About Refugees, By Refugees
Trigger Warning: Violence / discrimination
What do you want to ask?
What was your dream in Mauritania, please say “My dream was…”
It’s hard, hard to say that. I mean, for me, uh, my dream is, um, to have the… Oh, my dream in – about my country?
No, your personal dream
Oh, personal dream. I, I want to be the, the voice of people like me because they don’t have the opportunity to tell, uh, the world the story about – uh, I mean – they don’t have the opportunity to tell the people what happened to them. I think I have this opportunity to, to make – I mean – people in Europe to know about them, about the suffering, about what happened to them, yeah. For example, in the last month they, I have five person in Mauritania. They catch them, in prison now. You know, maybe they will kill them next month because of the Article 306. And that’s, that’s give me the positive energy and the passion to, to tell the world about it, about them, not just about me or about what happened to me or about my story. Yeah, really I want to be the voice of them.
Your dream in Mauritania was to be the voice of your people?
Yeah, of course. And that’s also, uh, what I did. I wrote my book, I hope I will publish it soon as possible. Yeah, I’m trying to.
What’s your dream now?
My, my dream now? Yeah, I want to, I want to have my PhD. Yeah, it’s really my, it’s a dream for me. I think maybe some people think it’s not a dream, is something easy to get it, but it’s a dream for me and yeah, to publish my book and to have PhD and to work with the NGOs. I want to fight for human rights in my country.
I have to, I don’t have the, the choice. About human rights, you know, for example, now they care about Syria, okay?
But they don’t care about Yemen. It’s same situation. Same. This economy, oh yeah, in Qatar. And yeah, and as I said, no one, no one will give you your freedom, your rights, uh, freely. You have to fight, you have to take it, yeah? This country, for example, Germany, the society, will never it change automatically from dictator country to democracy. They are people. They hundreds, thousands people they fight for this situation, right now. German, Europe is the country of freedom. Everyone has the same freedom, equal. It’s not, uh, freely. They, a lot of people, they fight for this.
Do you want to fight for your country?
Yeah, sure. You know, uh, the violence in your life makes some people afraid, but some people the violence makes them, I mean, the violence would give you, them the passion to keep, keep going. To, yeah, to say “Nah.” It’s time to, it’s time to say no, it’s enough. It’s, yeah, yeah, I’m sure sometimes I feel afraid and the bad feelings..
Can you explain what do you feel exactly?
Look into now, I can’t sleep normally, I sleep with medicine. It’s yeah, it’s not, it’s not easy when you, when you say some people they hate you. They want, they demanded your death. It’s, it’s something you can’t imagine this situation. It’s something and not just you hear about, yeah, in this area, there are people demanding death for others. But if you are one of them differently, you will feel it’s something I can’t explain it. It’s something bad, is really, really bad. And it’s hurt you, you know, inside.
It’s a pain inside.
Uh, it’s, uh, they tried to kill my sister in Mauritania, also in Egypt. It’s yeah, I’m always I care about me and also I care about my sister. Is, you know, yeah even in Germany, the Mauritanian. They write to me even here. They said, “Shut your mouth, don’t speak about our society,” because they don’t want anyone knows anything about what happened inside our country. If you want to go out, okay, keep silent. Alright.
And how does that make you feel?
It’s mix, you know, when you find your country, your family… look, in Mauritania, we have the family – not just your real family – the family is the tribe. Do you understand the tribe?
Yeah. Can you explain it?
A tribe, a tribe, it’s, it’s not just your father and your mother, is, is bigger than – hun- hun- maybe thousands, you know?
We have same name is… uh,
Different ethnical group?
No, no, we are all the Arabs, that are obvious but different tribe.
Yeah, yeah, I know.
There is in Afghanistan as well.
