About Refugees, By Refugees
Hello, dear friend, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to talk to you. I am Meena Sidaqati and we work on Hazar Roya Project (1,000 Dreams Project) to collect thousands of refugees’ stories all around Europe. Our goal for this project is to present a clearer picture of the life of refugees in Europe. This important thing that I must say first of all is that if you don’t like your identity to be out, it can remain hidden. We have several forms that show that you are willing to do the interview. I am saying at the beginning that you should sign and be sure that if you cannot answer any question tell me to go to the next question and there is no insistence that you should answer all the questions. Thank you very much. Please sign the form and we will start. Can you tell me where you live?
I live in London and I rented a private house and shared it with my two roommates.
Can you clarify your position now? After you came and became a refugee, what is your situation now? How is your situation?
Now my situation is very different compared to two years ago before I came and arrived in England, which means that I have made a lot of changes since I arrived last year. If I was in Iran, I could not have changed this much.
Do you mean in terms of work?
Yes, because of these opportunities that you are given here, compared to one year from last year to this year, I see that I have improved a lot and my life has changed a lot compared to two years ago and my arrival in England a year ago.
Does anyone live with you? You said you shared your house. Are they your friends or are they strangers?
No, they were not my friends. But we became friends here.
How do you spend your time?
Well, I work a lot, study the language and spend most of my time with friends.
What do you do for fun?
My hobby is traveling; my hobby is working because I see work as a hobby. Then I try to communicate with my family through the phone because I am far from my family and this is one of my pastimes and somehow my pleasure.
Since you arrived in Europe, what do you think was good and what was bad here?
Well, there are a series of differences between Europe and Iran. Because when I was a refugee in Turkey for three and a half years now, I am familiar enough with the refugee conditions. When I came to England, this situation did not surprise me and even compared to the refugee situation we had in Turkey, the conditions here were much better. When I came here, I was not surprised, or I don’t know, the situation was very good for me because I had gone through the situation in Turkey and on the other hand, the facilities that this country provides for us are really great compared to Turkey and I am satisfied.
So, you are saying that living in England satisfied you. You have a good feeling about living in England.
I can’t say that I am completely satisfied with my life because there is no one who is far from his own country and is satisfied, and there is no place like one own country, even if my situation was 10 times worse than now, I would like to be in my own country with my family and friends. But the conditions of our country are such that no one really wants to go back through them again considering the government and freedom conditions there. I mean, whatever your situation is here, certainly it is much better than the conditions in Iran. Although we are very sorry for our family and we worry about them. But I love to go back to Iran, where the situation is not like it is now, a normal Iran.
Ever since you immigrated, out of which you were in Turkey for three years, do you think that you have grown up on this migration path since then?
Hundred per cent, when I came out of Iran, I went to Turkey. So, in my life, I had not migrated at all. Well, I had traveled abroad. But It was a week or 10 days before I came back to Iran. But when I left Iran and I knew that it might take years to come back to Iran, it was very annoying for me that I didn’t know if I was seeing my family for the last time.
Overall, how did it help you to improve?
It helped me a lot, like 100%. I was a strong person in Iran, but it’s different to be strong outside of Iran when you emigrate from Iran. You achieve some new experiences that you have never experienced in Iran. And it is very uplifting for me. For example, when I was in Turkey, many people came to Europe through Turkey through smugglers. Well, the thing is that when you go away from Iran when you come to another country, be it Turkey or anywhere else, the friends who are next to you are like your family and you get used to them and become dependent on them. And when I was in Turkey, many people came, they were my roommates or I used to be friends with them. After six or three months, they go to Europe through smuggling. And you become dependent on them after six months and you have to break up with them, and this made me very strong. I was very upset at the beginning, but after a while, the matter was resolved, and I was thinking that no one can be in my life forever. Many people come and leave, and it makes me strong. I have never had such an experience in my life.
Has COVID-19 affected your position as an immigrant during this time?
It has been almost a year since our refugee status, and it has much less impact than those who have just arrived and have not yet been interviewed and are still looking for work. When you stay here in the country and get used to it, you know what to do and find a way to make money, it becomes better to use the language. The effect of COVID-19 was less, but compared to those who are new refugees, they don’t get answers to interviews, they don’t answer, they have fingerprints from other countries, it’s not comparable to my current situation.
Let’s go back a bit. Can you tell me why you left your country?
Well, because my country has a very corrupt and religious government system that forces people through religion and does thousands of things through the same religion. It means that it has burdens on people in the form of religion and restrictions, and these things could not be solved for me. Many things that I saw in Iran bothered me like the forced hijab by the Ghasht Irshad (a governmental group that forced religious beliefs on the people in Iran). As a man, nothing happened to me, but when these things happened to my family or to all the people I know, it was annoying for me as well. The unclear future and poor financial situation in Iran all cause us to abandon Iran and prefer to live in another country that has opportunities to improve. That is the time that we choose immigration.
When you decide to leave Iran, what feelings did you have? Were you satisfied?
The worst time of my life was the time that I was in Emam Khomeini airport and I knew that maybe it was the last time that I would see Iran. My parents were elderly and I didn’t know if they could live without me. I am afraid of not seeing them again. It bothers me a lot. But I am not afraid of my future because I know that wherever I go I will succeed. It bothers me whether I can see my family or not.
You said you had been in Turkey for three years, how did you come to Europe?
Because I was in Turkey for three and a half years and my immigration status was not clear in Turkey and I didn’t know what would happen to me. I prefer to go to England and Europe through smuggling. I came on foot with a bad situation overland to Greece and I was there for one month and the condition was not good as well. And then I flew to England from one of the European countries.
How did you feel coming here?
It was full of fear and worries coming here, thinking what if I’d get arrested even though I did get arrested… Even when I went to buy a bottle of water, I was afraid of someone suspecting me and calling the police. These worries and fears were with me all the time. When I had a flight to England, I thought everyone was looking at me and knew I am a refugee traveling through smuggling. This fear and worries happen to everyone and it is natural. It was very tough each time I made an effort to immigrate.
What were your strategies for passing the challenges?
I set a goal. I knew there was no way back and had not to go back. It was really important to me to keep my family happy. It was important for me that they knew I was happy living in a country or that I was improving and becoming a successful person. My family was very important to me. I wanted to become a successful person. I wanted to go to a new place where there are opportunities to improve coming from a country with many restrictions and difficulties. I faced a lot of difficulties, and I wanted to give up but I didn’t. When I think about some things, they gave me the motivation to move forward and improve a lot. All of them motivated me.
What were your dreams before leaving Iran?
Um, I did not get your question.
What were your dreams before you left Iran or before you decided to leave Iran?
I wanted to get married to the person I loved. But the conditions were getting worse and the pressures on the people increased by passing each day.
Does it mean your dream was to establish a life (married life)?
Yes, making a living, having a house, having a good job, having a good car, having a good house and my family with me, having a secure job. And my dream was to build my life and have a better one.
Well now, what is your dream for the future?
Now I have the same dreams as in the past. I would like to make a new life in this country. I want to get married and have my own family with me. Because having a family is very important here. And if you have someone from your own family with you, your mental health will be good.
Thank you very much for letting us have an interview with you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.
No, I just want to know where my words will be published.
It was explained in the form you should have signed it at first that you didn’t and now you should sign it. But I have to say that this will be sent to the Witness Change and they will translate it. An abstract of it will be put with a photo of you as a story by Witness Change. Then this is Witness Change’s right to publish it anywhere they are connected with. Your voice will be translated and written and a short story will be out of it with a photo of you.
Okay, thank you very much. Mercy.