Sahba Salehi

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I am 25 years old, from Afghanistan. I have been living here for about nine months now, since July of 2021.

I don’t go to class here. Of course, anyone who wants to plan something for the future needs a high level of language first and foremost. You need to know German. For instance, some people here want to become nurses. Well, me, I had big dreams for my life and have not been able to reach them. Now that I am here, I want to have a job so that I can fight the stress that I have when I’m at home. I want to stand on my two feet. Language is the most important thing. I should have a class to go to so that I can make my own way for whatever plan that I have.

I have become depressed since I have been living here, and my mind is full of stress. I live here on my own. In this camp where I live, there aren’t any women or girls I can hang out with. Women and girls are the more sociable ones.

It is a long time since I have left Afghanistan. When we left the country there was still no war. It was before 2017. A long time ago, I don’t remember the date exactly. I reached Turkey in 2017. Because I worked there in Turkey, I can remember the year I got the job. We lived there for more than two years. I learned Turkish and can speak it well. I can also speak Hindi and Urdu.

We lived in Turkey until 2020. In February or March of 2020, we arrived in Greece. We were there for about a year and a half. And then when we got Greece’s acceptance, we came here. We have some family and relatives here. I have my mother’s brothers who live in Germany, but they are far from here, four hours of distance. I haven’t seen them since I’ve arrived here. Two of my brothers live in Berlin. They came here six or seven years ago. My own family just got here before Christmas last year. I arrived before them.

Now I am waiting to get the residency from Germany, study the language, and then follow the plans I have.

In Turkey, there were classes from the government to study but they were far from us. The Turkish language is very easy, you could learn it easily. It is like the Pakistani language, easy … the only difficult language is German [laughing]. But I do want to learn this language too. If there is a class, I will make an effort to learn it.

In Turkey, the place we worked was very difficult. The government didn’t permit working too. Sometimes they would become very strict with the rules and we had to stay at home. The government wouldn’t pay us any money [pension] so we had to work illegally. If they became strict with us, we would have gone hungry. They understood that the immigrants are working for their food to live [and so they loosened up the rules sometimes].

I left Afghanistan with my sister and uncle. We left firstly because there was the fear that the Taliban would come back to power. The scholarships also got closed down. In the past, there were scholarships that girls could go to study in France, Turkey, or India, to study for the future of Afghanistan. When that got closed down, we understood that it wouldn’t be the same again in Afghanistan. Because of personal things in our lives, and because of the fear that we had, we decided to go find somewhere safe. Like Turkey, Pakistan, or Iran. I didn’t live very long in Pakistan and Iran. For the most part, we lived in Turkey.

In Afghanistan, I went to school and studied until 12th grade. I learned some English too. I also had many friends from other countries, from The Netherlands, and I had worked with them in helping out with food and children. They were from these organisations [in the camp], and I worked with them.

Most of the time here I get takeaway food to eat, like Döner. Sometimes I just make simple food. I am only one person. When it is only me, I become lazy. When I lived with my family, I would make all the food myself, morning and noon. I would do all the housework. Now that I am alone, I get lazy and just sit around. There is no one. Little by little being alone makes you lazy.

When I talk to anyone here, they reply back to me in German. I understand very little. There are some similarities to English. I can read it, but I read it as if in English. It is not correct. The pronunciation and alphabets are different.

I have found a class in Berlin. They told me the permission letter is needed and I don’t have it yet. It has been 2-3 months now since I have sent documents for it, but I haven’t received it. Every time I go to ask about it, they tell me to go and study on my own. My God, I can’t study on my own. I do study German sometimes, but then don’t understand anymore. It is when you talk to people and when you practice a lot that you can learn. Like English. When I studied in school in Afghanistan, my English was very poor. Then when I got to speak English to my European friends, it improved.

I am not in contact with anyone in Germany. I have a friend far away from me, in The Netherlands for example, that I have known from before. Then … there are Afghan people here too, single men. But they would quickly ask for marriage. That is why I stay away from everyone. I don’t want anyone to become attached to me or to have hopes.

For doing the daily stuff and doing the shopping, I do it on my own. People here speak African languages or the Chechen language. When I have a problem, I try talking to them in English, but they talk to me in German. I tell them, “Well you know English, why don’t you speak that? I know that you know English.” They say, “Yes, I know but I won’t speak in English, because I don’t like it. You should be forced to learn German.” Here when I need to go to an appointment (with the government) at the office here, they talk to me in German. [laughs]

I personally like to learn languages from all around the world. God knows how much I like to learn them all. Even with these four languages that I know, I feel like I know nothing. Why know just one language? We should know all of them.

I am very good in Hindi. I learned it when I was little. In Afghanistan, our neighbour was from Pakistan. Their children would speak Urdu. That is when I was about six years old. When I watched Indian films too, this helped to learn the language. I speak Hindi and Urdu like I speak Farsi. If there is a place where the work is in Turkish or Hindi, like an Indian hotel, or a job in Turkish, I can do that. But then I will also learn German here because that is the language and the rule here.