Yeah, also in Mauritania. The, in, in Mauritania the Government is that it’s right. And that’s right. It is the, the state, you know? The tribe has the power more than the states. It’s something, you know, its…
Yeah, it’s… it’s hard when you find your family, your country, they hate you just because you think differently. You know, when the, the beginning is a start from a question, “Why heaven have gates?” It’s simple. Without the, uh, I don’t want to change my religion or leave Islam. Never, it’s just simple. I ask the Imam, “Why heaven have gates?” You know, inside the Islam, the Qu’ran says that heaven has seven gates, you know? I said, why? Is just why. And he said, “Go to pray and don’t ask again.” This answer makes me start my journey to find the answer. It’s something, yeah, why he say that? It’s why he, he can’t say “I don’t know, ask it someone else, other person or.” But he said “No, don’t ask.” This answer makes me start searching. It’s not easy to find the search, the, the books, but the Internet made it easy for me to find some, even with Arabic language, because we, in Arabic we fake everything with it translate. When you translate by Arab language, you will find something in other language, in English that cool, you know, peaceful, you know? But with the original text, it’s shit, and yeah. And then, uh, I find, yeah, it’s the question with, with the other question. It’s not like that, I said, “Okay, I don’t find the answer. I’m an atheist. I want to leave this now.” Now, I read the history book. It’s not, it’s, it’s really a long journey. Is takes for me six years more than to say, “Okay, this time I’m an atheist. I don’t believe.” And when I say that to my, to my mother, it’s really, they can’t understand something like this, it’s dangerous. This point, they would kill you. They would hate you. Just yeah. I have other, another, uh…
Yeah. Not just one opinion, one idea- ideology: we are all same, one copy.
You wrote a book.
And in your book, you –
But still not published.
Yeah, you wrote that you feel alone, that you feel you have no name and your country has no name and nobody knows about you and about your country and about your culture.
Yeah exactly that what I said last week in event about identity, yeah. Because I have two identity. In, uh, when, when I, when I go to some places with my paper, when they say, when they say my name, Mohammed. They automatically think I’m a Muslim, you know, they would give me the identity of Islam, but I’m not. It’s… I have two identity inside me. One I never choose it and other one, I choose it but it’s complicated to say, “Okay, I want, I choose this. I want to delete this.” I can’t delete this, this part of my life, but I can change it. But I can say, okay, this part of my life, it’s, it’s delete. It’s complicated.
And these two identities, and this struggling with two different, kind of, personality and labels, what, how does that make you feel?
Ah… Look, it’s, uh, ah… it’s hard, huh? It’s, uh, makes me feel sometimes… guilty, sometimes, yeah, it’s – because I might, I have two, messenger name: Mohammed and Yahya – it’s a religion names. Even Yahya, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s hard when you, when you try to find your own identity because they would never let you make that. It’s not like this “Okay, I, I don’t like this color. I want to change it. I like black. Okay, I will take it.” It’s not like that. It’s hard you have to fight. It’s not just, not just fight and you have to believe in, in yourself because it would take a long time to, to have your freedom, your own identity, yeah, it’s going to take a long time and… Yeah, and love, you need a lot of work and also passion and belief in yourself.
Yeah, it’s something yeah, yeah, amazing, but it’s hard, you know, it’s… yeah sometimes I can’t explain it, you know, it’s…uh…
But why you feel guilty? You didn’t do anything wrong.
No, but, yeah, but they makes you feel guilty about yourself, about your identity, because they, they makes you feel you are wrong, you know? If you want to choose other way you are wrong, you are bad person, you are Sheytan.
Yeah, evil. Yeah, that sometimes makes you feel guilty, you know? That’s why I say this need, you have to keep fighting and believe in yourself. And sometimes you need people to support you, someone support you, you know, because you can’t keep fighting alone because we are a human. We are not robots, you know? You need someone behind you, someone he support you, yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. Uh, they wanted to kill you in Mauritania?
Yeah, I will show you the picture. It’s just, you know, sorry… Just Google my name, yeah, yeah.
There was a protest to, uh, demanding to kill you in Mauritania and you were in Germany at the time?
How does that make you feel?
It’s hard. Makes me feel bad, it’s really bad.
Weren’t you frightened? Afraid of?
Yeah, of course. Of course. I am a human. Of course I feel, yeah. And also in same time, the – our embassy in Cairo – they try to catch my sister in Cairo because our parliament sent a letter to Germany. They say we need to, we ask you to deport this person to Mauritania because, yeah, we need to kill him.
