About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Seyed with his hands crossed looking down standing against a background painted like the sky

Seyed Mahdi Hoseini

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hannan Dormiyani

“Whatever challenges or problems arise, I will cope with them,” says Seyed Mahdi Hoseini (21). “I want to reach a really good goal and study… if I start now with my current age, I can reach a good future.” Born in Afghanistan, Seyed’s family fled to Iran when he was a baby, after his father, a Syed, was threatened by the Taliban. But 20 years later, discrimination against Afghan nationals in Iran led him to undertake the risky journey to Europe. “We were really scared and really spent long nights under the rain in the jungle,” he recalls. Now in a refugee camp in Sarajevo, Seyed is ready to work hard to achieve his dream of “a calm life with good education.” He credits his determination to his difficult experiences: “I have this feeling to continue and have become much stronger.” His future is uncertain; he says, “We haven’t really started to live here; we are still in a camp.” But Seyed expresses optimism: “I feel like I can be a successful person and be useful to this society.”

Trigger Warning: Violence; discrimination/racism

full interview

I’m going to ask some questions regarding your current condition. What type of accommodation do you live in? 
Normal, as in…  (Interviewer interrupts: No. Where do you reside in?) Nothing for now. I’m in a camp.

Could you describe the conditions of the camp? 
To an extent, yes.

Please explain to us. 
The camp conditions, well… there’s a lot and the way they handle things can be said as good. But the hygiene and sanitation are really problematic such as the shower and bathrooms. Then there’s no air conditioner and most of the days it’s hot and cold at night. This situation is temporary anyway and there’s no other way I can explain it.

Who are you living with? 
With my wife.

How do you spend your time here? 
I’m going to start my English classes tomorrow. My English is really weak and there wasn’t anywhere I could continue my education. I’m going to start from the beginner level. It’s also been a few days since I’m here.

What is the cause of your happiness?
When I find that there’s someone that actually cares for us, as in when an organization helps us or when there’s a place that can give us accommodation, or a place where we can build our future. These will be the cause of our happiness.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
We haven’t had a normal life yet as we were on a journey, but as we went forward, we had a good feeling. According to… as in we can say that we were finally seen. We are a refuge that’s finally seen.

Living… What were the benefits of staying here?
Uhh… I was able to know my surroundings better. Between the countries that I have been to and the countries that we will be going to, I’m gathering information about the people, culture, and their treatment with of other immigrants… So, I can better understand it.

What was difficult? 
It was really hard, the route was really difficult, the police for example at the Greece borders, Albania borders, these were really problematic for us. As it, it was difficult.

Can you describe how you felt by living here?
The feeling… uh. We haven’t really started to live here; we are still in a camp but I feel like I can be a successful person and be useful to this society. 

How did you feel being away from home or family members?
I really feel homesick but for the future that we have to try and build because I couldn’t build my future in Iran, and living there was really hard and difficult. I even started to work at the age of 8. As in I started to work in waste inventories and couldn’t continue my education because I was an Afghani and I didn’t have any ID. So due to this reason, I was forced to immigrate. 

How does the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affect you?
I become very disappointed because we’re all humans. For example, in Iran, we wanted to get a sim card in our name but they said since we were Afghani immigrants, they can’t do so. Also, for example, I couldn’t ride vehicles, then… that’s it, I’m really disappointed in their government as to why they do such things to us. For example, (inaudible). They didn’t consider us as humans, they thought we may have come from somewhere else and not from the human race. I used to get such feelings. It was really disappointing and frustrating.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?
Since my aim is really important to me for now, I will get along with it.

How are you able to cope with the condition?… or live? 
By thinking about the future.

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had strengths or skills or resolve to cope with these issues?
Yes, because I want to reach a really good goal and study. As in if I start now with my current age, I can reach a good future. Because of this, whatever challenges or problems arise, I will cope with them.

Now I’m going to ask a few questions regarding your past. 
There’s no problem.

Why did you leave the country? 
I left the country when I was one year old because my father was a Syed. He had a different ethnic background from others, for example the Pashtuns. That time Taliban had come and they even took my brother hostage because my father was the superior of a locality, and the Taliban threatened him that they would kill him and my father was forced to leave his country. Then we came to and lived in Iran, Mashhad for 20 years. 

