The Opening Collection
K IR O N STU DENT MAGA Z INE N. 1
The Opening Collection was created in cooperation with
For the past two years the Allianz Cultural Foundation has been supporting more than 30 projects involving artists, publicists and authors who have fled their home countries and now seek temporary refuge, or even a permanent second home in Germany. Wherever this has been successfully accomplished, cultural enrichment and a cosmopolitan understanding can be witnessed on both ends. For the history of the newly arrived has the potential to open the eyes of long-time residents and sharpen their vision of the world. Therefore the first edition of the Kiron Student Magazine starts with the presentation of the touching, surprising and at times shocking stories of the Kiron students who throughout the creation phase of the publication not only shared their personal experiences, but also received trainings on how to edit their texts for journalistic purposes. Their tales not only give the readers a genuine understanding of the authors’ experiences, their countries of origin and societies, but also of ourselves, as Germans and Europeans, of our sense of hospitality or of xenophobia. It has astounded and pleased us that the students of this successful education startup have demanded such a classic analog medium to record their narratives and to communicate with one another. It clearly demonstrates in a reassuring manner that old and new media do not necessarily compete with one another, but have the potential to complement each other in a meaningful way. Michael M. Thoss, Managing Director Allianz Cultural Foundation
We met Markus Kressler and Vincent Zimmer in the fall of 2015, shortly after they founded Kiron. We were fascinated that these two young men, who weren’t even in their mid-twenties at the time, wanted to create an online study program that would make it easier for refugees to get their start in Germany. The project was shaped by the conviction that democratic access to education lays the foundation for successful social integration. As a result, Kiron grew very large very quickly. A well thought-out mentoring and buddy system ensure that online university students aren’t deprived of personal interactions. As a foundation that aims to build sustainable civil society organizations, we are also fascinated by the fact that Kiron is swiftly scalable – so that, in the future, it will be available to thousands of students not just in Germany but in other countries as well. Kiron encourages traditional universities to integrate digital learning components more fully into their own teaching methods, thereby shaping the future of learning: independent of location and guided by the best lecturers in the world. Kiron is an experiment that will doubtless still encounter a number of obstacles it needs to overcome. Yet the enthusiasm and energy of the entire team make us confident that Kiron will continue to grow and develop democratic access to education in the future. Tim Göbel, Executive Chairman Schöpflin Foundation
As co-founder of Kiron Open Higher Education it is my pleasure as well to present to you the Opening Collection of the Kiron Student Magazine. We wanted to give our students a platform to share their stories, ideas and views. Because of that we started thinking about a format that we could publish this in for themselves, our supporters and the public. The idea for a magazine then derived from both students and volunteers. We have never done anything like this before and this is why “The Opening Collection” is one-of-a-kind and so valuable. It was a journey full of learning for us and our students and learning is what we value the most at Kiron. Vincent Zimmer, Christoph Staudt and I founded Kiron Open Higher Education as a Social Startup in 2015 and today it is the world’s first online learning platform, that enables refugees to have unbureaucratic access to higher education giving them the opportunity to learn successfully through digital solutions. Our blended learning model 2.0 consists of an online study phase averaging two years followed by approximately two years at a partner university to finish with a fully accredited bachelor degree. Refugees can start studying immediately and regardless of their asylum status, language skills and free of charge. We aim at fostering an economic as well as social integration in host countries and empower refugees to step back into a self-determined life through becoming studying. Therefore, the program is also embedded in an ecosystem of support services, centered around the student’s needs. Enough about me and Kiron though, our students are the epicenter of attention! Enjoy experiencing an amazing collection of inspiring personalities which do best speak for themselves! Markus Kressler Co-Founder and Managing Director
Dear friend of Kiron, We are very proud to present the Opening Collection of the Kiron Student Magazine. It has been an exciting journey that started one year ago and has led us to this first issue, which features contributions by over 30 Kiron students, located in more than 12 different countries. Drawing on their experiences of struggle, hope and resilience, the following pages showcase a collection of creative writing, personal essays, poetry and photography that offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Kiron’s diverse and exceptional students. All of the authors are bound together by the shared experience of being both refugees and Kiron students – of finding a light in higher education and following it. The Opening Collection’s guiding principle is to build a sense of community across borders and cultures through storytelling. The stories are powerful and moving, at turns funny, at turns heartbreaking and above all, astoundingly honest. The current public discourse tends to focus on refugees as a crisis, a threat, or as victims. This magazine is an opportunity to find another perspective on refugees: one rooted in authenticity and candidness, told in their own voices and based on their lived experiences and dreams for the future. Samah, our student editor, expressed it perfectly when she said that this publication is a window for the students to see the world - and to be seen by the world. We believe that this collection sheds light on who our students are, and, by extension, what Kiron is. Our aim is to enable our students to engage as a community with the media discourse in Europe. With student workshops and media literacy training, we are providing the tools for a strong and independent student voice. This first issue you are holding in your hands is not only a magazine full of moving stories, personal impressions, art and reflection. It is also the prelude to a new chapter of Kiron student activity, one where we give students the media tools, training and support needed to create a self-determined, vibrant and ongoing publication. The Opening Collection opens a new chapter and new possibilities. So read on, dear reader. The best is yet to come! Clare Börsch, Philipp Wissing Editorial Team
Table of Contents Belal Jazairi 04 Kiron Phenomenon
Samah Al Jundi-Pfaf 12 I Do It My Way
Hafiz Muhammad Usman Asif 15 Thank You Germany Alaa Naame 18 Gott Sei Dank Ali Awais 20 I Am Malala
Amirhossein Zolghadri 21 Untitled
Mohamad Ammar Fadloun 22 Die Rede über unsere Sehnsucht & 23 Die Rede über unsere Hoffnung
Elon Solomon 24 Books, Liberalism and Chaos Efe Efehosa 26 9:45 a.m. October 2016 Alaa Nema 31 Dusseldorf Train Station
Abdulhadi Alharash 32 William Wallas Battsetseg Atkins 33 Tears of Fate
Mohamad Issa 34 The Life of Mi
Mohammad Usman Rana 38 Unstoppable
Afraa Bitar 39 Once Upon a Time
Mohammad Usman Rana 40 Let Them Grow with their Abilities
Hussam Alshemmali 42 “The Best Revenge Is Massive Success” (Frank Sinatra)
Omar Khalid Hashim 44 Miss You My Love Sameer Thabet 46 An Immigrant
Sang Yabchen Dagrang 48 Omar’s Diary
Adeeb Rahimi 50 I Know It’s Hard but Give It a Try
Murad Suleyman 51 Find an Opportunity
Mahmoud Mansour 54 Untitled
Monir Ibrahim Adam 55 Untitled
Mohamad Safi 56 To Be a Refugee in the 21St Century
Shafiq Mohammad 57 All We Need Is Courage and Strong Intentions Tahany Kahsay 58 Finding the Writer Zena Suliman 59 Fear and Isolation
Wadhaa Al Obaidi 60 Thanks, Germany
Jamil Mia 66 Freedom for Humanity
Osama Obaid 70 My Stamp
Waseem Zanpuaa 71 Hello Istambul
Samah Al Jundi-Pfaff 74 Glimmer of Hope (Untold Story)
Randy Prempeh 76 Sneaking into the Journal of a Kiron Student Mohamad Safi 80 The Starting Point
â€œEducation powerful which you change the
The “Kiron Phenomenon” integrate and become active citizens. I am studying political science and have already started on my lifelong learning journey. Recently, many people have had to flee their countries, which are ravaged by war and poverty. They have had to leave their homelands to find a better life and future. They have had to overcome many bureaucratic barriers. For many refugees around the world, including me, Kiron offers a space to educate ourselves for the future. I am so glad that my name is included on this new page Kiron is writing in the history of education.