Because of the Article 306, say everyone he doubt, he changed his religion would be killed.
You came out publicly that you are an atheist?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s… Yeah, it’s long, but yeah.
Can you explain it a little bit?
Look, it’s… It’s, I start to, to demanding the writers for nonbeliever and not just nonbeliever, I mean, the other, other people has the right to choose the religion, Christianity, for example, is not allowed in Mauritania. If you change the Islam, you will lose your nationality, your property. You have – everything – it’s, it’s not allowed. And yeah, and… I, even I have the, the question why? And, you know, the last year? Yeah, no. Before two years, there big attack in Cairo.
Yeah. You heard about it?
The train. It’s something that happened in Cairo. And I wrote a post on Facebook. “Why? Where’s the God? Why he didn’t protect those people? The children? Old people? Woman?Why? Why he let them burn alive? Why?” That’s mean he, he, he not exist because if he will, he have to protect those people because they believe in him and that time, yeah, yeah, it’s, uh, the, the people and the Imams in Mauritania yeah, they issued a Fatwa is not just one Fatwa, it’s a lot. Yeah.
A death fatwa against you?
And you were in Germany at the time?
That time, yeah. And they tried to kill me before, my, my family. But after the Fatwa, our government, they want to catch me, not just my family or my tribe.
And even I don’t trust any Mauritanian, even in Germany, because they can kill me. It’s not something, uh, it’s something real, you know. I know some people, they can’t understand it. They can’t understand why someone he can kill other one just because he have a different idea or opinion. Yeah, but, yeah, we have those people. Even, uh, you are from?
I’m from Iran.
Iran, yeah. Iran just Shia, yes. We are similar, you know? Iran just Shia, Mauritania just Sunni. Even Shia is not allowed in Mauritania, it’s just the Islam Sunni only.
Uh, how long have you been in Germany?
Oh, it’s not long. Two years and half.
Two and a half.
Yeah, in Cologne, three month, yeah. Here, um, and new in Cologne.
You’re new in Cologne?
Yeah. Now I feel I came to Germany right now. Before now, it’s not, it’s hard.
Where had you been?
Okay, I don’t know where it is.
With – no, the problem is the, the not just Arabs, the Muslims say we respect other choices. We, the Islam, the religion, peace, blah, blah, but… There are two option. If you are one of them, I mean, inside the circle, the Islam and the Arab society and if you are someone outside the circle, if you are one outside the circle, they will, they become peaceful with you. Even when you say I’m gay, I’m an atheist. That’s okay. That’s your life. Yeah, we respect you. But if you are one of them, they would never let you speak out. Never. When someone say, “Okay, we respect other choices, okay.” One time I said, “Okay, I’m an atheist.” That time all this shit, ‘peaceful’ this bomb.
It was gone.
Yeah. How? And you you know the Qu’ran. Because sometimes the, the Arabs they think I’m an a Muslim, because I know the Qu’ran, I know the Sharia because I born and they teach me this shit. Even internet, yeah, I still have the Qu’ran inside my mind. Yeah, it’s something, yeah, is something normal. That’s doesn’t mean I know the Qu’ran doesn’t mean I can’t be an atheist. No, it’s, it’s something differently. That time “Yes, how you can be an atheist? How?” Is, is yeah, that’s why when, when, when I meet with some people say “The Muslims is really cute.” I say “You are from outside the circle. They they will become peaceful with you.” Even with LGBT community, huh? Yeah. I have a friend and she is a trans –
Okay and she is from Italy and say “I have Muslims friend, they are really peaceful.” And I say if you are from country, from Arab country, they will never become peaceful with you. Because you are outside the circle the, the Arab society, you know. Yeah, we know each other.
Yeah. Uh, what was your struggle in Mauritania? What was your main problem? What –
What’s that mean?
What did you struggling, what did you struggle with in Mauritania?
You know, you know, with my family or what?
Uh, in general, it was government? It was your family? It was the society?
Yes, my family, my tribe. You know, my tribe has, um, everyone’s in waiting. My problem is this with not just my family, with the government, with the society, because of the fatwa, it’s yeah, it’s different things against me. It’s okay, yeah, it’s… yeah. It’s hard to say that, but, yeah, when you… It’s hard to say “My country, they hate me, they want to kill me,” and even my family. Yeah, it’s hard to say that, but that’s the truth. Sometimes you have to say that.
