About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Shada looking down


Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

United Kingdom



Zozan Yasar

“Making people happy, contributing to us, to the human being, that makes me happy,” says Shada (30). Now living in Scotland, Shada left Kurdistan during the Saddam regime with her family when she was ten. “It was terrifying as a child… running, hiding, people telling you to hide.” They travelled through Turkey overland and to Italy by sea. “One day the waves got so bad, we were told that I don’t think we’ll make it,” she says. “Water came in from everywhere and people start screaming.” She looks back on the experience as having two sides. “I can never describe in what happened in one word. Because I could say it was traumatizing, but at the same time, it grew me, and it made me appreciate… that I can live today.” Growing up in Scotland, she says she faced “a lot of racism,” but that “everything changed slowly as the society became more accepting” of immigrants. Now working as a scientist, she says “I try to work hard so I can be a hope for a better future.”

Trigger Warning: Discrimination; death

full interview

Let me umm turn off my phone because when I work and I don’t like to, someone call me. Hi Shada thank you so much for being part of this Witness change project and we are really happy to have you.
Thank you so much.

I’m going to ask you some question and then if you’re not comfortable with any of them.

So you don’t have to. And basically, I just want to overall to find your strength, your challenges, resilience and dreams and hopes. And I from all your journey and as a Kurdish woman.

So and at the beginning, it’s going to be like the simple question like to asking about your situation and what kind of places you live and where you live and who do you live and how is your life.
Okay, sure. Let’s start.

So, yeah and then, so could you please tell me about yourself a bit and where do you live and who do you live with?
Yeah, so I am Shada, and uh, I’ve been living in Scotland for a long time now. I’ve been raised here. Uh, I came here in about 2002. I came here with my family, uh with mom, dad, brother and sisters. Umm, it was hard first, I don’t know if we were going to go in details later.

Yeah we will go in details later.
It was hard, really hard, I would say first five years to at least 10 years living here. But things has only gone better for the past 10 years now, which which is good.

And would you tell that your situation now is better now, right?
Oh, 100 percent definitely is better now, yes.

How do you spend your time?
Oh, I spend my time reading a lot. I work a lot. I spend time with my family a lot because that’s very important to me, especially that we are here alone as a family, with not many relatives. So I find it that we have only each other to, you know, give each other company and spend time and as well as get to know each other. I travel a lot as well. And that’s that is part of my life. And that’s a very important part of my life, umm. Uh, yes, and also I socialize, I’m a very sociable person and I love to socialize, I love to meet new people from different culture, religion. Um that is something that is very interesting and has opened my mind a lot, uh, growing up here in Scotland.

That’s so good. So what are some things that bring you joy, you enjoy most?
Um. Making people happy, contributing to us, to the human being, that makes me happy. Um, comforting, empathy. Yeah, um, empathy, I would say I find enjoyment in that, um I find enjoyment in happy people, people who went through hard time, hardship but somehow have overcome that. That makes me happy. Nature makes me happy. I come from Kurdistan, from a lot of nature, from mountains, from green, from waterfalls. So I find my happiness, my peacefulness, my comfort in those areas, in the nature. So, yeah.

Oh, such a beautiful. And then you can see that Scotland is also very green.
Absolutely. And I think that’s the beauty of it because I feel like Scotland has, reminds me reminds me of where my childhood was, because my childhood was in, you know, growing up in the mountains playing, you know, going with the family and the good memories. It reminds me of the good memories of of my childhood.

That’s so good, amazing.
And I think, yeah, that’s the beauty that the Scotland has given me as well, yeah.

It’s, that’s very important and good. Yeah. When I first arrived to Scotland and I was like the same. Oh my god, so green.
I know. And then you find waterfalls and you’re like, oh my God, we have waterfalls like Kurdistan. (Laughing together)