is the most weapon can use to world.” Nelson Mandela
5 BELAL JAZAIRI
Nelson Mandela taught the world that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Kiron is using this powerful weapon to help refugees create their own education and their own changes. Kiron considers education one of the most important goals for sustainable development. The “Kiron Phenomenon,” as I like to call it, brings back hope to many displaced people and gives them new opportunities to continue the learning process, no matter where they are or where they come from. As simple as it sounds, “Start your studies, take your motivation into your own hands” – then you can find a way to
Originally from Pakistan Studying Business and Economics in Kiel
Originally from Kenya Studying Computer Science in Berlin
Originally from Syria Studying Business and Economics in Berlin
Originally from Kenya Studying Business and Economics in Uckermark
Originally from Syria Studying Engineering in Berlin
Originally from Pakistan Studying Business and Economics in Berlin
What lights you up?
Sarah Originally from Pakistan Studying Business and Economics in Karlsruhe, Germany
Tri Originally from Indonesia Studying Computer Science in Berlin I was born on 9 April 1995. I am 22-years old and one of four children: I have a twin sister and a little sister and brother. I like sports – all fun activities, but not swimming. I am scared of spiders more than of anything else! I have a weakness for my granny because I love her so much! I am easy going and spontaneous. I studied IT for six semesters at the University of Tadulako, and was working as a teacher’s assistant, teaching kids about software. I also worked as an English teacher for orphans, giving lessons to kids who don’t have the opportunity to get the same education as others. I also taught the farmers’ kids at the village. Our community was called a DEO – developing English organization – and I was the secretary. We had a of lot fun with the kids! I want to be a person who helps everyone around me – especially the people I love. I hope that people can learn to respect each other more and just be understanding. Life can be beautiful if you just make it that way. You might have a bad day today, but tomorrow is another day – just keep going. As for me, I want to have a cool history to tell my kids and grandchildren when I am old I like singing and I write songs. I have a page on Facebook about me and my twin making music!
What lights you up?
Chrispus Originally from Kenya Studying Computer Science in Berlin My name is Chrispus, I’m a 20-year old Kenyan guy full of life! I moved to Berlin from Kenya three years ago. My hobbies are photography, music and deejaying. Music is a big part of me because, through it, I get my inspiration and get to inspire other people as well. In general, it calms me and gives me positive vibes. Music is, in of itself, healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something that touches all of us. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music. I believe that, as you grow older, you discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others. And that’s why I’m working on myself: so I can do good in my community.
I’ll Do It My Way
THEY SAY, “HOME IS WHERE OUR STORY BEGINS,” AND MINE STARTED IN FRIEDLAND CAMP IN GERMANY. IT WAS A COLD EARLY MORNING IN FRONT OF A SHACK MADE OF TIN, WHICH I LATER LEARNED IS CALLED A NISSENHÜTTE.
Chaos permeated the place. Too many cables lying everywhere, journalists, good-looking security men in their elegant uniforms who looked like they had stepped out of a Hollywood awards show, tall blond men in tuxedos walking and talking while pretty women ran breathlessly, holding notebooks and many other things! Later, I learned that some of these men were German VIPs, including the Minister of Interior Affairs and the Minister of Education. My eyes jumped from one thing to the next, trying to take it all in, but I couldn’t figure things out. I felt like I was watching one of those flashy, cheap Egyptian movies from the 1960s. Listening to the chaos and people talking in German made me even more panicked. I felt salty tears falling into my heart, but I stopped those tears from rolling down over my freezing cheeks. My second day in Friedland Camp arrived after a sleepless and panicky night because of the trains that roared by all night long. No exit from this place and no place for me among thousands of refugees. There were 4,000 refugees at that time. All the corridors were full of refugees and the staff jumped over the sleeping people to reach their offices. We slept on the ground, under trees and in the cafeteria. How tiring. He was standing there smelling of aftershave. He looked like a VIP, but not blond. The black hair and friendly smile encouraged me to go talk to him. It was just a few minutes, but they were enough to remind me
of who I was before I was a refugee, fleeing and changing my destiny. He explained that the ministers were there to see the featureless shack and the old museum, and he told me about the new museum opening. I said to him, “Instead of showing people what happened in 1945, why don’t you show what is happening now?” He was polite and listened. He didn’t correct me. Then I heard myself talking and involving myself in his project as if I was part of it. It surprised me. When he left to join his people, the VIPs, I smiled sadly, remembering that I handed him my business card as if I hadn’t left home. A wave of memories overwhelmed my soul, but there is no way back. I will never flee again, I promised myself. I stepped out of the tragedy of the war in my home – a war that made young people die fighting each other instead of fighting their enemies. I am here to live my culture of love, reconciliation and peace. It is my choice and life should be achieved, not waited for. This is the same old line I used on my students, lecturing over bent heads and now it was high time to stop preaching. My soul’s roadmap is clear and my destiny lies ahead. When my weakness makes my mouth salty and brings tears to my eyes, I take a deep breath and I can feel the patience of the women on the borders, near the check points, in the food lines, in that crowded small rubber boat holding their children and holding back their tears.
I could hear their hearts beating loudly, reaching heaven. Then I become strong like that Syrian woman who is not bent by poverty, displacement or bereavement. She emerges always from the ashes, from where she has had to go to get food. She feeds her children, like a bird, bite by bite and she lets her soul ﬂy again.
I am from Syria, the Lady of Thousands of Years, which is suffering from a crazy selfish and illogical war, where hearts, souls and minds have been and are being destroyed. Too many media headlines, UN reports, politician speeches, statistics, pros and cons activities for refugee, and the war mill is always harvesting the future or just mocking the children who were born in a plastic tent near the no-man’s-land or in a dark damp forest. In my home country, March brings spring, the most pleasant season and the time of rebirth, new beginnings and inspiration. German March was the same! The business card was the turning point because I now work for the Friedland Museum. I pay taxes and go to work. I was born again that spring and “I am doing life.”
Thank You, Germany SOME OF MY REFUGEE FRIENDS OFTEN EXPRESS ANGER IN THEIR OPINIONS THAT THEY ARE NOT GETTING MANY RIGHTS IN GERMANY. I LISTEN TO THEIR VIEWS, THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY DON’T HAVE AS REFUGEES AND, IN THE END, COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT WHAT THEY ARE SAYING IS NOT BASED IN REALITY.
