Genevieve Soucek
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I am 21 years old, married and I have one child. She was born in Turkey one year ago. My parents are originally from Afghanistan, but I was born in Iran and lived there all my life. So, I have never lived in Afghanistan myself. My parents escaped from the Taliban because we are from the Hazara minority that the Taliban don’t want there. Each generation in our family are refugees. My husband is Afghan, but has only lived in Iran as well. The Taliban had arrested his father, and his mother had taken the children and had escaped to Iran. After three years, the Taliban released his father because he had cancer, but told him to go. We had a lot of problems in Iran because we are refugees there. My mother and five sisters are still in Iran, but I am not sure where my father is.

My parents are farmers. We didn’t have our own farm but worked for other Iranian farmers. In the summer, my sisters and I would go to the farm as well. For Afghans in Iran, it is too hard, they can’t work well. We didn’t have money. My father didn’t have money to send me to school. So, I worked from when I was eight years old all the way through the twelfth grade. I worked to pay for my English class. My mother always worked and in winter she bought clothes for us. My father used drugs and worked just for himself, not for other people. In the summer, my mother worked at the farms and in the winter went to other people’s houses and cleaned.

The biggest problem in our family is that the Afghan people only like the boys. They don’t like girls. I have six sisters. I’m the eldest child. My mother always wanted to have a boy, but she always had girls. The last time, she had twins. My father all the time fought with her, and my mother regularly had to go to the hospital. My father said that girls weren’t human. My grandparents again and again told us that because we are girls, we aren’t human. They always asked my father, “Why are you working? Just work for yourself. Why are you working for girls? What is your future? Girls will grow up and leave. What should you do?” They always joked about that with my father. When they came to our house, they just fought with us. My mother is only 35 years old. I don’t know what has happened to my sisters. The oldest of my younger sisters is 16 years old, and she wants to get married because of my father.

My father used drugs, and when I was fifteen years old, they had me get married. I was just fifteen, but he was thirty years old. He had another wife but had gotten divorced, and had two children. I was like his child, but my father just sent me to him. I didn’t understand anything about marriage, and I really liked to go to school and study. In Iran, I really liked studying, all of my family knew that. When I was twelve years old, I went to English classes. I wanted to go to university to become an English translator, but I couldn’t do that. My parents wanted me to be a doctor, but my then husband didn’t allow that. When I got married, my then husband didn’t allow me to go to school, he said, “Why are you going to school? You can’t go to English class.” I didn’t know it then, but when I went to class, he followed me. He watched where I went. He was always behind me. Until one day I saw and realized that he always followed me.

My teachers always said that I would have a good job in the future, but I wasn’t able to do that. My father sent me to that man for 100 million Iran Rial [currently this is about 2100 Euro]. I told him I wouldn’t get married and go to his house until I was 18 years old, and he said that was ok, no problem. I told him that I wanted to study my lessons and he said it was ok. My father received the money, and I was in my father’s house until I was 18 years old, and finished my lessons through the 12th grade. Then I really wanted to go to university, but he didn’t allow me to. He didn’t want his wife to go to university. I couldn’t imagine having him as my husband. I had been friends with my now-husband for around two years, and I told my parents that I didn’t want to get married to the older man because I loved another boy, but they just fought with me and didn’t allow me to go out. They kept my telephone, everything. I don’t want to remember those days. That man always came to our house, and said he wanted to see me and get married, but I always hid from him and told him that I didn’t want to get married to him and that I wanted to get married to another boy. In Islam, it’s really hard for one girl and boy who love each other to get married. It is not possible.

My husband doesn’t speak English. In Iran, refugees can’t go to higher education universities. They can only study until the twelfth grade. If they want to go to university, they had to pay a lot of money. In Iran, after you finish the twelfth grade, you have to take a very hard exam, that you have to pass to go to the university. They decide what you can study. Normally, people that want to do this exam study for four or five years. I only studied for one year before I took it. After I was done, they told me I could study psychology, midwifery, or work in a drug store. I was so happy, I wanted to go but it was so expensive, and my parents couldn’t pay for it. Also, my then husband didn’t allow me. One of my dreams was to go to university and study, but I couldn’t. When I got married to my now-husband, he told me, “I will send you to university and let you do what you want, if they don’t find us for one year,” but after seven months, they found us.

I escaped with my now-husband and went to another city. We were there for seven months, but they found us. I didn’t go outside for seven months because I was scared. Only my husband went out. One day, I don’t know what happened, but my husband came back and he had cuts on his hands and on his back. He said that my first husband found him and said he wanted to kill him. But other people saw them and called the police. I was pregnant. I didn’t understand anything. In Islam, the girls don’t know anything about relations between men and women. I didn’t know that I was pregnant or how I got pregnant. I don’t know how they found us. We had escaped to northern Iran, but they still found us. He told my husband, “She is my wife, you are like a robber, and I will get her back and then I will kill her.” We had to escape, my husband came to our room in the morning, and we went to the hospital at night. When we came back, my husband’s parents told us that we had to go. We couldn’t stay there because of our baby.