So yeah, and how has life been since you arrived here and what has been good for you? What has been bad for you?
Um, since I’ve moved here. We’ll start, we’ll start with that first. Um. It was lonely, it was scary, it was terrifying, a new language, people you’re not used to seeing. Umm, you’re in a place where people, you’re in a country where people feel like they have the authorities over you as a foreigner or as an immigrant. Um, the first few years being here was very difficult. Umm, going to school, it was a lot of racism. I faced a lot, a lot of racism, bullying and that was, that was I would say, the bad part of, you know, coming and being here. But everything changed slowly as the society became more accepting of, I would say, immigrants, they start understanding culture, they start understanding, um religion and they start understanding the difference and also that start understanding that we can accept each other as who we are and that has helped me, I think, to grow as well, to become more closer to the local people here in Scotland. And that is a very good advantage now because I can use my story to help others who are coming here today and say it is difficult at the start because as as anywhere any person goes to a new place it’s really hard at first when you are there. But eventually you started to gel into into the society, into the community that you are and and what has Scotland offered me today is the opportunities to grow. And they’ve accepted me and helped me as well in my struggle as coming, somebody who could speak the language, who has struggled in school, who struggled in college and then struggled in university. And now, you know, being a professional um, has, it was those people who helped me, you know, that became me today. And I think that that has been one of the most amazing things that I would say has happened. And overcoming this issue is like I think growing up, you know, as a teenager and as an early, uh, sorry, as a as an adult in your early stage of adult, um. It was still hard to be accepted in the society as an immigrant. But, I didn’t want that to affect me, to stop me from what I wanted to do. And instead I use that as a strength to help, you know, the kids and the immigrants today, but as well as help our local communities to understand and to be aware that when we do come into this country, this is how we feel and how, what can we do to change that? What can we do to help others? So, yeah, that that has been the strength.

How did you feel with all this thing that you described?
Powerful. Umm, but it has taken a long time to feel this power, and I don’t mean powerful that I have the authorities over someone, but powerful in my story and in my struggle that today I can speak of what happened before and say it gave me the strength to carry on and it also, I think, made me a better person. It made me understand, um, the both sides of this society, this is a society that is struggling and that has came from war zone and it has came from problem and trauma. But then it also made me understand the other part of society where people are not very aware of of the others, of the other people who are struggling. So, I think that has made me overcome a lot, a lot of personal issues in in life today.

So, you said that you came here with your family?

And then, um probably there’s the rest of your family, like maybe not from like mom and dad, but the rest of the family, we don’t know where they are. And how did you feel when you, um, separated from them? And then, so basically, and so the feeling of being away from the rest of the family, maybe your friends from childhood, when you were a child in Kurdistan?
It was hard as a child. You are surrounded by so much love and support and fun, cousins, grandmas, aunties, you are around so many people and suddenly you’re alone with your mom and sisters and brothers and it’s just them. And as a child, I I got lost in feelings to feel certain ways. Sometimes I would feel some sort of resentment towards like, certain like my family, be like, oh, you know, like maybe if I came from somewhere better or if I was born with a different identity, I would be with the rest of my family now in my country, enjoying myself, you know, and having a good time. But, but as I grew up, I had to understand why, why I’m here, and I think as part of that loneliness and that person being so lost at a young age that left from from Kurdistan, um, today wants to have the strength to share that love, you know, that I didn’t receive as a child because it wasn’t that I didn’t receive it from my parents or my brothers and sisters because I wanted it more like from my grandma. I love my grandma. I love her so, so, so, so much. And and I grew up not having, not having that around me. It it did some ways hurt me. Yeah, it hurt me.

It must be difficult. I can understand how it’s been difficult, how it’s difficult being away from…
From family, you know the loved ones.

Loved ones, yes exactly. So, how does the feeling of not being belonging and or being discriminating or like that, this stigma impact you? Can you describe.
Like how it affected me?

Yeah, how it impact on you?
It did, yeah, it did to an extent, impact me, made me feel like, I didn’t maybe belong. I didn’t belong to, to be certain place or to be certain position. Um, or I didn’t deserve it. It did have a certain impact, but I think for me as a person, I’ve always been the type that has to move forward with what life has offered me. And regardless of how hard life has been and the difficult journeys I have taken in life, I’ve tried to use those hard problems as something, a lesson that has taught me, you know, to just move forward and to be better in, as a person and also as a human being. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where I have had to go and ask for help, for somebody to understand me and where I came from and not let it affect me to to put a negative impact on my life. I wanted to be a positive, regardless of how negative things were. I wanted to see the positive side of it. Um, and it’s been hard. It’s been a hard journey. You get lost, you get confused. You get so confused, specially when there’s so many others. You’re introduced to so many other cultures and religion and communities. And you as a human being get like confused, like, okay, this is me, but what I’m thinking is that right? Is it wrong? But then it’s a slow process of learning and learning and learning to apply into your life. You’re like okay, um, it’s made me who I am today, regardless of even the discrimination. Like, I think I as a person have faced a lot of discrimination in school times and even after school, um, for just being a foreigner. Not being anything, just being a foreigner, and then discrimination for being a Kurd. Uh, a lot of times I’ve had people arguing with me saying this is something that doesn’t exist. So, you know, like why are you why are you talking about it? Why are you just like, well, this is my identity. This is, you know, where I come from and this is what I believe and, you know, can we understand and…