15 HAFIZ MUHAMMAD ASIF
I have also been living in Germany as a refugee since December 2015 and I am getting all the essential and social help I need from Germany. I don’t feel helpless since I have been living in Germany, and I also do not feel that any refugee is helpless here. Refugees with a realistic outlook agree with my opinion; and I want to say something to those who do not: Let’s remember when we were crossing forests, deserts and seas. Sometimes we even lost hope that we would survive. We did not have roofs over our heads or food in our bellies during our difficult journeys. We saw dead bodies in the path ahead of us. Nobody was there to help them; they were as helpless as we were on this deadly journey. We were fortunate to survive. Besides, let’s imagine that we never left our country and that most of the people we know had been killed by war or other political dangers in our home countries – what could we do then? We came here and Germany gave us everything we need. Germans gave us a chance to start a new life. They accepted us into their society. They gave us institutions in which to study. They gave us places to work. They raised a voice for refugees all over the world. Isn’t that enough for us as refugees? I think Germans have done so much more for refugees than other countries have. In addition, I want to remind my refugee friends that we are strangers for the German people. They don’t know that what kind of people we are, so we have to prove ourselves to them as good friends through good deeds and friendly behavior. Let us work together as partners to build a friendly society by spreading a positive atmosphere of love and caring. Together, let us say, “Thank you, Germany.”
“Gott sei dank”
AS A MUSLIM GIRL I WAS TAUGHT TO THANK GOD IN ALL SITUATIONS, BECAUSE IN OUR FAITH BEING THANKFUL MEANS YOU ARE A TRUE BELIEVER AND ALLAH, “GOD,” WILL GIVE YOU EVEN MORE.
But I never felt this very deeply until the revolution in my country started. And then the revolution turned into a war. It was then that I really began to understand how to be thankful for everything. I graduated from high school in 2014. I used to have to study by candlelight because the electricity would only come on for one or two hours a day. I felt really thankful for having candles. There were others who could not afford them. Then a bomb fell on the elementary school – for no damn reason. I thought that the next day no one would send their children to school. But, actually, most of them did. I could hear some parents saying: “Thank God no one died.” “Take care, my love.” They were really thankful. I saw a video of a father who had lost his three children, wife and house. And he was sitting on his knees, crying and giving thanks. Some people will interpret this as an act of religion. But, religion aside, this approach to life is well known in many very different religions and cultures. The latest modern version of thankfulness was presented in the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, which was really successful and focused on being thankful in order to have a better life. Does it really work? Being thankful? I wondered. In
my country, I would hear things like “Ach, thank God that even though the house was destroyed my family is okay,” or “I have lost my arm but I still can see,” or “I live with three other families in one house but at least I don’t live in a tent.” And some people in tents have said that they are very thankful that they are almost safe. I remember the day when I bought a little ring from a German shop here in Hamm. It only cost one euro, but I felt so thankful that I could do something like this. I am just thankful that I am alive – even though life sucks sometimes. Being thankful does not mean you are okay. Not at all. And it does not mean that you don’t need more. But it does give you strength. My brother was in the hospital two days ago. I cried really hard because I was scared that something would happen to him. It was not a serious illness and everything went really well. I remembered all the sick kids around the world and am just thankful that my brother is not one of them. But being thankful does not mean you do not allow yourself to express sadness – or that you need to accept the current situation when you have the ability to change it. Being thankful simply means that you pay more attention to the good things so your heart will give you the strength to go on in this hard world. I hate that my family is separated. I hate that my brother doesn’t see my father very often. That I am
a refugee. That I lost love even though I gave all my heart. That all the people I love are living in other countries. That my eyes are sick. That new people are occupying my country for very stupid reasons. That I lost years during which I should have been in another place... I am really angry that I can’t do anything for the children who are dying now for no damn reason. I cannot delete this intense anger. But if I give it free rein, I will become sick and just another angry victim. So no. My eyes are weak but I can still see. My family is separated. I can do nothing about this so I thank God that I still can see them and fight with them and love them. I thank God that I am in a house here now, not in a tent. I thank God that I lost that love. I thank God that I had that one euro to come to the library and write this piece. I thank God that there are people who are sacrificing their own lives just to save others. I thank God for the health we have, for this clean water we can drink. For a while, I felt like I didn’t really deserve to be in a house or have a family. That I didn’t even deserve to be at university.
But I have learned to count my blessings now. To be able to go on. I am thankful for being in this world, which is full of monsters but also full of people who are trying to give to others. I am really thankful for this opportunity to be a part of Kiron. Being grateful makes me feel that I also want to give something, just like the people with white helmets in Syria. Just like the people who are running Kiron. Just like the unknown people who do kind things all around the world – on both a large and small scale. I thank God with all my heart that I still have hands. The ability to understand how lucky you are will lead to one of two results: Either you will feel as though you do not deserve it, which will lead to depression, or it will give you more strength to use your gratitude to bring lucky moments to others as well. I am thankful right now. I am also angry sometimes. I hate some situations and curse them as well. But I also have this deep feeling that there are some things we can’t change, some nasty, ugly things. But I have to say thanks for all the good things. For all the lovely people and their magical touch.
I will continue to be thankful for a smile from a stranger and will try to do something about the things I can change. And then I will be thankful for having been able to make that change.
I Am Malala
I THINK IT WAS FEBRUARY 2010 WHEN I VISITED THE PARADISE OF PAKISTAN, THE VALLEY OF SWAT. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE WHERE MOTHER NATURE SHOWS HER GIFTS WITH MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS. YOU COULD HEAR THE SOUNDS OF MORNING BIRDS AND FEEL AN ATMOSPHERE OF PEACE AND CALM.
