Jawad’s Journey

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Hello I am Jawad and I live in Hamburg now for the last three and a half years. I am from Afghanistan and I want to tell the story of how I came to Hamburg. It is a long story. That I had to leave my country was not my decision and it was also not my decision that I was born in this country.

When I was four years old I had to leave my village and country because of the war in Afghanistan. We fled to Iran. The situation in Iran for refugees was not good. We got a paper to stay only for a short while. We were not allowed to go to school or to work and we could not buy anything in our name. They put a lot of pressure on us so that we would leave quickly again. When they saw us on the street we were always controlled and it also happened that men, when they got back from work, were arrested and deported. In Maschat at the border there was a concentration camp for Afghan refugees. There was no food but a lot of torture. I was not in the camp but my friends told me about it. They had to stand the whole day in the sun or in the winter in the cold. They had to do forced work and when the guards found out that one had been to Iran before, they tortured them. Nearly all of those who left the camp became mentally ill and were deported to Afghanistan. Still today there are people who get shot by soldiers at the border. Many are afraid of that and do not try to escape to Iran.

My dad worked illegally and it took until I was 10 years old when I started also to work. I helped on tomato fields. My dad tried really hard so that I could go to school but it never worked. The Iranian administration always denied the request to go to school. Some time later I worked as an assistant to a veterinary for two years. And then for five years as a carpenter. It was a bad situation in Iran. I could not just go outside and play with Iranian kids. They put a lot of pressure on us and I felt less valuable than Iranians. Also at work or when buying stuff we had a lot of problems also with normal people in Iran. They treated us very badly. I was illiterate but my dad taught me to read and write a bit.

We went back to Afghanistan in 2003. We were very tired and just wanted to leave Iran. But when we arrived in Afghanistan we were shocked because there was no security but still war, still blood, still problems. This time I realized everything. We left Afghanistan again two and a half months later. The situation was that either one had to kill somebody or one would get killed. One was always afraid and there was so much insecurity. We fled back to Iran but the situation there was still awful and became even worse. They controlled everywhere, sometimes also just for fun. And they also came to our home to arrest us. If you had something valuable the police would take it. Also at work one often did not get paid. I had this problem often. I could not go back to Afghanistan.

I decided to leave the country. For many months I had informed myself and I found a person who could help me and my friends to leave the country. That was in May 2005. We went to Turkey and that was also awful. Then from Turkey we went by boat to Mytilene with five people. Then I went on to Athens. I wanted to stay in Greece and learn the language. I went to Crete into a center for under-aged and unaccompanied refugees. It was weird, I first thought that the language would be English. I had learned a few words in English. When I arrived I was surprised how the Greeks communicated.

After two years my Greek was pretty good and I became an assistant to the interpreter in the center. I then went to Athens to work but the administration did not really help me. I wanted to visit my family but I was not allowed to travel and because of that I decided to leave Greece. I realized that I could not fulfill my dreams. I then went to Patras. I don’t want to describe how one has to hide the whole time. In lorries, beneath lorries, in the time when they stop at traffic lights while the police and racists hunt you. It was also psychologically very difficult. One was all alone and worthless. When one is in Patras then it is really difficult. But what motivated me was my hope that pushed me. For two weeks I did not manage to leave Patras and then I went back to Athens and then to Korintos. From there I went to Italy in a lorry on a ferry, two days and nights. I arrived in Venice and went to Austria where the police controlled us and arrested us. They said we would have to go back to Greece. I did not want that and told them. They brought us to a removal center and I entered a 10 day long hunger strike. I drank only a little bit of water in the nights and during these days I lost about 15-16 kilos. The doctors decided that me and my friends had to be released.

But they tricked us. They told us, you are free, you can go claim asylum. When we went to the administration they brought us food but then two police officers came with handcuffs and said that we would have to return to the prison to be deported. I was so disappointed and the whole world was so dark, I lost my hope. I spent three months in prison in Vienna. I felt very bad and got anti-depressants and sleeping pills so that I slept the whole time. I only ate and then went back to sleep. Sometimes I was only up for about two hours per day.

The day came when they wanted to bring me to the airport. I refused. There was a radiator in my prison cell. I locked myself behind it so that I could not even get out anymore. They came in and shouted and hit me but I could not leave. When they noticed that they called professional help and they cut me out. Then about 10-12 police officers came in and beat me up. They put me into a car and brought me to the airport. A few hours later I was back in Athens. When I arrived I was not really conscious, I could not think or do anything. I did not want to live anymore. Fortunately I had a friend here and I met him on the street and he took me back to his home. I sometimes left the house to go for a walk and sometimes I went so far that I did not even know anymore where I was. I also did not care for the cars. I always went to the sea and sat there and looked at the water. I also watched the people next to me and I always wanted to know what the difference was between me and them. What did I do wrong? And why is life so hard for some people? There are so many people here, millions, and the city has such a long history and culture but I am all alone. Why is life like that?

This continued for about two months. I could not work and I did not want to meet friends but stay alone all the time. I think without my family I would have committed suicide. I thought, ok there are people who wait for you and it is sufficient when they know that one is still alive. That is important to them. This was on my mind and because of my mother I had to go on. Then two or three months later I looked for Greek language courses at GCR and others. I was able to speak Greek and because of that it was easier for me to voice my problems. Three months later some lawyers helped me. They found a place for me I a house for refugees. I then tried to improve my Greek and I started playing football again with my friends but I still took the anti-depressants. I started to work and took less pills. I felt a bit better. Through the lawyers I got to know a few people and was offered to come to Mytilene as an interpreter. This is how I got back to Mytilene. Through my own situation I know the right terms and the situation of refugees. I worked here for two years. That was a nice time but I still could not stay in Greece as I was not allowed to travel and meet my family in Iran. I decided to go to Germany. I flew to Germany illegally. I thought I would maybe go back to Mytilene but then I stayed in Germany. I went to school and now I am doing an apprenticeship. I met amazing people who help me. It is like a family, they always support me. And I feel great in Hamburg.

I was very happy when I heard that I would go back to Mytilene. The day of the journey I was a bit wary, I had a difficult feeling. But I had great friends and we talked about different things. I really wanted to see Athens and so we left the airport. The streets were empty, many shops were closed and people were annoyed. I had not such a nice feeling in Athens but I was happy to have seen it. When I went back on the airplane something else entered my mind. I thought about the time when I arrived in Mytilene by boat or as interpreter. Now, three and a half years later I come back as a tourist! This is life, always full of surprises. I was excited on the plane. When I arrived I stayed with an old friend for the first night and then in the morning I walked through the city and met a few people. This time things were different, they showed more respect and behaved differently especially when they found out that I had German papers. Why is it like this? My personality or my character have not changed. This is so illogical for me, only because of papers one gets respect but now because one is how one is and how one feels. For example, when people see you as an Afghan they behave differently to when they see you as a German or American. The qualities inside of people do not count. Nobody can decide where one enters the world and it is nobody’s fault if one is born somewhere where it is not that good. Some people make it harder for themselves and for others. Many want to live at the expense of others. That is really unfair.

Our project here is really nice and also the people who have organized it. It is great that there are people who help others and give hope. These people do not see others as refugees or foreigners. They see them as human beings. They behave the same towards anyone, and don’t care for papers. This is why I like this project and I am happy to have the opportunity to be part of it. I wish all the people here a lot of success and that everything they wish for in their lives will come true.