That, that’s really like important. And then you said about something about positive, being positive, whatever, when even the things are so negative, that still keep. I think this is like one of the most beautiful gift and when you teach yourself on how to be positive.

You actually talk about something that overcoming all the situation and surviving of these things. We will go into more details and the next question about your, your life. But I wanted to ask you that, like all the things you said, and you mentioned to come over difficulties, like can we talk in between details?
In terms of what sorry, like?

Like how have you been able to come over all these things? And then would you be mad? Do you imagine that that you would, you would be like enough strong to come over all this things? Or do you think that you would not?
I, I, I didn’t have a choice or let’s say, there was two choices. There was a choice I take this and let it affect me for the rest of my life or I had the choice to say accept, you know, what happened and embrace it and everybody’s journey is different. My journey is not going to be same as your journey or anybody else. And if it was not meant for me to go through leaving a country, leaving all of that behind, going through a difficult journey to arrive where I am today, then, then it was meant for me and because I have understand that that was meant for me, I have accepted what happened to overcome everything else. Umm, it’s been hurtful, yeah.

So you think that you developed this skill with having things to do, like experience things, right?
Yeah, yeah. It’s the experience definitely. Yeah.

Good, and yeah I have a lot of time to talk after this interview, you know. (Both laughing) And let’s just go on to you and the question of Covid-19. How has Covid-19 affected you in terms of daily life and your mood and emotional well-being?
Oh, definitely. Oh, God.

This is a one year question (both laugh).
Okay, so we’re not doing, doing a 30 year question. Just a one year question, oh, my goodness, Okay, there was good and bad. And the good was, I, I slowed down. After so many years of constantly, constantly like on the go, on the go, on the go, on the go. It’s like a rush. Everything was a rush in life. You know, you’re working. You’re traveling. You’re working. You’re traveling. This happened. That happened. You don’t, you didn’t have time. Like I sometimes feel like I didn’t have time to breathe and then Covid hit, it was scary. Umm, and it was at the same time like, oh, my God, everything is slowing down, the whole world is slowing down. And I’m like maybe this is what exactly I mean, not in a bad way, but we needed to slow down a bit. We needed to sit down with ourselves and be like, oh, my God. Like, we need to breathe. We need to appreciate the other things and the other good things. It brought me very close to my family and my friends. Umm, because you’re so busy before before Covid, I was so busy, like I neglected certain feelings that I had or I didn’t pay attention to certain feelings that I, I had because I was so busy and I didn’t want to pay attention to them. But once that slowdown happened and it happened for, it’s been happening for a while, you started to have certain feelings that you wouldn’t normally like pay attention to. And that’s when I felt like, okay, this is getting a bit bad. Like and I’m talking about really deep feelings here, feelings that happened in childhood, feelings that happened in certain events in my life. And I feel like this is it. The time came where I’m I’m facing it. And until today, I’m still facing it. Of course, with along that, not seeing friends, I haven’t seen some of my friends for a year now and it’s been hard it’s been hard not to have the interaction, the face-to-face interaction that you would have. And I think we human beings are made to have face to face interactions, to have the hugs, to feel that love. Um, and that has been that has put some negative impact. And, of course, mood swings. Oh, my God, like I knew I was a moody person, but I didn’t know I was that moody until Covid started. (Laughing) Oh my God, like, I genuinely like last year I had to wake up in the morning and tell myself, you will be fine because I was struggling so much. I was struggling to get up. I was struggling to get out of my bed. I was struggling to go to work. And I’m a scientist. So for me, I was still going into work. For me, I could still go out. For me, I could still see people, but it was still a struggle having that same routine over and over and over again. And then it does, you know, affect your mood. It affects you physically as well. You know, you’re like, I’m not this lazy person, but I feel like I am lazy right now.