What feeling did you have at that time? 
I really thought I didn’t have any identity as in I didn’t have any identity (interviewer interrupts). It’s like we were completely different from other people.

How was the journey to Europe? 
We came from a route that… uhh… difficult and really kind of challenging. There wasn’t anyone to accompany us on how to go and how to not go… as in I took the risk and the two of us went to Greece from Turkey and from Greece to Albania, Albania to Montenegro, Montenegro to Bosnia and we were really scared and really spent long nights under the rain in the jungle… just the two of us… it was really difficult. We were forced to… as in we were forced to risk either to live or reach a better future. 

Did you have any experiences that were specifically difficult and that you can tell us?
Yes, once on the way, the Greek police caught me and deported me, and mistreated me. I was never mistreated like that in my whole life and I tried again this time stronger and continued the path.

How did you feel at that time when this happened?
I was really becoming hopeless, it was really… how do I say it… I used to think we didn’t have the right to live. I had an unpleasant feeling. 

Do you often think of these incidents that happened? 
Yes, sometimes I do. I say things like, who am I? From where did I come? Where do I want to go? Sometimes I think of these when I’m alone myself.

When do you think of these? 
Mostly before I sleep.

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
I’m always thinking about the end of my journey so that I can start from scratch somewhere and build a new life, or do start my education from a basic level, to be useful to society. 

How do you feel when you think of these?
I feel like I will become a successful person and will have increased my strength. 

Has the condition that you are in had an impact on you? 
Yes, I feel sorry that I couldn’t continue my education as in… uh… for example, when I want something from someone, I can’t speak to them in English. Why? Because I didn’t study? This itself is really hard for me.

Have you ever imagined of managing these situations?
No, I couldn’t have imagined.

Can you explain a bit more? 
I didn’t think that one day I would be living in a camp or one day I would immigrate or be able to leave my country or be far away from home and family. I didn’t really think of it but, well, we were forced to do it.

How did you get along and move on from the conditions?
There were a lot of difficulties behind me. That was the main reason because I suffered a lot and risked it all to reach a better future. 

Have you created a solution for dealing with or moving on from the difficult days or memories?
Yes, because of my goal because I want to go there to start a life from scratch and build a good life for myself and I really want to study. 

Where do you get the support and strength from?
From the people who lived in Europe, to the people that lived in Iran. I speak with them to try to understand where I can live better.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country? I want you to start with this sentence: “My dream was…” 
My dream was to create a business for myself but unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything because the government didn’t let me do it and I became really hopeless and disappointed. This was really the only reason. 

When you left your home what wishes did you have for the future? I want you to start your sentence with “My dream was…” again 
*sighs* My dream is to one day be in the place where I liked and wanted to build my future. As in to finally reach a place. 

I want to conclude the questions. Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength? 
*Inhales and sighs* (Interviewer: Do you want me to repeat the question again?) Yes

Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength? 
It’s all because I wanted to build a better future because I knew I won’t have a future there and I didn’t have any rights, I couldn’t live with ease. My only strength was to reach a better future. 

Have you still preserved these? 

I have preserved all the feelings related to my entire goals and past.

What you experienced seemed really difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your improvement in any way or resulted in something positive in your life?
Yes, ever since I achieved these experiences, I feel a lot better, my mind has become open, and completely understand the future and past, as in I can get along with them. I have this feeling to continue and have become much stronger. 

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future? I want you to start with: “My dream is that…“
My dream is to get my permit and have a calm life with good education and ultimately continue with my life. 

I’m grateful for all the responses you have us to all these questions. Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe? 
Honestly, we are here, we are risking a lot and going until death to finally reach our goals. Anyone choosing such a path is not really happy about it and really has problems. No one likes to leave their home, and no one is ready to be far from their mother, father, brother, sister, relatives, or acquaintances. They’re either forced to or their life is in danger or their future. As in there is no future left for the person. I really hope from the bottom of my heart for Europeans to understand us. We are forced to immigrate.

Thank you for your responses. 

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.