This interview was conducted (in English) and edited by Hans Blokland and Isabel Romijnders.
I lived a good life with my family in Afghanistan. I studied Information Technology at the university and my wife Literature. This university had a good relationship with the TU in Berlin. My wife was a teacher at a governmental school, and I worked in the IT management of a German organisation.
The organisation was active in four provinces in Afghanistan. We trained young people, and refugees from Pakistan and Iran, in a specific field of craftmanship. They could learn for example carpentry. After a 6-month training, they could start working. We encouraged a lot of children to start this program at our organisation, especially refugees, so that they could make a living from a good profession.
We had good work, and a good house, starting a family. But then the Taliban came to our city. First, they closed all the schools, which made my wife jobless. The situation got worse after that, and we were in grave danger. Because I worked for a German organisation, the German government invited us to flee to Germany. They invited about 1300 people from the organisation to come. Almost all of us are all in Germany now.
We went to Iran, and from Iran we came by plan to Germany. We arrived here with our family in January 2022. When we were still in Afghanistan, we had a different view about Germany. We were told that we would have a good life here. We could start working, learn German, get a good apartment. We were told we only had to stay in the refugee camp for a few days. But we stayed for two months in the camp, and had to change to different camps. We hoped that after transfer of camps, we would get a good place. We hoped that we could finally rebuild our lives. But that was not the case.
In march 2022 we had to transfer to this camp. On the day that we arrived here, they gave us a room on the third floor. Everything was horribly dirty, and too small for our family of four. Our son is eight months old and our daughter two years. When my wife arrived in the room, she first could not believe that this was our room. She started crying. ‘The life in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime is better, why did you bring us here?!’, she said. I remember this moment very well. I did not want this for my family, I did not want my wife to cry. My wife said she wanted to go back to Afghanistan. I went down to the social worker, and asked her how we could go back to Afghanistan. The social worker asked us why? I showed her the very dirty room with the pictures I took on my phone; ‘we can’t life in this room, why did you give us this place? We had a better life in Afghanistan’. The social worker promised us that after one or two weeks, we would have a better place. For two days we had to clean the entire room. I called my family that we wanted to come back home, but they said it was not possible. It is too dangerous, they said. We fled the country, so we are not allowed to come back home.
It has now been 10 months that we stayed in this one room apartment. Six months ago, I already started searching for a flat. I applied for almost 200 apartments. But they rejected us all. They blame it on our documents, that they are not in order, but that is not true. We also have an attorney know, that helps us with searching for a flat and proving our documents are in order.
Just like many other refugees, we cannot find a flat. Especially in this district this is a big problem. The process of getting the documents is very difficult. Many of our friends got their residence permit after one month. But in Brandenburg everything takes a longer time. We had to wait for four months. We heard many times that our visa were expired, and the jobcentre would not pay us money. I asked the social workers in the office many times to please help us. Many times, I told them that we are not the kind of people that they judge us to be. We are not people that waste our time. We are trying to make a life here, we want to rebuild our future, and send our children to school. We applied for German language courses, because we want to learn so that we can work. ‘Please help us’, I asked them many times.
We think that there is some discrimination. Refugees that do not come from Afghanistan, but from Ukraine for example, can get a flat easier. We really need an apartment for our family. This is not a place to raise our family, we only have one room. The bathroom is outside and the water is often cold. My children often get sick after going to the bathroom, because it is so cold. There is always a problem here with the washing machine or kitchen. Our time is wasted here, worrying about these basic facilities. We want to move forward.
My wife is taking care of our children, and learning German herself by watching YouTube videos. She was a teacher so she knows how to teach and learn very well. She is waiting for her university degree documents to be accepted by the German government. If they are approved here, she can start teaching at a school here. But for now, she is teaching our children German every day, for two hours. My daughter of two is not going to kindergarten, but my son is going to the Kita that is for children younger than two years old. We prepare are children for their future here. We make them hopeful, tell them that everything will be good. My children do not see the bad things here. They slowly learn German; they are trying very hard.
We want to find an apartment first, a save environment, before we send our daughter to school. At the moment we are searching every day. It has been nine months but we are not accepted anywhere. We are learning German in the meantime, because we think, and know, it is important.
When I was studying in Afghanistan, I was very interested to come to Germany and study here for my MSc degree or PhD. Two or three times, I applied for a scholarship, but I did not get accepted. It was my dream to study in Germany. I wanted to improve my IT skills step by step. I hope in five years I can start a MSc degree here in IT management or cyber security. I hope I can become a good manager at an IT company.
We still have friends and family in Afghanistan. Some of them that also worked for a European organisation, are trying to get a visa. But it is difficult for them. The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, especially for women. They are not allowed to go outside anymore without their husband or brother. They can not go outside the city, or they are jobless and are sitting at home. The anger of the people is growing. Most of the jobs that make money for the people, like coffeeshops, wedding shops, universities, they are all closed. There are no opportunities for the people there to earn money and live.
In ten years, we hope that Afghanistan is becoming a better place again. It used to have good institutions, like universities and other organisations. I don’t know if we would go back. We had built up our lives in Afghanistan, but this has all collapsed. We lost everything; our jobs, homes, a good life. Now we are trying to start over in Germany. If we would go back to Afghanistan, we have to start again, and that is hard. Afghanistan was our home. In that time, we faced different problems: the Taliban, our safety and freedom. Here, in Germany, we face other problems. We are safe here in the camp. The other people have the same problems as we do. But it is not a place to stay and raise a family.