You talk about your work. What do you, do you work?
So I’m a scientist. I’m a, I’m a, I did crystallization. And I’m too analytical science just now. And we well, we get umm the company that I work for, we receive active pharmaceutical ingredients and we perform a lot of solid state, uh, test on that so we can run from stability to developing crystallization methods to developing analytical methods on and on and on. And of course, like we have, uh, we work with the highest, highest pharmaceutical clients around the world. So that’s quite challenging.

A woman in science, that’s (both laugh). A woman and a scientist, okay.
Yeah, (laughs).

Yeah. So let’s talk a bit about your past. And hopefully, you’re gonna feel okay to answer, why did you leave your country and how can you describe, can you describe what happened?
Uh, to an extent I can describe. There was a lot of politics, political issues happening in Kurdistan, within my family. Umm, I come from really strong Kurdish family who believe in their roots. So, they as a family and who believe in their roots, they were they were fighting for their freedom, for the Kurdish freedom. And even though at that point we had a Kurdish region in in northern Iraq, like there was a, there’s a Kurdish regional government, there were still a lot of political issues going on within the family, to an extent where we had to leave because it became dangerous for us to stay there. Umm, especially for someone like my father. Um, so yeah, we left. We left the country, and…

And then was it also during Saddam Hussein?
Yes, yes, it was during Saddam’s regime. Yeah, um it got scary because a lot of my family members have been killed and tortured from the regime, the Baath regime, and it was, it was not safe for us to stay there anymore, unfortunately, like yeah.

How did that make you feel? You were quite child during this time.
Scared, confused, because my parents wouldn’t tell me directly what happened, but they would, they only told me when we had to leave. That your father and as a family is dangerous for us to stay here, um, because you, they’ll come after your dad and they’ll come after us. And, you know, it can lead to too many other problems. And for the safety reasons of me, even though I was a child, I still had that sense. Okay, my parents have to do this because they want to keep us safe. They want to keep us, you know, well, and they want to make sure that we are going to be happy. Even though I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know what I was going to expect leaving everything. But as a child, I knew I had to get ready. You know, at that young age, I had to get ready for what was coming. And it was difficult. It was. I always say it was terrifying as a child.

How was the journey to Europe? You said an experience that was particularly difficult that you could tell us about.
Oh, my God.