Yeah, you have no connection with your family?
No, no, ah. Just my sister. Yeah.
And how does that affect your mental stand?
Mhm, yeah, it’s, it’s hard, it’s hard to… yeah. That’s why I say they makes you feel guilty, yeah. Because sometimes when you try to find your own identity, that’s when you will become lonely, you know?
You feel lonely?
Yeah, of course. But yeah, I have my sister. I support her and she support me, we support each other.
Yeah, she made. And yeah.
Uh, how you run away from Mauritania? Two years and a half?
That’s long way. I ran away to, to Mali, after that to Libya, Egypt, Egypt, Turkey, Turkey and Germany. Is long way.
How? With train? With boats?
Uh, cars, train and from Turkey to Germany, airplane.
How long did it take?
Uh… Uh, it take, uh, four, four months? More than four months. Because I didn’t, I didn’t have money – I mean, enough money – it’s, it’s expensive, Yeah. I have some connection, some people, they help me, really, they help me.
And how did you feel in these four months?
Uh, I can say I, I feel I’m free. It’s, it, it’s hard when you, when you know, this last time I will be in my country. This last time, I will see my mother. Last time I will see the people I born with, it’s last time I will… That’s mean, okay, I will be a free person, and that’s also the, that’s will cost, you will pay for your freedom. That’s why I said the freedom is not free. You have to pay for your freedom. Yeah, it’s hard, I can say, “Okay, I’m excited. I’m finally I’m outside Mauritania, they can’t catch me.” Okay, that’s really something good, I feel it. But other side, yeah, it’s… I feel sad, do you understand?
Yeah, yeah I understand.
Because, yes, some people say, “Okay, why, why do you feel sad? You are outside your country. You are a free person.” But that’s mean it’s, it’s… yeah, it’s yeah. I lost part of my life, you know. Yeah, this is important even when, even they hate me now, but yeah, I still love them. I still feel something inside me about them. I mean my family. Because yeah even when I sometimes, I hate them but sometimes I feel I, I miss them. Yeah, it’s complicated to feel two different things in the same time, you understand?
Yeah, it’s hard. Uh… okay, time would you like to make picture, video, or what?
Yeah, we make pictures but I have more questions. (Both laugh)
Okay, take your time I’m free.
Do you feel free now?
Yeah. I am free, but it’s not completely free. That’s been inside. I came here to have my freedom, but sometimes I can’t, when I… I mean, inside the – our – community, I can’t have my freedom, I can’t say what I want to say. I mean, clearly, it’s not like that. And also, I feel free when I came here.
Yeah. And also I’m thankful to Rana Ahmed and Stefan Sekular, fluchtinge (athiest refugee relief intiative).The first thing, I think, because of them, they fight for me. It’s really, uh… When, yeah, when they people attack me, they support me, Rana Ahmed and Stefan. I’m really, it’s, it’s amazing when you find some people, they fight for you – I mean, with you – they support you. It’s not just, um, by post this article about this, not these people, they, they support you, they –
They do something.
Yeah, exactly, yeah. We need, we need people like them. We need some people they do actions, not just talking. Yeah, and yeah, and… Oh, freedom. I still, I can’t have my freedom because I still, I’m afraid about my sister. Sometimes I want to say a lot of things, but I can’t say, I can’t say it, you know. I can say part, but I can’t say all what I want to say, yeah. Because, yeah, she’s still there. They can catch her. Yeah, but and that also give me the positive, positive energy to keep going to, yeah, to keep going and say, OK, I want to have my freedom, I want to, I want to protect my sister, but I can’t, I can’t…And what was just me, I said my English is very bad.
No, it’s not bad.
Yeah. (Laughs) It is bad, but yeah, the freedom… You will be a free person when you don’t have something to lose. That time you would be free because you don’t have anything to lose, that’s me, yeah and other side, the… hate speech?
Hate speech, yes.
That’s makes you strong.