But it was not as peaceful as I thought. The leaders of Islam, the great “Taliban,” were everywhere, oppressing people and ruining this beautiful gift of Mother Nature with guns. I could see clearly an expression of fear on everybody’s faces. They were crying for help. Most of the schools were closed. Some of the barbershops were burned. People were not allowed to take their girls out of their homes. It seemed like this valley was cursed. Nothing was normal. I was a young medical student then. Warm blooded and driven to help the wounded. I was working with Red Crescent as a volunteer. The Pakistan Army was trying to evacuate the area from the Taliban. Everyday, many soldiers and local people came to our camp, wounded by the guns of the Taliban. As a volunteer, my job was to look after the patients. I am not ashamed to say that I was afraid too. Life is a beautiful gift – who wants to lose it? I don’t. I wanted to escape from this valley. I could not bear the sound of guns every night. Many other aid organizations were also working in the same area. Some were working to establish normality in the valley after the war. I discussed my situation with my beloved professor, or should I say the most humble person I’ve ever known, Professor Waqas Rasool Khan. He was from Multan and was working to promote the education of girls. He told me that he wanted to take me somewhere and asked me to be prepared to go the next day. With the rising of the sun, I woke up and got ready for my duty. I checked on some of the patients in their beds. Shortly after noon, I was free. I called Professor Waqas and he told me to come to his camp. He asked me to come with him. We were strolling down through the valley. At last we reached a house. We rang the bell and a man came out. I did not know him. I had never seen him before. He embraced Professor Waqas warmly and let us in. Professor Waqas told me that life is not very easy for any of us. We are all living in a place where death walks the streets openly. He pointed towards our guest and said, “This man runs girls’ schools
in this area and has been threatened by the Taliban not to send his own little girl to school.” Our guest called for his daughter and a beautiful young girl came in. She sat beside her father. She did not speak a word, but her face told me everything. Like all the other girls in this valley, she wanted to go to school. She wanted to get an education. And some terrorists were tearing her dream apart. Her father said, “This is my little girl. Her name is Malala. I send her to school every day fearing that she won’t come back. But just because some terrorists are trying to silence us with their guns doesn’t mean I should bow down to them.” We chatted for some time, ate supper together and then returned to our camps. I understood the whole situation. Freedom does not come so easily. We had to pay the price. Barbarians will try to silence us with guns. They will try to make us bow down before them. But some people refuse to be tamed. They stand up for their rights. They pay the price with their blood. And they are the ones who are called heroes and the saviors of their nations. I came back from that valley after two months. Two years later, in the paper, I read about a little girl who paid the price for her freedom. She was shot. But she did not bow down. She was Malala. She refused to stay in her home. She came out onto the street for her education. And the blood that poured from her body was not in vain. Now we are all Malala. Now we all want the freedom to be educated. A lone young girl defeated the Taliban. And I congratulate her for her Nobel Peace Prize. She deserved it. She was a hero and she will be a hero forever.
My story is about a man who lives in Iran, who has suffered because of his sexual orientation, identity and even appearance, but who will never surrender and plans to continue fighting for change. To be honest, I never felt safe in Turkey. To me, Turkey felt like the emergency room in a hospital that I had been rushed to because of an emergency and where I was left to die before anyone had time to save me. Like other refugees, I am not able to obtain a work permit here, but unlike others I’m not even able to work illegally because of the homophobia in Turkey. What’s more, I won’t be able to study here even in a city like Kayron where the universities are government funded. The only thing that remains here is my past, which I ran away from at a high price. I’m hopeful for the future. I hope that when I’m settled in Canada I will be able to study what I feel most passionate about and pursue it professionally to help others like me have a much smoother path in life. I hope for a better world where human rights become common sense in all nations and human beings are able to live in freedom regardless of their backgrounds and sexual orientations.
21 AMIRHOSSEIN ZOLGHADRI
Though he was forced to leave Iran in order to pursue a normal life, he will never forget the hardships facing Iranians, which he himself had to face there. But now more than ever he feels obligated to change what forced him to flee. I have always known that I cannot change Iran’s government considering the significant role that elements such as money, power and the law play in shaping the country as a nation. But I have also always been keen to change Iranian people’s minds, so I have taken a lot of time with each and every individual, explaining their basic human rights and their freedom from the religion, gender and preferences they are born with – and of course I have witnessed a great transformation in people’s minds as a result. After gathering a great deal of information about my recent encounters with people, especially about discrimination in the Iranian government’s gender laws, I decided to make a documentary about it. Though I never finished the documentary, telling the story of homosexuals who refuse to change their gender to be accepted in Iranian society and who are able to have same-sex life partners was a big step forward. These individuals wish to be able to engage in society as they are, free of changes. For me, my family’s intolerance towards my homosexuality and fear of imprisonment by the government were reason enough to leave Iran. Overnight, without any prior plans, I left Iran for Turkey. I didn’t have any information about Turkey’s refugee policy. After I sought asylum at the UN, they accepted my application and chose Canada as my third country for resettlement. Right now I am waiting to complete the final procedures so I can finally leave Turkey for Canada.
MOHAMAD AMMAR FA DLOU N
Die Rede über unsere Sehnsucht The Talk About Our Yearning
Als ich Damaskus verließ War mein Kummer größer als meine Träume, Aber die Hoﬀnung auf Rettung Half mir die Ängste zu überwinden. Die Städte, die mich umarmten, Konnten meinen Schmerz nicht aus dem Gesicht wischen Und den Durst nach meiner geliebten Stadt nicht löschen.
When I left Damascus My sorrow was stronger than my dreams,
Ich komme aus einer Stadt,
But the hope of rescue
Die tausendmal am Tag geschlagen wurde.
Helped to overcome my fears.
Ihr blauer Himmel ist von rauchschwarzen Wolken verhüllt. The cities embracing me Ich komme aus einem Land,
Could not wipe my pain oﬀ my face
Das jeden Tag meine Seele nährt.
And satisfy the thirst for my beloved city.
Aus einem Land, das jeden Tag den Stürmen widersteht. I come from a city, Alles erinnert mich an Damaskus, meine Stadt.
That was beaten a thousand times a day.
Mit jedem Augenblick liebe ich sie mehr
Its blue sky is muﬄed by pitch-black clouds.
Und meine Sehnsucht wird größer und größer. I come from a country, Februar 2016
That nourishes my soul every day. From a country, that resists the storms every day. Everything reminds me of Damascus, my city. I love her more with every instant And my yearning becomes bigger and bigger. February 2016
Die Rede über unsere Hoffnung The Talk About Our Hope Ich bin ein Erbe von Palmyra, Amrit, Ugarit und Mary. Ich habe Anteil an der Zitadelle von Aleppo. Alle sieben Tore von Damaskus Weisen ihre Wege durch mein Herz. Ich kam in euer Land, um den Frieden zu ﬁnden. Ich kam hierher, um euch von uns zu erzählen, Um meinem Volk eine Stimme zu geben. Wir leben.
I am a descendent of Palmyra, Amrit, Ugarit and Mary.
I have a share of the Citadel of Aleppo.
Wir schaﬀen Neues.
All the seven doors of Damascus Point their ways through my heart.
Wir heilen unsere Wunden, Wir lächeln einer Zukunft entgegen.
I came to your country to ﬁnd peace. I came here to tell you something about us,
Es ist unser Schicksal,
To give a voice to my people.
„Söhne und Töchter des Lebens“ zu sein. We live. Februar 2016
We think. We create new things. We heal our wounds, We smile towards a future. It is our destiny, To be “sons and daughters of life.” February 2016
Books, Liberalism and Chaos
MY CHILDHOOD WAS PEACEFUL AND CALM COMPARED TO SYRIA TODAY. I REMEMBER THE FIRST GIFT I TRULY LOVED, AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF “ROBINSON CRUSOE” THAT MY PARENTS BOUGHT ME ON MY EIGHTH BIRTHDAY.