We left our house, everything, and came to Turkey. We were there for a total of six months. We thought if we stayed in Turkey, then they wouldn’t find us, but Turkey is next to Iran and it is easy to cross between the two countries. When we went to Turkey, we wanted to escape to Greece. We tried to go six times. One time, we arrived to Lesbos. Every person in our group had paid 1,200 Euros. When we arrived there, we called the UNHCR and told them, “Please help us, we have just arrived here, we have children, I am pregnant, please help.” We were in a group of only nine people. When they came, they were wearing all black and I was scared. They told us, “Hello welcome to Greece, don’t worry everything is ok. Be calm.” They told us to give them our phones, and that we would then be taken to a camp. They took our bags, everything. When they saw that we didn’t have anything to communicate with others, they took the clothes from the men except for one pair of shorts each. I could have only one shirt. After a few minutes, they took the men’s shorts. I closed my eyes and a women kicked my back with her foot, pulled my hair back and said that I should look and see why they didn’t want us there. She said, “Why did you come to our country, we don’t want you, why did you come here?’ I told her, “Ok, I won’t come anymore.” We wanted to go back but they really fought with my husband and hurt us. I cried and cried but they didn’t pay any attention to me. They were policemen because some of them had the patches on their arms. They were police from the town. They said, “We don’t take refugees, go back and tell the others what we do. Tell to others not to come.” I told them, “Please I am in danger, I can’t go back to Turkey.” They told us, “If we just accept you and your husband, the others will come. If we deport you, they won’t come.” They kept all of our money. They only gave us back Turkish lira, but kept our Euros and telephones. After two days they deported us to Turkey. They put us on a raft, only something to float on the sea. At 2 a.m. they put us on the raft and told us to go. We didn’t have any paddles, and the weather was rainy. We didn’t have any clothes. We didn’t have our bags, anything. They put our clothes and shoes in a pile and set it on fire.

We were in the sea for six hours. It was so dark; I can’t believe that I was in that situation. Everyone cried and shouted, but I didn’t shout, because I thought we would die. Nobody was there. In the morning, around 7 or 8 a.m., the Turkish guard came and asked, “What happened to you? You don’t have clothes, what happened?” They took us to a camp and because I had a lot of stress, my baby was born. I was only seven and a half months pregnant, but my baby was born in the camp. However, they didn’t give us an ID card or anything. They said, “Ok, if you want to go to Greece, go there, we don’t want you in our country either. We have a lot of refugees and we can’t accept you.” They told us that we must go back to our country, or anywhere else that we wanted, just go. They took us out of the camp and to another house. There were thirty people staying in a small room.

When my daughter was one month old, my husband went out to shop and the policemen arrested him. In Turkey, when the policemen find someone without an ID card, they will deport them back to their country. They kept my husband and didn’t release him. I told the police, that he was my husband, to keep us together, we just want to be together. But they didn’t accept that and told me that he wasn’t my husband. They asked for my documents, but I told them that because we escaped, we didn’t have anything. They didn’t believe that I was his wife, and my child was his baby. They asked why he went out alone, so I told them that he went out to get bread and food to eat. They asked us, “Why did you come here without a passport or anything? How did you come here?” I told them that we wanted to be refugees here. They just laughed and told us, “You went to Greece, and they didn’t accept you, you can’t do anything. If you want to be a refugee you should go, we don’t have room for refugees. Our country isn’t in a good situation to help others because our people don’t have a quality of life, how can we help others?”

They wanted to deport my husband to Afghanistan. I told them, “We want to go together back to Afghanistan, or I will kill myself, what should I do in a strange country? I can’t speak Turkish and they don’t understand English, what should I do?” It went in one ear and out the other. I didn’t go home, I just stayed with my baby in front of the house, day and night. I didn’t leave. I just cried and knocked on the door, but they didn’t help. One day, a lawyer from the UNHCR saw me and asked, “What are you doing here?’” I told my story to him.

For three months, I was alone. I stayed in the thirty-person room. People all the time tried to go to Greece but were pushed back to Turkey. The room was for refugees that didn’t have an ID card, a passport, anything. I was with strange people, and was really scared. Many people were there alone, without any family, mostly single men. While I was there, my husband was in the camp for people waiting to be deported. After three months, they released my husband from the camp. They told him, “We only released you because of your wife and child. If we see you another time, we will deport you.” Then we tried to go to Greece but not to the Islands, to the mainland. But it was hard to go with a baby. We would be in a group of twenty people and if my baby cried, the smugglers wouldn’t accept our entire group. We tried five times, but were sent back to Turkey again and again.

