About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Shima wearing a woollen cap using her hair to hide her face

Shima Jalaly

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Sharmin Tolouimehr

“I really wish that the people of Europe understand the conditions of every immigrant and accept that it is a compulsion and persecution that every person is forced to leave their country,” shares Shima Jalaly (pseud, 31), an Iranian refugee living in Germany. Forced to flee her country due to oppression, Shima left everything behind: her family, her home, her financial stability, and a good life: “I am alone.” Now, she is in a country where she does not know either the language or the people, and faces discrimination: “When I see people glare at me, I feel ashamed.” She says she never imagined that she would have to emigrate, and is uncertain if she can ever go back to her country and see her family. But the thought of going home is a dream Shima holds onto, and as she looks towards it, she tries to learn from the difficulties she faces to become even stronger: “My dream is that I can go back to my country, be a beneficial person for my people.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

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

Thank you. Should we start it?
Please start.

About your current situation. In what kind of accommodation do you live?
I live in a camp.

Can you describe your situation?
There is a shared room that is not so clean. It has one bed and also the bathroom and washroom are shared with one person, but they do provide us food.

Whom do you live with?
With another stranger. She is a lady. I am alone.  

How do you spend your time?
Mostly, I try to learn the language and I like to walk and surf the internet and social media.

What makes you happy?
I know I am secure here and I am in contact with my family, so they make me happy. 

Since you entered Europe how has your life been?
It is hard. I neither know the language nor the rules in their country. Sometimes the people’s glares make me feel sad and disturbed. 

What were the benefits of living here?
The feeling of being free and at peace.

What were hard things for you?
Being far from home and homeland.

Would you describe how living here has made you feel?
Being in another country and away from my family. When I see people glare at me, I feel ashamed. I tell myself what they think about me now that I came to their country and they are forced to share their everything with me.

How does being away from other family members make you feel?
Feeling lonely and sadness.

How does the feeling of not belonging and discrimination affect you?
I get upset because there is discrimination and I live in a camp and not in a normal place is sort of discrimination and this makes me sad.

Did you ever imagine that you would cope with this situation?

How did you overcome it to live?
I was able to overcome it with coercion and patience and I tried to do my daily work.

Do you think you have the ability to meet these challenges or do you think you have always had those skills and strengths?
Never in my life did I imagine that I would be in a situation where I could get along with this situation.

Now it’s about your past. Why did you leave your country?
This is very difficult to say. I really can’t say why I left. Injustices in the country by the government that hurt me, it was very hard.

Can you describe what happened?

How did you feel at that time?
I was sad that I left my family and country. It is a very bad feeling that I had to leave everything and go to a strange country where I neither know the language nor know its people. And I have no knowledge of this country, but I had to.

How was your trip to Europe?
I came by plane.

Is there a particularly difficult experience you can tell us about?
There is no special difficulty except that I am far from my family and I have left my homeland. I don’t know if I can go back and see my homeland and family. Thinking about these is not easy.

What did you feel at that time?
A sense of uncertainty.

Do you often think about these events?
Yes, when I am alone.

Do you often think about these events?
Yes, my future.

When you think about it, how do you feel?
I think about my future and what will happen? What are they going to do? Why am I in such a situation? The feeling of indecision I have is very bad.

Does the situation you faced today affect you? How?
Yes, it certainly has an effect. I multiplied my efforts so that I could raise myself and be at least a good and useful person in this society that I entered.

Have you ever imagined managing that position?
No, I never imagined that something would happen to me and I would emigrate.

How did you get through it?
With patience and tolerance.

Have you developed any kind of coping mechanisms and strategies to get through the difficult days of difficult memories?
I suffered a lot in Iran and had to cope with the situation.

Where do you find strength and support?
From my family.

What was your dream before the events that led you to run away from home?You can start with my dream phrase. 
My dream was to be a useful person in my country.

What did you dream for the future when you left your home?
I dreamed that all my wishes would come true.

Now there is a summary of the questions. What would you describe as your strengths before leaving your country?
The effort and patience I had.

Have you maintained these?
Yes, I have maintained as much as I could.

With the management that I have in my plans.

What you have been through sounds really difficult. Do you feel you have improved in any way as a result of this experience?
I tried to learn from my problems and the difficulties have made me a stronger person. My patience and tolerance have increased.

What are your dreams for the future? 
My dream is that I can go back to my country, be a beneficial person for my people. 

We really appreciate your answers to these questions. Is there anything you would like to add to help Europeans better understand the lives of refugees here?
I really wish that the people of Europe understand the conditions of every immigrant and accept that it is a compulsion and persecution that every person is forced to leave their country. They should not look at us as immigrants. Personally, I had a good life and financial situation in my country, but I could not stay there because of the oppression that prevailed in my country.

Thank you very much.
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.