I saw him as a man who survives against harsh nature through the power of his will and the help of an unexpected friend. This little novel taught me a lot; it showed me that a writer could animate my feelings just with words. Ever since that day, I have valued words differently. I didn’t just read that story, I lived it because I was shy as a child and I felt his loneliness. I was the child of liberal-minded parents who lived in a conservative religious community. I felt like a stranger in my own country. After a few years and a few books, I realized that words are not just tools to share knowledge, they are engines designed for human communication. Applying those engines to academic reading had a fundamental impact on my schooling. When I started going to middle school, I had the chance to expand my social horizons, to witness the diversity of ideas in my community and to learn directly from it. In 2011, when I was 15-years old, my father found a better job in Latakia. We moved there just before the crisis in Syria broke out. And we very were lucky because it started in the city of Homs, where I am from. In just a few months, the streets I used to wander turned into streams of blood, the playgrounds of my childhood became mass graves and the schools housed homeless refugees. We, Syrians, were devastated by the events, and I was torn apart. It was as if somebody had set fire to everything I loved as a child. Then, inside
these flames, I saw the shadow of my first hero, Crusoe. Crusoe’s unbendable will helped me pull myself up again, and books became my shelter and consolation. He was a smart man who used nature to make tools to grow crops and build his shelter. I followed his example and used books to build my character; I learned to be calm and diplomatic, sympathetic and organized. Because of these changes in my life, I took reading more seriously and chose topics like economics and philosophy. After a year in Latakia, I started to become more a part of the community. Latakia is a small city. The war has changed the demographic landscape because, as young people from all around Syria move there, they are bringing a forward-looking perspective. Unlike the community I grew up in, Latakia is more open-minded. It has its own music, galleries and – most importantly – its own book clubs. Now it was not just me; here was this whole rich environment, where I could discuss what I learned with others from different backgrounds. My favorite one was called the Abbey Road Book Club. It met in a jazz café whose owner was a local artist who loved to illustrate scenes from novels like “Kafka on The Shore.” The members were random book lovers and most of them were already friends. In this vibrant atmosphere, every week we discussed books we had agreed to read, including novels, history, psychology and politics. Over a few glasses of wine, we usually
shifted the discussion to art, social issues and the Syria problem. We would drink out of old, classic wine glasses that the owner had brought back from the Czech Republic and discuss old, classic ideas from history, politics, and sociology. This was the moment we realized that all of this is connected, that this has been done for thousands of years, since the time of Socrates and Plato, and that we were doing it here, again. Maybe the most important part was realizing that a liberal and diverse community was able to survive in Syria despite the turmoil. My goal is to help this little community continue to flourish when the war leaves us, because I believe it holds the key to a democratic, peaceful future in Syria. It will take some time, but we will be preparing for it by expanding our knowledge and experience. For me, it will be about new books, new people and, hopefully, new places. The world still has a lot to teach me and the story of this ambitious, book-loving young Syrian man is far from finished.
Only the future will tell the next chapter. 25
9:45 a.m., October 2016
IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY, I PROBABLY STARTED THINKING ABOUT WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT JUST AFTER HAVING A CUP OF COFFEE THIS MORNING. I’M NOT A FAN OF COFFEE SO LET’S JUST SAY THAT IT WAS NECESSARY TO START THE DAY.
begi n n
Soon after drinking my coffee, the words “new beginning” flashed through my mind. Hmm, I thought to myself, so what about it? What’s so special about a new beginning? In other words, what does it mean to begin something new, or to start something that has never been done before? What is the point of doing something new if it is easier just to continue with the old? Is it really important to idealize a feeling like this? About two years ago, when I was a new, ignorant asylum seeker, but with strong ambitions, I had heard enough discouraging comments. Some friends said to me: Why should you do this? Is it your business to do that? It’s not possible, no one has done it before. You are too qualified for this, you should look for a bigger opportunity... I wanted to start something new to get integrated. It was something I felt I had to do, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I did it anyway. From one qualification to the next. And the learning continues. Now I am student at Kiron, while this group of friends still thinks it is a joke and a waste of time. Money is the real thing, they often emphasize; knowledge can wait. What other reason is there to be in Europe if not to work and earn money. I am not comfortable with this mindset though, because I know from my experience as a developing professional that no employer will pay you above your level of competence. You are only worth what you know. The more you know, the more valuable you become. Not everyone likes change, because change is difficult. By starting to do something totally different, you may even risk appearing stupid. So why do it then? This is why many dreams may never be realized – because some people are just too self-conscious. The question is: Is there a single person in history who has done something big and life-changing who wasn’t stigmatized? Or called funny names? Do you know of any?
My point is that sometimes criticism may be a good reason to continue something you really believe in
and want to see become a reality. Before I digress too much, by the time I had finished my coffee – the words “a new beginning” still dancing in my mind of course – it had developed into a fullblown concept with strong, well-balanced feet, tapping in my head very forcefully as though it were dancing to a Spanish rhythm or bossa nova. I suddenly finally made a connection. This whole “mental music” about new beginnings makes sense now. Does anyone know what I mean? You know, that “aaahhhh!” moment? Okay. I’ve been meaning to write something to contribute to the new Kiron student magazine ever since I heard about it. The Kiron student magazine is a new thing, right? And of course everything new must have a beginning, right? So it makes sense. Now you can begin to see into my mind and get an idea of what’s been going on in there. I prepared another cup of coffee to entertain myself, hoping it would help activate further thoughts about this idea – the Kiron Student Magazine, I mean. I really believe it could be a force to help students develop a voice, develop their talents and allow their potential to unfold. About what a great opportunity it will be to read other students’ thoughts on paper and how much insight I might get from people I may never meet. Don’t forget this: Things get worse when intelligent people keep quiet. Talking is a real weapon. So talk! While I was chilling, waiting for my coffee to get hot, I remembered that I had planned to go the Sozialamt, or social assistance office, earlier this morning. Gosh! It’s 10:55 a.m. now and the office is closing in an hour. I have to rush. I will continue these thoughts in the next issue. In the meantime, why don’t you get yourself something to drink and think of something you can and will do to make the Kiron Student Magazine a success? Get a pen and paper. To all my friends at Kiron: Start now!
Düsseldorf Train Station
But I was stunned – for what is normal for German people was not normal for me. Even though I have lived in Damascus in Syria, a really large and crowded city, the diversity there is not the same as what I saw at the station in Düsseldorf. Here, I saw people from all over the world: from Africa, Mexico, America, from all over Europe, Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia. I saw a girl with a rainbow-colored flag. I saw people wearing all black and covered with piercings. Old ladies, women wearing the hijab, women in shorts – and that is just to mention the outfits! I also saw all sorts of emotions: a stressed young man with flowers who was dressed really well but seemed to be having trouble breathing. Then I saw the girl he was waiting for and realized why. I also saw a woman with furrowed eyebrows whose husband kissed her on the check so she would stop being angry with him. I saw two senior citizens dressed almost identically and laughing together. I saw two Japanese girls laughing at some cartoon. I saw a smiling man standing with a bag full of copies of the Holy Quran so people would read it and reach their own conclusions rather than make false judgments. Next to him was a handicapped woman waiting for someone and reciting her Christian prayers.
