe? What are good and bad things? Could you describe them? 
It was different. I met people who were good and bad people. Life was bad, especially mentally it was bad. The nice people whom I met were positive. And some opportunities that I got for some projects.

Could you explain how do feel living here?
Me in Afghanistan…

First talk about your feeling.
Ahh… I don’t know… Feelings of depression because you know… We had different expectations. I see the situation is completely different from what I expected. And… What feelings do I have… I don’t feel anything special.

Ahh … how do you feel far from family and home?
When I was in Afghanistan, I was not that much in contact with my family. However, being far from my friends was hard. I didn’t have that many friends as well. Just I had two close friends that I want to meet again, but I think it is impossible to meet them because of the situation. It sometimes depresses me.

Have you ever thought to handle the situation? How did you overcome it to live with it?
So… I have experienced a lot of difficulties. When I was twelve years old, I left my family and faced many difficulties. The hope I have helps me stand strong. The advantage I have is that I know the language of this country. By knowing the language, I can reach closer to my goals and this causes me to strive more.

Do you think you inherited the skill or have you learned it?
I said that I had had a hard life in Afghanistan as well, not because of my financial situation, but being far from family. I had a hard life because of being only a child and twelve years old so I can say I had these skills from before.

What are the possible effects of COVID 19 on your daily life, emotions and feelings? 
It hasn’t affected me mentally or emotionally because it isn’t a permanent thing. It is temporary, it will be over in a year’s time once they have found the vaccine. It hasn’t affected me mentally as much, only it has limited us in the work we do or the projects we participate in.

Why have you left your country? Could you explain what happened?
It had a lot of reasons. One was that my father worked in UNHCR from 2001 to 2003. The next reason was that the Taliban kidnapped my father because he worked in a governmental hospital. And the important reason was that I worked in the US embassy. Being Shia, a minority group in Afghanistan endangered my life.

How did you feel at that time? 
From Afghanistan?

Yes, when you had these problems, how did you feel? 
I felt insecure. One time my father was kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban for three days. And one time I was kidnapped. I was working until they kidnapped me and I realized that I could not continue. But still, we lived there and thought that it was finished. After the third time, they shot my father. We knew that we couldn’t live there.

How was your trip to Europe? Did you have a tough experience talking about it? 
All parts of this trip were hard. But because I was raised in a tough situation, I personally loved the trip. Yes, there were difficulties, but I think no pain no gain. There is a proverb (in Persian, when something doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger). It was hard, but it was something that passed.

How did you feel passing the way through smuggling?
When we reached an island?

No, when you were on the smuggling way?
On the way… What is the meaning of depends in Persian? It depends on the place. When we were in Iran and didn’t know about what we faced, it didn’t feel like anything. Passing the border between Iran and Turkey was very hard because we had to struggle very hard to pass it. We tried three times. For the first time, the border was banned, for the second time, the Turkish police arrested us and finally for the third time we passed the border. Life in Turkey was hard because we did not have documents and there was a chance of deportation. One time, they arrested me and wanted to deport me. My mother went to the Turkish embassy and saved me from being deported. We tried eleven times to enter Europe by sea and we succeeded the eleventh time. 

When do you usually think about these incidents? Is it a special time that you think about them? 
I don’t think about the incidents because there is no need to think about them. Sometimes I think about them especially, when I think about my friends. All I don’t think about is them.

How do you feel thinking about them?
When I think about them… Ahhh… They make me laugh. Now they are funny to me. The dangers we faced during our trip make me laugh. Last night I was in the camp walking along the river, the river was very wavy and stormy. It is a strange feeling. I don’t know how to express it. I don’t know whether to be afraid, to laugh or thank my God. I never know it.

Does the situation today you faced affects you? How? 
In hard situations, it helps me to be stronger. The situation is hard nowadays but it cannot stop me from moving forward. And it cannot make me commit suicide. I will be ready for more difficult days and never give up.

Have you ever imagined handling the situation? 
I could control hard situations and I was ready. No, I have never said that I will give up. 

How have you passed the situation? And did you have any strategies for passing the situations? Where did the support come from? 
When I was in Afghanistan, I always had problems. I was twelve and I had to adjust myself to new conditions and new people. Ahh… I always loved to have plans. It is my plan that helps me not give up.

Before coming here what were your dreams? Can you say what is your goal? 
I wanted to reach high achievements. I got two scholarships in Afghanistan and I was waiting for the third scholarship, a scholarship from Kyrgyzstan from the American University of Afghanistan. I didn’t know what to do. Did I really leave the situation and come here? And immigrated. I didn’t know what a better future was. Because I was forced to, I immigrated. If I was not forced, I would never come here because my situation was very good in Afghanistan.

Now that you have left your country and come to Europe, what are your dreams for the future? 

Could you tell me what your dreams are?
My dreams are to study and continue movie-making because when I was young, my only hobby was watching movies. My only hobby is watching movies and I always like to watch movies, because of that I got interested in watching movies. Sorry, I have forgotten the question.

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.