About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Shady her face hidden with her hair in front of her face

Shady Ghafori

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Sharmin Tolouimehr

“My dream is for my country to reach a position where there are no economic and political problems, and to have a bit of freedom and everyone can be themselves,” says Shady Ghafori (pseud, 25) of her birth country, Iran. She dreamed of a peaceful life there, but staying meant a lack of freedom and risk of death, so she and her husband left for Germany. The journey was a difficult experience, with physical fatigue and mental hardship. “I felt fear and worry and at the same time there was motivation because we were going to survive for our future,” says Shady. Homesick, she often thinks about her country and family. “I miss them deeply and it feels like part of me was left behind.” But Shady motivates herself to keep going by thinking of good things. As someone strongly dependent on her family, she never thought she could handle this experience. “But suddenly a strength was awakened in me,” she says. “I realized that I became a very strong girl who can fight for survival and her dreams.”

Trigger Warning: Death; discrimination.

full interview

Hello and how are you?
Hello. I am fine.

Shall we get started?
Yes, sure.

About your current situation. In what kind of accommodation do you live?
Since we entered Germany, we have been in a camp. We’re living in a camp. 

Can you describe your situation?
I came here with my husband. We have one room and the kitchen area is shared and of course we have one room for ourselves.

Who do you live with?
With my husband.

How do you spend your time here? Do you work here?
We are not allowed to work at the moment. I use the phone and the internet to read and have a walk around. I can’t do anything special.

What things make you happy?
Because we have just entered a new land, we are still in the shock of homelessness. Our joys are not very deep or big unless maybe we just get to see and talk with the family. For now, we are dealing with homelessness.

How has life been since you arrived in Europe?
We have not yet entered the European life and we are in the camp. In this small environment that we are in, it is very different from where we were before. We as refugees have welfare and mental security here, and it is an advantage that we had less of in our homeland.

What have been the benefits of living here?
Normally when a person leaves their country and comes somewhere else, their priority is surviving… At least for us it was like that. And for now we are safe and sound.

What has been difficult?
Many things were difficult. It was just the beginning of our lives. We sacrificed a lot of things and wanted to have a romantic life and a home, but since we were forced to leave our country, we dealt with a very difficult path behind us, we lost our families in a way. And leaving the family all of a sudden makes us deprived of seeing them.

Can you describe how living life here has made you feel?
Life here is both a feeling of sadness and a feeling of happiness. The feeling of sadness is why I didn’t have these things in my country. And the feeling of happiness is that I am looking forward to the future and I believe that no matter how hard you work in this country, you will get the same reward. But there is no such thing in my country.

How does being away from the rest of the family make you feel?
It is a specific feeling. It has created a feeling of homesickness. It is a feeling that has to be dealt with very hard.

How has the feeling of not belonging and discrimination affected you? Can you explain?
When you walk into a place where you don’t belong, it makes you feel fake. The comfort that I had in my country is definitely not here. But when we have to do something, we have to accept all its difficulties so that we can easily cope with the situation.

Did you ever imagine that he would cope with these conditions? The same situation you are in now? 
Life is full of challenges for all human beings and the challenges are different and these challenges are never the same. And we cannot predict the challenges, but when we are in those situations, we know how strong we are. Better to say, we must be strong so that we can make the conditions more acceptable for us.

How did you overcome it to live?
The only thing that keeps one strong is hope for the future. We should think of good things in order to motivate yourself to continue your path.

Do you think that you have acquired the ability to deal with these challenges or do you think that you have always had the skills, habits and mechanisms to deal with problems?
Life has been hard for me personally. But the difficulties we had on the way here are very different. It is something we have never experienced but we have faced it. Honestly, I thought that I would not be able to handle it because I was strongly dependent on my family, but suddenly a strength was awakened in me so that I could endure the situation.

Now about your past that is before he came here. Why did you leave your country?
The first reason is the same story of saving our lives. We left our country because we wanted to save ourselves from the imposed death. In the next stages, we hope for a very bright future.

Can you describe what happened?
Do you mean inside Iran?

Yes, before you want to leave your country?
In Iran, we were in a framework in which we have to think in that framework, and if you are anything other than that framework, you are condemned to death and this is something very bad. Because as a human being, I did not have freedom of opinion or even take decisions that won’t harm others which is just your opinion but well. Since doing anything outside of the framework leads to death, this made the situation unbearable for us.

