Isabel Romijnders
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In Germany at the age of 18, most young adults worry about their next steps in what they are going to study, their new workplace, maybe a gap year or dealing with a heartbreak. For Viyan this is a differently reality. At school in Kurdistan her classmates are fighting for a better life, dealing with drug addictions, battling depression, and wishing for equal rights as women. Viyan had hoped to escape this warzone and wanted to start a new life in Germany. However, after a year of hoping for asylum acceptance, she and her family got rejected and are being deported back to Kurdistan.

Viyan loves music, spends a lot of her time on chat apps, playing games, and is a true Generation Z TikTok watcher. When I met her, I immediately noticed her vibrant energy, excellent English skills, and that she is a real chatterbox. A view years ago she convinced her father to allow her to have a phone. Not just for entertainment but most of all to improve her English. “At school in Kurdistan we have English classes, but there is no challenge for me. I want to speak it and talk with people in English, but our teacher never challenged us in this. With my phone I can listen to English music, watch influencers, chat with friends…friends I met online, do you know discord?”

Viyan and her family came to Germany at the end of July 2022, together with her mother and father. Her two little brothers had to stay behind with her aunt, as the crossover would be too dangerous. “We went with the bus. My youngest brother is still a baby, he couldn’t come with us because if he would cry, he would have given us away. My other brother has claustrophobia, so that was not possible for him either to come along. They are staying with my aunt now. We think my father is there now with them, but we are not sure… a couple of weeks ago he left one day to go back to Kurdistan. My father was really depressed when he came to Germany. He didn’t know what to do. He missed my brothers. He didn’t tell us that day when he left that he would go back, he told my mother on the phone afterwards. We haven’t heard from him since, but we believe he is there with them.”

Kurdistan comprises regions in south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, north-western Iran, and northern Syria. A number of areas in Kurdistan have had endured political and religious conflict for decades. “We fled because of a lot of problems. Our lives were unstable there, family problems, economic problems. It was not safe, not safe at all. I have a lot of trauma from back home. Where we lived, the area is still dominated by the Daesh group. For a long time, I never left the house, only for school. My neighbours only found a couple of years ago that my parents had a daughter, because they never saw me. I have a lot of social anxiety, I shut down in big groups and I don’t say anything. I can’t give an attitude or opinion, that is really not done. Where I am from in Kurdistan, women don’t have any rights, like nothing. I am just ordered to do woman tasks you know. I am often told I am very lazy, because I don’t want to do all those things I have to do as a girl. My mother and father are also very conservative, I often clashed with my father, ha ha. But they have become less strict since we are here. I have a phone now, and usually you can only have it until you marry… a lot of girls [at school] experience the same thing [social anxiety]. A lot of my friends have dealt with depression and drug problems. There are a lot of suicide attempts, everyone wants to get out you know.”

In a week Viyan will return to Kurdistan. “I want to study medicine, just like my cousin. She is like my role model, she does everything right, is really nice, and everyone adores her in the family. She went to Sweden to study medicine there and she is just really smart, has good grades, she is just perfect. I have never met her though. I hope to study in Germany when I am finished with high school, but I need really good grades for that. But I already looked into the documents I need to go to university here. I really don’t want to stay in Kurdistan.”

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