I saw the entire world there at the train station and, trust me, no one held a knife to hurt others who were not like him. There were smiling people, sad people, angry, stressed and friendly people. But no one stopped anyone else to demand, “Why aren’t you wearing what I’m wearing?” or “Why are you in this country?” because everyone was busy looking for their train, for their own destination, or for their beloved. I really wish our world could be like the main train station in Düsseldorf.
31 ALAA NEMA
I USED TO LIVE IN A NICE SMALL PEACEFUL VILLAGE. EXPERIENCING THE MAIN TRAIN STATION IN DÜSSELDORF WAS REALLY SOMETHING FOR ME. MY COLLEAGUES WERE TALKING AND EATING WHILE WAITING FOR THE TRAIN.
ABDULHADI ALHARAS H
WHEN I WAS A LITTLE BOY, I WATCHED THE MOVIE “BRAVEHEART” AND WAS AMAZED AND INSPIRED BY THE WILLIAM WALLAS CHARACTER, PLAYED BY THE GREAT MEL GIBSON.
So I started to act like William Wallas in the classroom and I started to feel like I was the savior of my class and that I should start a revolution to save these miserable students from the strict learning system in my country, where there is only one poet who writes all the poems and there is only one boy and one girl who appear every year in our reading books. One day, I spoke with my classmates and asked them not to return to the classroom after the break. I said we should do this not only because of our reading books but also because of our teacher, who is not good and doesn’t make us feel proud of ourselves in class. I said that we should replace him with a teacher like William Wallas who loves his country and whose soldiers love him. The bell rang and, as we went out for a break, I asked my classmates again, “Are we on plan?” They said “Yes!” But then, one by one, they each gave me a reason why they couldn’t stay with me for the whole break, though they promised to be back before the bell rang. I trusted them and waited alone. Suddenly the bell rang again while I was waiting. I looked around and found that none of my classmates were with me! I waited 10 more minutes, but nobody appeared. Then I heard some footsteps and I smiled to myself – yes, I smiled, thinking that the revolution was about to start now and that we would get our freedom and the dream would become true. A big shadow was coming closer and I thought to myself, “It’s just one person and he looks older than a little boy in elementary school.” My heart was beating faster, and the shadow was coming closer, and then... It was the school manager! He looked me in the eye and shouted: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” I stammered “I...I…!” The school manager said, “YOU ARE WHAT?” I said quietly, “I want freedom!” He was shocked by what he had just heard, but he recollected himself and asked me again: “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” The picture of William Wallas flashed before my eyes
and I answered him in English: “FREEEEDOOOMMM!!!” He dragged me by the hand to his office. All the way, I was so proud of what I had said. When we arrived at his office he told me not to sit down and then asked me, “What is your name?” I said “William Wallas!” He looked at me and started to laugh out loud. Then he said, “OK, Mr. Wallas. Would you please give me your phone number so I can speak to your parents?” I said yes and gave him the phone number. He called and asked my mother to come immediately. At the time, this word – freedom – was forbidden, or, to be more specific, it had been forgotten, because we were living in a free country. I forgot to mention where this story took place. It happened in Syria, my country. For almost six years now, people have been dying because of this word. There is tremendous destruction of cities, jet fighters are attacking civilians, maniac radicals are stealing the dreams of freedom and trying to take us back to the Middle Ages. Everything has gone extreme! Every person who lives in that country has only one wish: To die normally in bed – not because of an explosion, bomb or terrorist attack. We are peaceful people and all that we wanted was freedom.
Tears of Fate ONE OF ASAF’S MOTTOS IN LIFE IS: “STRENGTH DOES NOT GROW FROM PHYSICAL POWER BUT RATHER FROM AN UNBENDING WILL.“ ANOTHER ONE IS: “DO ONLY THE NECESSARY FIRST, THEN THE POSSIBLE, AND SUDDENLY YOU WILL ACHIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE.” WHAT TO OTHERS ARE EMPTY PHRASES, TO ASAF ARE A WAY OF LIFE. by the harbor police, arrested, kicked and beaten. Asaf made a total of five attempts. Finally, he succeeded. The odyssey lasted two years. In Germany, he received a residence permit and enrolled in a German course. “I had the luck of being under age. As an adult, I hardly would have had a chance to stay here,” he says calmly and thoughtfully. Asaf lives in a refugee shelter in Dortmund. He has a small room with a small balcony. There is a bed, a cupboard and a desk. The table is piled so high with schoolbooks that there is no more room to work. Asaf shows his room with pride. “My new country is good to me.” A contented smile spreads across his face. He spends his spare time on the balcony. “I love working with wood. I often feel homesick, and my hobby helps me with the loneliness,” he says quietly. He just built a chair. For him, this woodworking is often the highlight after a long day. If Asaf has time, he helps his compatriots at the refugee shelter, translating for them and sometimes accompanying them to doctor’s appointments. In the evenings, he works in a restaurant as temporary help. Asaf was able to make the jump to high school, from which he graduated last year with a 2.8-average in the final exams. Beginning in December, he will study medicine at the university of Dortmund; Asaf is one of the few students who has been able to get a full scholarship in Germany. His aim is to become a good doctor and to return to Afghanistan after completing his studies. “Now I will have the chance to help my family and others living in constant war,” he says, clearly stating his aim. Between his old life in Afghanistan and his new life here lie six years, more than 6,000 km and six borders which he has crossed. While he tells his story, Asaf holds his breath briefly several times and lowers his eyes, as though embarrassed by the tears that are making his brown eyes shine. They are tears of grief, but also of luck. Asaf’s gestures speak of a modest politeness only possible in someone with a deep reverence for humanity.
33 BATTSETSEG ATKINS
Asaf was born in Afghanistan on 7 July 1994. He grew up in rural surroundings, the first son of a village teacher. He has three little sisters. From the time he was quite small, he had to help his family. His father lost his legs in a mine explosion. Today, Asaf is 1.70 m tall, with dark hair and well-defined eyebrows. His body is compact and quite athletic – indeed, he looks a little bit malnourished. He is quiet and never complains. Asaf has always been a foreigner. His family belongs to the Hazara minority, easily recognizable by their Mongolian features. Hazara is a Persian word. The Hazaras are believed to be descended from 1,000 Mongolian warriors who were stationed in Afghanistan in the 13th century. Though they are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, the Hazaras have been the victims of persecution and discrimination again and again because of their religion and appearance. When Asaf was 12 years old, a group of radical Islamists came, looking for young men for their army. They kidnapped three boys by force, but Asaf was able to hide. His family did not want him to die as a child soldier, so his parents sent him to Europe. His father sold his herd to pay for his trip. “At 14, I left my family for good,” says Asaf, sounding much older than his 20 years. Together with other young Afghans, he left Kabul in the direction of the Greek border. After a long trip through Iran and Turkey on foot, by bus, truck and tractor, he landed in Greece by boat. He experienced an emotional roller coaster; destitute and helpless, he stood on the street and did not know where to go. He and his friends were arrested immediately on the mainland and held for three months. After his release, he was locked up again for four months in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos. He then lived on the street, surrounded by dirt and rubbish, surviving on what he could find. “I had many friends who were also on the run who I never saw again,” he recounts with sad eyes. From Greece they traveled on to Italy. From there, they wanted to continue to Germany. However, they were caught
The Life of MI
HAVE SOME FAITH... PURSUE YOUR DREAM DON’T BELIEVE MYTHS... RIVERS START WITH A STREAM CREATE YOUR OWN FUTURE... JUST MAKE AN EFFORT THEN YOUR FUTURE WILL BE BRIGHT... AND WHITE LIKE YOGURT IN SHORT: MI’S STORY.