How did it make us feel at that time?
Honestly, I felt scared. We just wanted to start our life. I was afraid that everything would disappear at once, like our love, relationship and our thoughts. If we did not leave Iran, there was a possibility that all of this would be ruined. 

How was the trip to Europe?
It is very good for those who come to travel, but it was very difficult for us. We put our whole life in a backpack and moved and we didn’t know if we would go to the destination or not. We had a lot of fear and stress. Our life was summed up in a small bag. It was a bit strange for me.

Is there an experience that was difficult that you can describe for us?
It was a very difficult experience, such as physical fatigue and mental hardships, and I had to protect my feelings so that it wouldn’t get hurt and I could continue on the path.

How did you feel at that time?
When I was on my way?

I felt fear and worry and at the same time there was motivation because we were going to survive for our future.

Do you often think about these events?
Yes, I do a lot.

Most of the time. My mind is busy with it. On the one hand, I don’t want to forget it so that I can appreciate the condition that I will achieve in the future, and secondly, since I experienced it and it was very difficult, it would come to my mind by default.

Is there anything in particular that you think about often?
Yes, I think about my homeland and my family, two things that I lost. I wish I could return to my homeland one day with suitable conditions.

How do you feel when you think about it?
I don’t feel good. I miss them deeply and it feels like part of me was left behind.

Has the situation you faced affected you?
Yes, it has made me a strong girl. I thought I was a cute girl and I was in my own girly world. When I was in this situation, I realized that I became a very strong girl who can fight for survival and her dreams. 

Have you ever imagined that you could have this situation that you faced affected your life?
Well, as I mentioned earlier in the previous questions, I said that there are challenges in our lives that we face and manage at different times. But this latest challenge was very different. I thought it would be easier, but it was harder. I think we were able to manage it as I was able to an extent.

How did you overcome the obstacles that stood in your way?
There is a saying that says that when someone gets angry, his physical strength increases a lot. I think there was anger inside us. And why the situation that we had was difficult for nothing. Those hardships created a rage in us and that rage gave us more physical strength that we were able to overcome the obstacles.

Have you created a mechanism and solution to deal with difficult days?
Yes, when I have problems, I want to think about the half-full level and the things that I am going to get later, and by thinking about these, I keep myself more satisfied. I think of good things to overcome problems.

Where do you find strength and support?
I get strength and support from my inner strength, but there are other things that help, such as the presence of my husband by my side, and sometimes the relationship I establish with my mother-in-law has a great impact on me.

What was your dream before the events that led you to run away from home? I want you to start with the statement that this was my dream.
My dream was to live a peaceful life in my country with the guarantee of a future built for my efforts, but unfortunately, nothing like this was achieved and we were deprived from it.

What did you dream for the future when you left your home? I want you to say that this was my dream.
At that moment, I had two dreams in my mind. My first dream was that I would be able to reach my destination safely, that my life would be safe, and my second wish was, surprisingly, that my homeland would reach a good place and that I would be able to return. Because nowhere is a person’s own home.

Now is the summary of the questions. What would you describe as your strengths before leaving your country?
Before I came here, in Iran, I was a very lively person. I tried to achieve my dreams. I had this option in my mind to improve this skill wherever I go. If I came to Germany, my goal was to work on these abilities and they would be a support for me in the future.

Have you kept these? 
Yes, because humans must evolve, no matter how hard the situation is. I must progress and this situation has become very difficult for me. 

What you have been through sounds really difficult. Do you feel you have grown in any way as a result of this experience?
Yes, because I think whatever does not kill a person makes him stronger. All the things that happened to me on the way made me a strong person.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? I want you to start with my dream phrase.
This is my dream. I said this before. My dream is for my country to reach a position where there are no economic and political problems, and to have a bit of freedom and everyone can be themselves. As long as opinions do not harm anyone.

Thank you for answering all these questions. Is there anything you would like to add that would help people in Europe better understand the lives of refugees?
I am telling the people of Europe on behalf of a refugee that maybe one day they will hear my words. Some of those who came here were forced to come here, either their economic conditions were not good or their lives were in danger. No one is happy to leave his home and family and go miles away to get something. I really want all people to have the things they want in their own country. The one who comes all the way here has a sadness inside him. Don’t really think that the other party has come here, he is very happy because he had to come. Understand them more spiritually.

Thank you for your time.
You are welcome.

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.