We didn’t have money to go to Italy because it was around 8,000 Euros for each person. To get the money, we sold our gold, our house, everything. But it was only enough for one person. We decided that I would go alone with my daughter and my husband would keep trying to go to Greece. However, my husband’s family gave us money as a gift so that we could go together. We tried to go to Italy by ship five times. There is a trafficker and a middleman. I would give the money to the middleman, and if I arrived in Italy, the middleman would give it to the trafficker. If I didn’t arrive, he would give it back. That is why I could try five times. But if we tried eight times and didn’t arrive, then the middleman and the smuggler would split it 50/50.

We were in a forest for seven or eight days and waited for the ship to come. It was like a game, sometimes you won, most of the time you lost. Several times the policemen got us, and sent us back. The fifth time we managed to get on the ship. I was so happy. I thought everything would be over. But the ship was so crowded, we couldn’t move. There were 100 people, but it was so small. My daughter didn’t have any energy. I didn’t see my husband, I thought he was dying. He wasn’t responding to me. My daughter couldn’t breathe, and they didn’t allow us to go up, we had to stay under the ship. I told them, “Please help my daughter, please help, what should I do?” But they didn’t help. They just took my daughter outside to breathe, not me, for about an hour and came back. For five days we didn’t eat anything. Because if we ate, we would throw up. The first and second days were ok, but after that because everyone was throwing up, it smelled too bad.

When we arrived in the Italian sea, the gas ran out. We didn’t know what to do. We called the police, the guard of Italy, and the UNHCR, and told them that our gas was out and to please help us. After an hour or two, a helicopter came and took photos of us. We thought they would help us, but they only took photos and left. We lifted our sails and were able to move with the wind, but it was so slow. We thought the helicopter would come and help us, but help didn’t come for two days. We always called the police for help because we didn’t know where we were going. After two days, we saw the beach in Italy, and we were so happy. I couldn’t believe that we had arrived. I thought it would be over and that we would be safe, I would be safe, my daughter would be safe, that we would have a calm life.

The guard of Italy came, and took us from the ship. People from the Red Cross of Germany, of other countries helped us. After around four or five hours they left, and we were with the Italian police. After they left, we weren’t given any food, any medicine, anything. We weren’t in a refugee camp, they kept us in a shelter near the beach and took our fingerprints. I asked them to help my daughter because she was only five months old and needed a doctor. They told me, “We don’t have doctors here, go to another country, everyday 200 to 300 people come, what should be do? We don’t have any space for you.” I asked them what we should do? We weren’t in Asia, we were in Europe, I thought Europe was helping people. What were we do to? They said that they were the first place that refugees came, but they didn’t have the space, and asked me where I wanted to go. I told them, “If you won’t accept me, I want to go to Germany. If you don’t want me, why did you take my fingerprints?” They told us that it was for the police and didn’t count for Dublin and that we could go to Germany, no problem. It was just for the police, that way they would know that we didn’t kill anyone for example, it was just for the police, not for being a refugee.

My daughter had an infection, I was really scared and said, “Please just help my daughter, I’m not important, my husband isn’t important.” I didn’t see my husband after we left the ship. After one day he was a little better. We were on the beach for two days and it was so cold, but we didn’t have any warm clothes and they didn’t give us any. Every day they just gave each person one water and one bread. After two days, they gave us a piece of paper that said: They didn’t have space for refugees, and they didn’t want us. If we were to come back to Italy each person had to pay 6,000 Euros and then would be deported. The paper also said that we wanted to go to Germany. We had to leave Italy within seven days.

Everyone under the age of 18 was able to stay in Italy and go to refugee camps. After the policemen kicked us out of the shelter we went to Milan. When we arrived, I can’t imagine, in the train station in Italy there were refugee children, two years old, three years old, who were selling tissue and flowers. I asked, “Where are your parents?” They were from Afghanistan, and they told us they couldn’t tell us anything. I can’t imagine my baby’s future in Italy. We didn’t have anywhere to stay in Milan. When we went to the hotel, they said if you don’t have ID cards you can’t stay. So, we decided to stay in a park. Around 4 a.m., a man came and stole my husband’s telephone. We just had one phone and the robber took it. I went to the policemen and told them that the robber had taken our phone. I asked, “What should we do?” They told me, “I don’t know English,” they told me in English that they didn’t know English. But I think they didn’t want to help me. I cried and told them, “I don’t have a phone, how can I leave? You told me I can’t stay.”

I thought if we came to Germany, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem for us. We took the train from Italy to Freiburg. I really liked Switzerland. I asked the policemen how to buy a train ticket and they showed me. They asked where I wanted to go and they showed me how to buy a ticket and how to get the train. But the police in Italy didn’t help us at all. They were just terrible.