I know it’s a difficult question, but I know that you have a lot to tell us about that.
Uh, God… You know, there’s so many emotions that come to my head when I think of that journey, leaving Kurdistan. Going through Turkey. Umm, as a child. That you’ve never, ever experienced anything like this before, like running, hiding, people telling you to hide. I mean, we had to hide so we could… We were in a coach. And on the on the motorway, I remember it was like a deserted place, I don’t know where we were, I don’t know. I just knew we were in Turkey. And I remember uhh the coach, the driver, he stopped and he turned all the lights off and he was like, duck down, everybody duck down and don’t make a noise. There is police that’s going to come and search, but we’re going to avoid the police searching the coach, uh we’re just going to say is an empty coach. And that was the first time I felt fear in my heart and, oh, my God, I don’t think this journey to Europe is going to be easy. I like I didn’t know what was happening. All I knew at that moment, I had to keep my mouth shut because the coach, the driver said, you need to keep your mouth shut. Don’t make, don’t – hold you, hold your mouth or whatever it is. Don’t even, don’t cough. Don’t do anything. And I remember ducking down all of us, me and my family, we were all ducked down, um. And then the police came. I don’t know what happened, but I know the police never came and searched.
And then we continued. And then we got off somewhere, and then when we got off, this other – it’s like a lorry, I can’t remember exactly – but it was like, to me, it looked like a lorry anyway. There was so many of us in that, you know, coach, they told us to get off of that bus and then we got off and then they told us to run into this lorry and it was dark. It was pitch black. It was in the middle of the night. You’re tired, you’re exhausted, but you can’t do anything because you’re in a journey. And this is when the journey doesn’t stop, you know, you have to continue. And we got in there and there was so many people that got into that lorry and it wasn’t a big one, it was like a medium sized one. And we stayed, they told us it’s about half an hour, I can’t remember, but they said the journey was not going to be long, but it felt long. I felt like I was going to suffocate in there because there were so many people, people coughing. Some of the people saying, oh my God, I can’t breathe. And it’s hot. It was in summer, during summer, when we left. So it was really hot. And so many people in one place and it’s pitch black. There’s nothing. All you could hear is like rumbles, the the, the lorry was going and going up and down and this cracking noise coming from the lorry and you as a child is just dark. You waiting, you’re like, I just want to get off. I want to get off. I don’t want to stay in here like I want, what’s happening. Yeah, yeah, it was it was horrible.
And then we came off and they told us to run down the hill and I remember my mom would be like, hold your brother and sisters hands. So she had hold to them and I had hold my both sisters hands and we were running down the hill like crazy. Like it was like there was some one chasing us. And then we ran and ran, and I remember I got stuck in this plant, it had like, like sharp, like, these plants had some sharp edges, and I remember just falling into that with both of my legs like and I’m like screaming like Mom like I can’t get out of this. And she’s like and I was wearing the legging. I wasn’t wearing jeans as well, because my mom, she put leggings on us because she was like that was comfortable because, you know, she knew the journey was going to be so hard. My mom, my parents knew that this journey was going to bring us, you know, a lot of problems. And we weren’t told this was the journey you were going to take, we weren’t told this. As a child, I was not told. I don’t know if my parents knew. But as a child, I didn’t know this was happening. So I was confused at everything that was happening. And I remember in that moment, like, mom, like, I can’t get up, like I’m hurting. Like, these things are like literally in my legs. She’s like, my dear, just just get yourself out of it. We don’t have time. And I remember that moment, saying Shada just get out of it, you don’t have time. There is no time to think. There’s no time to think. There’s no time to cry. There’s no time to feel. Don’t feel it. Just don’t feel it Shada. I know I was 10, as a 10 year old child, you tell yourself, don’t feel the pain. And we ran and ran and eventually we got to, to the shore where they say there’s going to be a boat.
And then the boat came, and then they start calling names, like family names, and I think we were like one of the first families to go in. My sister, younger sister, she went up first. -She was with another family, so she went. It was a staircase, you had to you had to use it to to go up into the boat. And so my younger sister went and then it was my turn to go. And then when I went and I was there with my sister, I was literally on the edge, like waiting for my mom to come up. And she was holding my brother like she had tied my brother on her chest. Uh, and then the boat moved. And when the bottom of the staircase that we were using fell into the sea, like into the water, and it just came a sign where I couldn’t see my mom, neither my brother, and there was that moment like I was just screaming, was screaming like Mom, Mom. And people were screaming like, oh my God, like, get that woman out. I don’t know what happened down there because I was screaming, me and my younger sister. I was trying to hold my younger sister because she was, like, so scared. And she’s like, Mom is gone. Like Mom is gone. Like they’re gone. She was, she was younger. Like she was four, five, I can’t remember now. Sorry she was six at that point. Yeah, she was six years old. Um. And I was holding her and at the same time screaming like, is that it? Is like, is my mom gone, is my brother gone? Uh, and then I knew I just knew my mom was climbing up, she was which was she was all wet like and she had my brother