Because I believe that freedom is stronger, more than violence and hate speech, and it’s deserved to fight for. Yeah, it’s really deserve to have your freedom to say, yeah, finally I take my freedom by myself. Yeah, it’s, it’s something… yeah, it’s amazing.
It makes you feel strong, have power on yourself.
Yeah, yeah. Because I think we are a human sometimes feel guilty, sometimes feel good. Yeah.
Uh, can you, uh, can you explain the situation before Cologne in Germany? What was your situation, where did you live and how was it before coming to Cologne?
Oh that’s long way. Uh, yeah. Look, I, I came here to Frankfurt and they sent me to Horst. Is bad camp in Germany.
How is bad?
It’s like a prison. Really.
The problem is drugs. And the Arabs, they control it. I, I stayed there for two months and I tried to make to (Arabic) I try to, to be alone. I mean, that mean I don’t want to become afraid – a friend, a friend for them.
You tried to isolate yourself?
Yeah. But the problem is they are, the, the Arab people, they work inside the camp. They know me, um, Arab also. They tell them, this, yeah, this man, this person is Arab also. And yeah, it’s hard to… It’s hard to, to be (unclear)
And I think that (Arabic)
I, I try to be alone because I know when they know my ideas, my ideology, they would attack me. And that’s what happened, they attacked me.
What did happen exactly?
Uh, they invite me several times for dinner, you know, Arabs, okay? And one night, one of them, he said, “I, I find your your account on Facebook,” and that time when he tell me I shocked, you know? Okay, okay, okay, it’s… I feel it, it’s, it’s something bad will happen. And after two days, four of them, they came to my room and they attacked me and they said “We, we saw your posts on Facebook. How you can say that? Doubt about, about Allah, about Islam? What the shit?” And they, they attacked me. They broke my phone and even the security, they can’t protect me. When they came they threatened me, they are, they say “We will kill you. That’s why the, the security I say to them, “I have to move now because, look, they threatened me until now. You can’t protect me here. I have to go outside.” And I stayed five days. They take me to a small room with the security in the camp because the, the problem is… The problem is the, the Muslims, they say we came here because of dictator, politics, religion, blah, blah, violence against us. But they, they, they, they are dictator against us. They want the freedom of speech just for them, not for others – I mean, others people from the same circle like me – Atheist, LGBTQ, you know? Yeah, they would never let us take same rights in Germany. If we are speak about anything they say Islamophobic. You, is hate speech against Islam, against our religion. But that’s not a reason. That, this not give you the reason to attack people. I say my opinion, you have the same right to say your opinion, but you can’t attack me. This point, yeah, we are not in Arab country. If I say, “Okay, I hate these thing,” you will attack me, no, no, no, no. If it’s, we are a different situation, different place, different countries, different rules. But they don’t understand that.
Uh, when they attacked you, how, how did you feel at that moment?
Uh, it’s horrible, it’s bad, huh? It makes your… makes you, is make you feel… it’s feeling between fear and, and, uh… not stronger, no is… That time, I can say, “Okay, I have the power, I want to fight,” yeah, I have this point, but also I’m afraid because I know what they can do for me. The security, they can’t imagine what they can do. Yeah, they think just threaten just, you know.
It’s not serious.
Yeah. But I know, I know those people, they can do a lot. That’s makes me feel afraid because I, I know them, I’m one of them. It’s, it’s hard to explain that.
But all these actions, uh, make you a stronger man?
Sure, I’m not a stronger man, but I’m try, I’m trying.
But, but what do you define yourself?
How does that change you?
How, how does that change you? These actions in your life?
It changed me?