I’d like to tell you the story of a young man named MI. MI lived in a beautiful country until the age of 17. He was a smart and a good student with a bright future rising in the distance. He always wanted to make his own world by being the best he could be in everything, by going to university to study what interested him and then becoming a professional no one would be able to compete with. His teachers often praised him for being a helpful person who always tried to lend a hand to the younger students and for being a creative person who tried to do the experiments himself. By the time MI was in middle school, war had broken out in his country, but he still managed to get good grades and graduate among the top three percent in his class. Yet, as his schooling progressed, the situation in his country got worse – much worse. One day MI woke up as he did every school morning at 9:00 o’clock, surrounded by his family. Ten minutes later a tremendous noise echoed through the house. It was loud enough to shatter all the windows and turn the house into a pile of rubble. It was the first of many bombs that exploded near his house. MI’s family was very scared and had to move temporarily into his grandfather’s house until his house was safe for them to return to again. Unfortunately, temporarily turned into permanently because his house was blown to pieces. Even though he volunteered many times to help the people around his house move out,
he failed to do so because bombs were always exploding in the area. In the end, he had to attend a high school that was safe, near his grandfather’s house. At the time, 21 people were living at his grandfather’s house (his uncles and cousins had moved there for the same reason his family had). By this point, the situation had deteriorated tremendously. When he started high school, there was electricity for 10 hours a day, but by his senior year it was only available for 10 hours a week. This meant eating dinner by candlelight, doing hobbies using battery-powered lamps, and studying using candles, his phone’s flashlight, or getting up early to make the most of daylight. MI’s new daily routine also involved wasting a lot of time standing in long lines, waiting to fill buckets with water from a local waterhole and carrying them home. Despite all these extracurricular activities, he remained hopeful and always tried to maintain a positive attitude, which ultimately helped him graduate from high school. MI has always wanted to be a doctor so he can stop people’s suffering and heal them so they don’t have to feel the pain he endured during the war. Medicine is never just a skill; it is a humane profession that makes every effort to save lives. Every doctor knows that his patient’s life depends on him. That’s why doctors are like angels: they have an ultimate responsibility to save people’s lives, which is the most precious thing
we have. And that’s why MI wants to be a surgeon and began working towards that goal. Unfortunately, though, it became dangerous and nearly impossible to study in his country. There was no electricity, no water, no Internet access and, most importantly, no safe place to hide from the next bomb. Most qualified teachers left the country, and the majority of those who stayed are old and feel helpless. MI faced a dilemma: He could travel abroad to pursue his dream of becoming a successful doctor while leaving behind his family, friends and teachers; or he could stay behind with them and waste his future studying things that are not relevant to society’s needs – if he managed to stay alive, that is. Though it was a very hard decision, MI chose to make his dream come true because he believed deep down that a human being isn’t a human without a dream and the effort to make it come true. Since MI has always dreamed of becoming a doctor, he won’t stop until he makes it come true. With this goal in mind, he started working to raise enough money to travel abroad and, with his family’s blessing, he started packing his bags, waiting for that painful moment when it would be time to say goodbye to his family and friends. When that moment finally came, though his parents tried to be strong and not to cry in front of him, they couldn’t help it and their eyes were full of tears when they said goodbye. The last thing his mother told him
was, “Don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget why we face so much sadness, and come back to us as a doctor so you can heal the broken bodies and souls of our people who are frail from the wounds of war. We don’t just want you to have a dream, we want you to make it come true.” These words of encouragement gave MI enough strength to go on and to work hard to seize the opportunity to turn his dreams into reality by studying to become a doctor so he can reach more people and change more lives than ever before. MI lives in Turkey now and is studying on his own using free-learning platforms such as Coursera, Edx, FutureLearn and Audacity. MI is a self-reliant man who works more than 11 hours a day so he can live a better life and continue to build his future. He was thrilled when he won a scholarship from Kiron that will help him reach his dreams even faster. I’m sure that by now you have figured out that MI is me – yours truly, Mohamad Issa. Thank you for reading my story and for giving me this opportunity.
MOHAMMAD USMAN RANA
Once there were two best friends living in a village. One was 10-years old, the other six. One day, while they were playing near a well, suddenly the 10-yearold boy fell into the well. He shouted for help because he did not know how to swim. His younger friend searched desperately for someone nearby, but unfortunately could not find anyone. But he did see a bucket with a rope. Throwing it into the well, he told his friend to hold onto the bucket while he tugged the rope with all his might until he managed to pull his friend out. They were both very happy. When they went home and told their parents what had happened, the adults could not believe that the younger boy, just six-years old, who could not lift a two-kilogram weight, had lifted this 10-year-old boy with a bucket and rope. Only one man accepted and believed what these two friends were saying. The parents all asked him how he was able to accept the children’s story. The man replied, “The question is not how he was able to do that; the question is why he did it.“ The answer is simple. When the younger boy was pulling on the rope to save his friend, there was no one there to say you can’t do that. He was simply full of determination and passion to save his friend at any cost. He went beyond his comfort level and finally succeeded.
Like this little boy, we too should be “unstoppable” when it comes to achieving our biggest dreams in life.
Once Upon a Time
For me, I’ve lost every detail of my life. My dolls, which I’ve kept since I was a little child, especially that white monkey with a black face and red cheeks that I used to play with with my father – I miss you Dadi, I miss you deeply – we were always admiring its beauty. I used to travel several times a year – I cannot anymore because I’m Syrian – and, like anyone, I had souvenirs, special things I liked to remind me of the good times I had. My pictures, my clothes, my shoes, my dishes, my pink kitchen tools, my flowers and greenery, my white leather couch with its red pillows, my bedroom with a lot of drawers just the way I like it, things that I made with my own hands, and my books – oh my god, all of my books, even the signed ones. Those are not silly things, those are some of the details of my life, things I’ve made. I worked hard to build a home, a career, a successful social life, great relationships with the people around me. I used to feel love, respect, life. Then, suddenly, I’m a stranger, a complete stranger, and an unwelcome one. A number for one person, a danger for another, a picture for a third, an occupation for a fourth, a sympathy case for a fifth, an investment for a sixth – and so on and so on. Dear, I’m none of those things. I am a human being, I used to have a full life, just like you, and in few hours it was gone. May I ask you a favor? Look around you, pick the most precious thing you have – something that touches your feelings, I mean, or something you’ve paid a lot of money for. Anything. Just throw it away, let it go with the wind, once and forever. Don’t be afraid: keep it; just imagine yourself getting rid of it. That’s exactly what happened to my whole life. One last thing: My mother and I cannot see my two brothers because everyone is in a different country and, again, we are Syrians.