German people here are really nice. Like people in Greece. The police here respect you, like in other European counties. I really like the way they behave and treat each other. They would talk to you politely and respectfully. I’m very happy with their police and the people. But I see people in class or other places, and … they all seem very isolated and lonely. When I sit on the train and look at women … I ask myself are they all living alone? [laughs]

I look at the people and they’re very nice people. On the train, I mostly watch the women. They are all old and they have nothing [a ring] on their hands. I ask myself, have they been alone all their life? [laugh]

The first couple of days I arrived here, people were very helpful. Since then, not much anymore. I haven’t heard of anything new. I learned a bit of German and could speak some, but I have forgotten that too. There was a class in Frankfurt Oder that I went to for a couple of months. I almost finished A1. We talked there and repeated things. It was good. But there is no class now here. There was a class before, once a week, but it closed down.

Once when we were in Turkey, I told my mother that I had a dream the night before, that we were living in Germany. My mother said I had gone crazy. I didn’t have a plan [to come here] … I didn’t know, didn’t believe I would come here one day. My two brothers who live in Germany, I called them and asked if they would give me permission to come to Germany? They said, “no, no, no, you cannot do that. You see that sea. You’re not allowed to do that”. It was because of the sea [journey] that was very dangerous. It’s a huge one. So, my brothers didn’t agree, but I did it anyway out of my own interest. My brother said they had seen this journey and know the dangers. “Turkey is better for you”. But he didn’t know about us, about how many difficulties we were suffering there.

The night we were crossing the sea on the boat, it got very stormy. The whole night, the ship was at the mercy of the storm. The children were all crying. All of our stuff sunk. We called an organisation to come and help us. We sent them our location. They were searching all over the sea and couldn’t find us. When they got to us it was almost morning. The ship was broken, underwater, and full of water. Too much water. They first got the small children, then the women, and then the men. Because of the broken ship, all our stuff went into the water. Thank God that they saved us. I called my brother and said we are in Greece now. He was happy too, but also sad that this [incident] had happened. He said, “I knew that such things could happen. That’s why I told you not to come”. It was two months that we had arrived in Greece, we were in Lesvos when that fire happened. It’s like wherever we went, dangerous things happened. Again, we lost our belongings in the fire. My passport had been lost in the water. I had my Tazkira (Afghan national ID) with me in my bag, but that also got burnt in the fire.

Before coming to Germany, the country’s name sounded so nice to me. Everybody said no, don’t come here, there are too many immigrants here. No one would tell us to come. I would think, they have all gone there and now tell us not to come. My brother told me that it all sounds nice from afar.

But there are good things about here. They support the immigrants so much; the German government helps a lot. I sometimes think to myself, does the German government have a money [making] machine? [laugh] I think God must be helping them out. I am happy with everything; I can’t say enough. The only thing missing is the classes that I hope will happen soon.

I sometimes go biking to this lake close here, when I spend too much time in the room and want to get some air. I wish there were at least a couple of other girls here to make friends with. Germany is a nice country. All the stress that I get is out of loneliness. There are no friends or relatives around me.

I haven’t been to the doctor here yet. There hasn’t been a need. I used to have very bad allergies before, but since I’ve been here, I haven’t fallen ill. When they asked me if I had any diseases so that they can write them down [in application forms], I only said that I have anxiety. I didn’t want to say that, but I did it anyway.

I’m not in contact with anyone. Sometimes when I’m on the train somewhere, like for an interview, I send the address to my German friend in The Netherlands, and she would show me the way and the trains to help me out.

I am a very sociable person with other women especially. I would also like to learn about many aspects of the culture, not just studying [the language]. We should accept their culture, make changes to ourselves, and behave in their way. It is true that Afghan culture is very different. If we cannot accept some things, we must at least try and behave politely anyway. There are many things that need to change. There is no force, and some people don’t really change, but some people do. By the differences, I mean treating people with kindness, as well as cultural things. For instance, I used to wear a hijab before. In Afghanistan, well, I couldn’t go without a hijab. In Iran, it was a bit better, but still, you can’t go without it.

One should have a plan for life, in regards to life and work. If you have a good job, if you learn the language, if you build your life, then the government also accepts you. If they don’t accept, they don’t force you anyway, you can make your own way. It is important to not need the government or rely on friends and relatives to help you, but rather to build your life on your own. It is good for a person to stand on one’s own two feet.

Here if you learn the language, then you can do an Ausbildung. For some places, you need a twelfth-grade diploma. Well, I don’t have that, because it was burnt in the fire. But some people with a good level of language are able to choose a subject to study or do an Ausbildung in cooking or working in a hotel. If you know the language, then you can do a useful thing, something useful for yourself and for everyone.

I need to see how much my language improves, how much I can learn. I watch videos on Youtube [about German] and see how it is different from other languages. I used to think it was easy, but it is difficult compared to other languages. I need to learn about myself, about how much I believe in myself. If you believe in yourself, you can go ahead with something in life. I would like to have a good job, like a nurse or cook, so that I can find some work to do.

I do not speak often of my personal life with others and don’t get involved in other people’s lives too. If someone wants to tell me about their life, of course I will tell them too. But I don’t speak much about my personal life.

 

 

 

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