When we got to Freiburg, we saw a policeman and told him that we wanted to go to Berlin. I didn’t know of any other cities in Germany, I had only heard of Berlin. I didn’t understand that when we arrived in Germany we should go to a camp. I didn’t know anything, and I didn’t have any family there to help me. The policeman told me to go to a certain train. They didn’t know we were refugees. We took the train to Cottbus, because I lost my ticket and I didn’t have money to buy another ticket, so we ended up in Cottbus. When I was in Cottbus, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I saw an Afghan man there and asked him what I should do because we were new there. He asked why we came here from the South to the North and how we got there. He asked why we didn’t stay in Freiburg because it is better there than here. I told him, I didn’t know where we were, and he told us to go to Eisenhüttenstadt.

When we arrived at the camp in Eisenhüttenstadt, we stayed there for three months, they took our fingerprints, we were given an Ausweis (ID card), and we were told that we had Dublin. Then we went to Frankfurt Oder. When we got there, we had our first Dublin interview and changed our Ausweis to three months. They gave us an appointment for a second interview that we prepared for, but when we got there, they told us that our interview was canceled and that we should do another Dublin interview. I showed them the paper I got in Italy, and they said we should wait for two months for an answer and that if Italy didn’t want us, we would do the big interview here. That was three months ago and we haven’t heard anything.

We were in Frankfurt Oder for two months and we have been in this camp for two months. In the eight months we have been here in Germany, I don’t understand what is happening: the other families come here today and get transferred tomorrow. But we are just waiting. I don’t know why. We are waiting for the answer from Dublin and the second interview. I asked the social workers and they said they didn’t know, they said it depends on BAMF. I don’t know what I should do and how long I will stay here. When I wasn’t working here, I was so depressed in my room. It is really hard you know. One night at midnight, my husband was outside taking out the trash and I was alone in my room. Suddenly a boy came into the room. I opened the door and he wanted to come in and pushed the door. We solved the problem with the social workers, but after that I was scared, because I was in a bad situation in Iran. Here I have one room with my husband and my child, but in Eisenhüttenstadt we were in a room with another family and the same in Frankfurt Oder. But when we came here, it was better.

I am happy to have arrived here in Germany because Germany is the first country that gave us something after leaving. We didn’t have any houses in Turkey, in Iran, we just escaped. It is my first house that I have lived in with my daughter. It is very good for us because we have a safe situation here. For me and my husband, it is not important to be in a camp for a long time. But I am really scared that we won’t get Dublin because we didn’t do the second interview, and I am scared to go back.

I never felt like l had parents. They didn’t do anything for me or my sisters. I don’t like my father, but I still talk to my sisters. They call me and say that they don’t have clothes and that our father always comes and fights with them. But I can’t do anything, so for two months, I didn’t call them, because if I called them, I would cry, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything. So, I decided to not call them anymore. My mother always has children. We didn’t have money, we didn’t have money to eat, but she kept hoping that she could have a boy and my father would come back and be good.

In Germany, my husband wants to be a social worker and I want to be a dentist. I want to study and be a doctor because of my mother’s dream for me. My dream is to one day call them and tell them that I am a dentist, I am a doctor, I am a girl, and I can do that. My grandfather told me, “You can’t do anything, you aren’t human.” I want to call them and say that I am a doctor, I am here, I am human. I have people who listen to what I am saying. I really want people to hear me.

I hope one day that nobody is a refugee. And that Afghan parents don’t bring up children how I was raised. Because they can’t take care of their children, it is not important for them. They just want boys. If a woman has a boy, they are praised, they are a queen, but if they have a girl… When I had my daughter, my husband called his parents and they said that because he married a woman whose mother had only daughters, he would only have daughters as well. They asked, “Why did you marry her, you will never have a son.” My husband said, “I don’t want a son, I am a son? My wife and I are the same, what is different between us?”

Women don’t have any freedom in Iran. Women are expected to just stay at home, clean the rooms, and become pregnant. We are in Germany now, it is not Asia, it is Europe. I work here in the camp; my husband doesn’t work. He stays in the room and takes care of our baby. I love to work. I love to be in society and communicate with others. My now husband never said, “Don’t work don’t study, don’t go there.” Some men from Afghanistan who are here tell my husband, “Why is your woman always going around the camp, and communicating with other men, why don’t you tell her anything.” My man said, “It does not depend on me.” Some women here tell me that they would really like to go to the German course here, but their husbands don’t let them. They aren’t allowed to come to the kitchen, when they come, they have to cover everything and keep their heads down. They don’t see anything outside their room. That was my situation in Iran, I went to school, and I kept my head down, I didn’t see where I was going, just the ground.

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