and then she came and she was crying and we all were crying. And then we start looking for my sister. We couldn’t find my other sister. And everybody like after can’t remember how long it took, but eventually a lot of people made it into that boat. And I remember they were sending young boys and men in like a room, there was an under, there was like a room, underneath the room that we were staying up. It was like a little, it wasn’t even a window, it was like it was like a little square, just with a/ staircase, and they were just sending all the men down there and they kept the families up. Uh in one of the, like it was just one room up. Uh, we stayed there and it was like a door and there was a window, a small square window. Uh, and I remember it was horribly disgusting. They had painted it, but the paint had came off and, um, you know, in a pan, when a pan goes off. Oh my God, I forgot the word for it. It’s like it goes that kind of yellowy, it rots. The floor was rotten. And we had suitcases, all our suitcases were gone, and we couldn’t find – in a matter of fact, I think there was one suitcase we could, we had – but all of our suitcases. So we had a suitcase full of, two suitcases of food because they told my parents uh to, to buy food. So we bought a lot of food. They were stolen as well. And I remember my mom like I need at least like my mom using her scarf. She had scarves so she would use her scarf and we had some clothes, so we laid all the clothes and the scarfs on the floor so we could lie down. And we still at that point, my mom was looking for my sister. Luckily, somebody said, your daughter is here, like somebody has brought her here. Um, we found her. She was safe. She was okay.
Um, and I remember the next day, my mom asking where’s our suitcases? Nobody said where they were because she’s like, my kids are hungry, they need food. And then the Captain said, the only food we have in here is rice, water, salt and tomato paste. This is what I remember, I don’t know if there was more, but this is what I remember because my mom and this other woman in the boat would cook for everybody and we would get plastic cups. So you would only get one. Uhh, oh my God, it’s not, it was like, it was like a spoon. You’d get one spoon of food, like, into that cup. And first seven days, I remember there was bread as well. So that’s the food we would eat, and I remember I think it was, I can’t remember exactly what day, but I remember I used to have a spot I used to hide. It was on the edge of the boat. And underneath it, they would they had kept sacks and some stuff, you know, like umm, the lifeboat, uh. God, what’s it called again? The lifeguard waist coasts, you know you have, the ones like if you know your boat sinks you wear them to, like, help you. So there was, there was there and I remember that spot, not a lot of people would know about it. So I would go and hide and sleep. I think, like I was so traumatized by what was happening. No food, no energy. There’s so many people you only see sea and you see the sky, maybe sometimes you would see some fly like some birds coming and going. There was nothing else. And the pales would come the waves.
And then one day the waves got so bad, we were told that I don’t think we’ll make it. And then the boat, that day, was just going up and down, and then at one point it went down and water came from everywhere. And I think in that moment, I was like, my mom, anyway she was like, that’s it, I don’t think we’re going to make it safe, we’re going to make it alive here. And she was tying her scarf together. She was like, when when, you know, we die, I’m just going to tie, like, when the boat sinks I’m going to tie all of us together. So she was like tying the scarves and crying. We’re all crying. And she had kept all of us close. So she’s like, I’m just going to tie all of us together because none of us can swim and we were just all going to die anyway, so we may as well all die together. And in that moment, water came in from everywhere and people start screaming. Even though people are screaming, I remember me and my sister just sitting there like we were crying, and but I was calm. I wasn’t screaming, I was just I just cried and I felt like okay, accept it, maybe this is it for you, this is it for us. And I don’t know what happened. Suddenly everything went back to normal. And. I think that was seventh day.
The ninth day we left, but I had, for last two days, there wasn’t much food left in the boat, so people were not eating, so a lot of people lost energy. A lot of people couldn’t even like walk anymore. And I remember I used to like when I would sleep or when I would just try to sleep, I would see the wind, the wind, the little window and I would always see this the sky. And I used to always be like God, or whatever, you’re out there, if I survive this and I make it to the like to the ground, I’m gonna do everything I can to change my life and be a better person, and I was 10 at this point. As a 10 year old you think of these things, you know, like just let me survive and I will if I will promise you, I’ll be I’ll be a good person. I’ll appreciate, I’ll appreciate the chance that you’ve given to me to be alive.
And I remember the day came that when I walked out of that boat touching, you know, my my my feet touched the ground, the sand. And I couldn’t believe it. Like I couldn’t as a child, could not believe this is that we’ve made it now and I blacked out and I woke up in hospital. I woke up, my mom and everybody was there and they were like, uhh, you you you don’t have energy to continue anymore, so that ambulance brought you to the hospital, but you’re fine, you just need to eat. At that point, I didn’t have no nutrition. Nothing, I couldn’t think straight, I just knew I was going to be safe at this point because the, we received help from the Italy. Uh, I don’t know, there was some refugee organization, they helped us, um, and then from there the journey happened. And then eventually we made it here. It was hard. It was hard. This is how much details I can go in, there is more but maybe that’s for some other day. .