Yeah, yeah, this, uh, makes me stronger. As I said, the violence makes you strong… makes you stronger. Yeah, because you have two options: you can say, “Okay, I’m finished” and yeah, I will, uh, I say “Oh, they broke me. I’m sad now, I can’t do nothing.” And you have other option, yeah? You have to keep fighting because when you show them, okay, you attack me and I, I am, I still here. You can’t approach me. That’s yeah, that’s, uh, it’s amazing feeling and that will send a message for them because, uh, we have something in Arabic said I can’t let them when. That’s mean “The ideas never die.” You attack me because my ideas, maybe you can kill me, but you can’t kill my ideas. Look, they say the Atheism is, is something bad. But I think that atheism is idea, is the free thing, is something deserve to fight for. Even not just no, the problem is not about belief and none believe, the point is about the freedom of choice and respect. You have to respect me, you have to give me that freedom of choice. And okay, we have freedom of choice, if you just have one? No thoining. if youif you say I have freedome of choice. No, it’s, uh, nothing. If you say I have freedom of choice that’s mean you have several choice, you can’t choose one. But if you have just one it’s, your, um…It’s, uh, (unclear)
Uh, yeah, it’s yeah, it’s doesn’t mean nothing if you have just one choice, yeah.
Uh, what’s the positive side of being in Europe and what’s the negative side?
Positive side? It’s, uh, Europe, Europe, like, um, will give you, for example, a space. Like, yeah, yeah, uh, yeah, come on, look, Europe will give you space, that’s mean empty space with, with a lot of tools, okay? You can do what you want. You can, you can study, you can work. You can make yourself stronger and good person and also you can make yourself bad person. They give you the tool and the space. In our country, maybe they will give you the space, but without tool, you know?
And what’s the negative side of being in Europe?
And the tool that means the opportunity. Yeah, Europe give you the opportunity to, to be real human being, you know? It’s not, not just, you know, i’ts not that. Not just I Came here, okay is freedom, I want a drink and do a lot of things. You can do these things also but this here, a lot of things, not just this part of, of life, you know, but most of the Arab they saw just this part, other part is –
Yeah. And that’s why they think when the Muslim came here, yeah, you will, you go to Europe because you want to drink, you want to fuck, you, you want to do this, I think, this part of life. But they can’t imagine you can do a lot of things, not just this and part of, uh, the bad parts in Europe, I think, uh, they, they have to control people. I mean, the people, I think they give the opportunity for wrong people, because if you, if you want to come here, you have to know you must respect other people. You, you hate in your country. If you are from Iran, you have to respect Sunni, if you are from Mauritania, you have to respect, I mean, other people from Mauritania, not Muslims, Atheists, Christianity, other people from your country, because, yeah, sometimes the people they respect other people from other countries but if you are from the same country, same society that time, it’s not. Yeah.
What would you say to Europeans, to people who don’t understand you and your situation, to have a better idea of your situation, what would you do?
I, I wrote ask article about that. And how I can explain it? Repeat it please?
Um, if you want to say something to Europeans.
To have a better idea about your situation, about what you’re struggling with.
What would you say?
I would like to say, you have to care about the story, is not about the nationality. For example, look, I respect other people, I respect the Syrian because I know they have war. But in Germany they care about their nationality, that’s mean every Syrian has the same passport, they will have asylum in Germany. Even he will have no problem with the government, huh? They, they don’t care about where he lived before in Germany, they care about his passport, his nationality. You understand what I mean? And other side, some people has problems, real problems, but the government, they care about the nationality, not about the story, your suffering, it’s different, you know? Because I meet a lot of people from Syria, they before in Libya, in Egypt, in, in Qatar. They came here and they have the asylum just because they are Syrian. Okay, I don’t have any problem with that. I have a problem with the German government – the European Union – they have to give the same opportunity for all people, not just for some nationality and also with Yemen. Yemen has same problem, more than Syria, but no one care about them, why? Politics. Economic, not human rights.
Uh, is there anything that you want to add?
I think, I, I think, I think it’s time, I think it’s time to, to say no for the ideas, ideologies, they, they broke, they broke us. They broke and they, they make the violence against us because we, we are different because we have different ideas, because the different of the gender, I think it’s time to say enough. It’s time to, to say the, yeah, it’s time to, to say enough, “We are here. We deserve the same rights.” We, for example, in my country, it’s time to say “We are here, like, uh as a nonbeliever.” We deserve the nationalities, same the Muslims. We deserve the rights against them. It’s time to say the LGBT, it’s same it’s deserve the equal, we deserve the equal. We deserve the human rights, the the human rights not just for believers, it’s for all people. Is no matter your color, your gender, your religion, your ideas, it’s time to say enough. Yeah, we, we are here.