Yeah, it’s basically like so much emotion and so much feeling. Yeah, how can you describe that feeling? You know, I don’t know, like is there any word for that?
No. There’s a lot of feelings, but if there’s one feelings, I can describe it no. I can never describe in what happened in one word. Because I could say it was traumatizing, but at the same time, it grew me and it made me appreciate, you know, that I can live today. And I was given the chance to live, and this was the second time I have a chance because my first chance was in ’91, the Kurdish uprising happened and the attack happened on in in Kurdistan, where my parents had to flee to the mountains for a month. And again, there was hardly no food. And I was a baby, so I would only drink milk. And my mom always has said to me, there was a few days, but I went without food. There was no there was no milk. There was nothing they could give me. But I survived and I felt like God gave me the chance, or whoever it is, gave me the chance to live. And then again, what happened in that boat, that was my second chance. And I feel like my third chance is to live life and to take on everything that I can do to make it better.

Do you think about this thing often?
I used to, but I’ve learned. I’ve learned to embrace it. Of what happened. I’ve learned, to accept it. I used to think so much of it, and I used to feel like sometimes why why me? Why did that happen to me? But I never got an answer. If I asked myself, why me? But if I said that was meant for me, I started to understand, okay that was my journey. And today it’s made me who I am today.

So how it affected you today? Like … like. Because I can see like, we both Kurdish and we coming from like, maybe a bit far from, but we come almost from the same situation and then I can say that the trauma comes with me for, like, come for with me wherever I go, you know?

And every part of my life. And I can see that when and how I try to avoid it.

I try to come over and try to be more positive, but still. It’s difficult sometimes.
Yeah, yes. I’m really trying to find the right word, I can tell you. Here, like, it’s something that will never leave me and that trauma is there, and they will be until my last breath on this earth. It will be with me. But I just don’t let it affect me, that’s why and I had to train my mind for many, many, many years to train my mind, to not let it affect me. There are still certain things sometimes happen and I get scared. I have the fear because there was so much fear in my childhood. And today, I tried to differentiate that that fear, I can today turn that into something better. And that fear, I need to push it aside, because I don’t want that fear to impact me in all my choices today to move forward, because if I let that affect those fears in me today, I’m not going to move forward tomorrow, it’s going to stay with me.

So what are you strategies for that? For example, what do you do to like overcome and stay strong or don’t let them everything?
I think is the mindset. I did a lot of reading. I seen a therapist. Umm, I spoke to a therapist. I, I try to, to nourish what I have today and accept what I have today. So I can move forward from everything that happened.

That’s so good.
I think is one of these things, you can’t you can’t do it in one day, you can never be like, you can’t just one day wake up and be like, I’m not going to feel anything today. No, it wasn’t like that. You feel it and you feel it. And you feel it and you feel it. But every time you feel it, you try to understand it. And when you try to understand where those feelings come from, you try to, to accept them and just be like okay, you know? It is what it is. That’s my that’s my motto in life, it is what it is, you know, certain things we cannot control in life and there’s a lot we can’t.

But is, at the end of the day, is the emotions, your emotions as well. You you like, I feel like, like there are times sometimes my friends or my family or my mom are like Shada, you give so much, you know, to people. You give so much to the person that is in front of you, even when they hurt you. And I’m like, you know, like I was that one day. I used to be, I used to want that, I wanted that and I still do. I still want to be, I still want to have that love. I want that pure intention, love from family, from friends, from whether it is a relationship, you know. And I didn’t want, I didn’t want my journey to harden me or to hold a grudge against that, because because then it will develop a toxic mentality and a toxic mindset, which I didn’t want to have. And if I had that mindset, then I wouldn’t grow in life. I wouldn’t be able to sit down with somebody who in similar, in with a similar trauma that I went through as a child or as a refugee and be like, there is a way out. You know, you can come out of it. You can come out of it with strength and power. And together we can, you know, change that. Change the way we feel. We can’t change our journey, we can never do that, but we can always help each other to to get better.

Exactly. You can’t change something to not let the horrible part of journey (unclear)
Yeah, yeah.

Being aware of that is important, I think.
Oh, definitely.

So, now I have a few questions about your dreams. Your past dreams and when you left the country and then your future dream basically like in (unclear) . And so before the event led you to flee home and what was your dream? But when you say that, could you please say that before the war, before, and my dream was… Or before I left my home, my dream was…
I was a child, so I don’t… Ah I’m trying to think what was my dream as a child.

Must be so difficult.
Umm, professional wise, I said to my mom, I’m going to be a doctor because I want to heal people. I said to my mom, I’m going to be a doctor and I’m going to heal the world, you know I always say that to my mom, that’s my dream. Honestly and I did, I used to always say that to her. I used to think I would be an artist. Uh, I that’s because I seen my mom, my mom, sketches, you know she used to sketch beautiful uhh portraits. And, but as as as a child, before I left Kurdistan, what was my dream I would say to become a doctor and help my community and also hope for Kurdistan, better Kurdistan and develop Kurdistan and where we are allowed to, to advance as a nation. Even though I was a child, I was a 10 year old, that was before I left.

So when you were leaving your home, what was your dream for future?
At that point, honestly, I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything that was happening. I didn’t know. I can’t tell you anything today as when I left, when I left the moment when I left Kurdistan and I said goodbye because my grandma was the last person I said goodbye to. And that will forever stay with me. When I said goodbye to Kurdistan, what did I have a dream?

For future.
For future? No, I, I, no, I didn’t have anything like that.

No that’s good, that’s okay. So I’m going to wrap up the questions. So just go and talk about your strengths because you talk a lot about that and that was really good. And have you maintained this strength after you left Kurdistan and?
How have I maintained them, or?

Yes. We talk, can we talk about your strength and before you leaving your home country, Kurdistan, and describe your strengths and then how you maintained them? You were a child, basically, but you took a lot of responsibility to like, you had to be strong.

To like cross all these borders, and help your mom, because you were like the only person.
Yeah, I was the eldest. Yeah, I was the eldest. So, I would say the strength, it was as a young age, I learned to have responsibilities. And that was something, of course, my mom has taught me as a young age. So that’s something that I took. And I took it as a strength because when I took responsibility, I also knew that I was contributing, you know, or helping, like, put it that way. I was helping as much as I can. Because I was so young, the strength that I had in Kurdistan, completely, completely different to the strength that I have today or as a child or as a teenager growing up here in Scotland. Growing up here, one of the things that I didn’t, I didn’t know and I never, ever expected was facing racism. Um, that was a journey itself to overcome. But because I knew that one day I wanted to be something and I wanted to help my society and people. I had to have the strength to keep going, to move forward, to think forward. Regardless of how difficult the day was, like, I think when the journey happened from when I left Kurdistan to Europe to, to here. I knew that you can have bad days. But you can change that, those days can change, you cannot let those days, those bad days impact the good days that are going to come. So these were the kind of things that I took, small things that I took, whether it was from my journey, whether it was like staying strong, whether, coping, you know, you develop some coping mechanism to to trauma, to pain, and I’m not saying, oh, like I’m the person that if I’m in pain, I’m not going to talk about it or I’m not going to say it, no, no, no. I embrace it. I, in fact, I talk about it a lot, I talk about pain a lot, because it’s something that is in me. But I also see it as a strength today that I can, that’s made me understand, people a lot more than somebody who is not went through it.

So beautiful.
And I think other thing is, as a Kurd, you as a child, as a Kurdish child, I grew up around war. And as a young, young child, you get to learn to be a bit fearless. Honestly you learn to be fearless in some ways because you’re so surrounded by those, by things that, you know today in today’s society, you wouldn’t have that. But back in those days, it was there. You become so fearless. You become so, so used to it. And even though as a 10 year old, leaving, I knew there was certain elements and certain factors that happened in Kurdistan stayed with me today, you know, for example, like my granddad was a Peshmerga, you know, who fought in front line and the strength that he had, you know, to fight for our safety, it stayed with me until today. So yeah.

So what are your hopes for future?
My hopes are, my hopes are people accept each other more. Um, we listen to each others stories more, we communicate better, and I’m not saying communicate by, oh, you call me and I’m not talking about that communication, I’m talking about emotional communication where we can emotionally connect. I hope that a lot of these wars can end, so we have less people to go through what I went through. There’s more rights, human rights. I have hope for a generation with less trauma and pain.

But to (unclear audio)
I hope so, I hope so. I hope so. I hope, I hope for, I just hope for a better future. Now, this is why every day do I try to work hard so I can be a hope for a better future.

Good. So last question, I really appreciate you answering all this question. So is there anything you would like to add that might help people in Europe or U.K., all around the world, to understand refugees?

Um, talk. Have conversations. If you don’t understand why that person is there or in your country or why they’ve came to your country, ask just talk to them. That was a conversation, growing up here, was something I didn’t really have. Growing up in school around a lot of kids, um, I remember one of the first questions like, oh, she has dark hair and her skin, her skin is not like as white, you know, or as fair, so she’s not from here, so where you from? Where are you from? And I say quitely I am from here, but they never ask me, why are you here? Like, maybe we should have more workshops in school, seminars, because I feel like a lot of it comes from the younger generation that are not aware as much as sometimes I see the older generation, too, because, you know, they’re not very aware of the cultures and religion and the problems that are happening around the world. So I ask the public, please, if you don’t understand what that person is there or why they’ve came, ask them why they are here and you’ll be surprised that why? Yeah. Thank you and thanks, it was such a pleasure doing this.

Thank you so much.

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.