39 AFRAA BITAR
As a refugee, your life turns upside down. Suddenly I have nothing, literally nothing – no home, no job, no college or school. No friends, no neighborhood, no family sometimes.
MOHAMMAD USMAN RANA
“Let Them Grow with Their Abilities”
I have seen in many societies t children’s future according Doctors want their children to Bankers push their kids to be But all children are born with They are different and suited Let them polish their abilities Let them choose their interest Motivate them to do whatever In the end, every child will be Just “let them grow with their
that people try to mold their g to their own wishes. o be doctors. e bankers. h their own innate abilities to different professions. s ts r they want to do with passion. e a star of their profession. r abilities.â€?
“The Best Revenge is Massive Success” (Frank Sinatra)
BACK WHEN I WAS IN SYRIA, IT WAS 2010, BEFORE THE WAR STARTED. I WAS 16-YEARS OLD. AT THE TIME, I LEFT SCHOOL AND STARTED WORKING WITH MY FATHER IN ARGON WELDING BECAUSE EVERYONE USED TO TELL ME THAT I WAS NOT SMART ENOUGH FOR SCHOOL AND I WAS STUPID TO BELIEVE THAT I WAS.
He told me that nothing is impossible, it’s all about having a goal. “You can change your destiny or you can just sit here and work with your dad for the rest of your life. But you will always be a welder. Think about what I’m saying. I hope I don’t see you here next time I come.” Then he left, leaving me with a thousand ideas and dreams running through my head. I didn’t say a word, just imagined myself taking my first steps into the university… That evening, I closed the workshop and went to the barbershop. I started talking to the barber about what this guy had told me. The barber was my friend, but he started laughing so much when I told him that I was really thinking about going back to school and taking the 12th-grade exams so I could go to university. He laughed so hard, just so hard. “You?!” he said.“Haha, that’s impossible, you’re a welder and you failed ninth grade the first time. Now you want to go to university? Stop acting stupid, don’t waste your time, keep working with your father, at least you will learn a good trade.” His reaction made me so mad, and I told him that I would come back here one day holding my degree, and we would see who’d be laughing then. I left the shop and went home. Without telling my father anything about what had happened, I just said, “Dad, I want to go back to school, I want to make it to university.” Without asking me anything, my father just said, “OK,” went to his room, got some money, gave it to me and said, “Go find a good school and register.” And that’s what I did. By the next morning, I was a student again. I studied so hard, like never before, because now I had this goal, I saw myself reaching high levels. I refused to give up, even when I had to leave Syria in 2015 because of the war. Nothing was going to stop me; I even took my exams during the war. And, here I am today, six years later, with a degree in Tourism sciences, a diploma in hospitality and tourism facilities management and studying business and economics at Kern University. I speak Arabic, English and Turkish and am learning German now. What I learned above all is that nothing is impossible, you just need to have goal and focus on it.
43 HUSSAM ALSHEMMALI
One day, after a year, I was working alone, my father was not with me, when a Syrian customer came in with a Japanese guy and said, “This Japanese guy wants to weld something, he will tell you what to do, and I’ll translate for you.” I said OK. But the Japanese guy started talking in English, so I was able to understand almost everything he said. When he finished, the Syrian started to translate, but I asked him not to, telling him that I could speak English. I started talking to the Japanese guy and everyone in the workshop was so surprised that a small kid like me could speak English like this. I did what he wanted and welded perfectly. The Japanese man was so happy and surprised by my welding skills, considering my age. When they left, one of the customers in the workshop who had been looking at me came over and said, “How old are you?” “Sixteen,” I said. ”Are you studying?” “No,” I said with a big smile on my face, “I left school.” “What!” he said, “Why?!” I told him that I hate school, it’s hard, I can’t do it. I want to work with my father and earn money. He looked at me and smiled. “Do you know what time I open my workshop?” he asked. “No, why would I?” I said. “I open it at four in the afternoon,” he said. At the time, I was so bored of this meaningless conversation that I simply repeated the question: “Why, sir, why do you open it at four p.m.?” “I’m a professor,” he said, “I teach at the university. In the morning, I go and teach students.” I looked at him and what he was wearing – dirty clothes, dirty face from working with metal, just like my clothes and my face... “Don’t look at what I’m wearing now,” he said quickly, “look at me when I’m at the university. Let me ask you something, where do see yourself in four years? I mean, you are good at welding now, but what about four years from now?” I was speechless. This was the first time someone was asking me this question. “I’ll tell you,” he said, “if you stay here and continue working with your father, you will just be a better welder after four years, but that’s it, nothing more, nothing less.” I didn’t say a word, I was just looking at him. “Listen to me,” he said, “you’re smart, you speak English very well, which means that you are able to learn. And you are still young, you can be a student at the university as well.” “Me? University? No, that’s impossible for me. School was so hard, I’ll never pass the exams to get into university.”
Miss You, My Love When we go back to the memories, We will close our eyes a little bit, How many times we wished we could be a spot blinder, So as to not wake up from those dreams, And from those memories. I was napping this night, I come back to my memories of that place, OMAR KHALID HASHIM
Where we were, the revival of the three of us (you, me, and that tree),
I want to tell you that I pulled oﬀ those letters of your name on the tree,
But the fact is, I did not put them there in my bag,
My spirit took me to that place, Where we sketched on the tree our names “you, me” You were deported and I stayed alone, I wish I was with you or had been deported with you, But the letters of your name on that tree remained, I put them in my bag, I put them in another place, I have a place in my heart, And that place is just for you, My love, I will irrigate those letters with my tears, Every morning and evening, So as not to wilt and to never forget, I will make them grow inside, And I will take the seeds when they appear, I will distribute them between all the lovers, Oh, my love, I was worried about you in the cold, When you were with me, When we were out together in the parks, I was putting my coat on your shoulders, I was feeling your cold cheeks when I touched them, My love reassures me now, Do you feel cold now that you are in your grave? My love, I did not forget you, And I will never forget you, I was in love with you when you were alive, And I am in love with you when you are dead.
An Immigrant As usual, I am sitting here in my small kitchen in front of my ashtray. A few minutes and the smoke of my cigarette will make me forget how many I have smoked already. The full ashtray will make me wonder when was the last time I emptied it. Again, I contemplate the far-away church, the surrounding buildings, everything is new. Even my kitchen looks new today. The paintings have disappeared from the wall, but the number of chairs has increased.
The space is unable to accommodate the journey of my thoughts anymore.
Here, I am distant from everything. Nothing can connect me with there, with that place, except a friend with whom I arrived here. We are both ﬁlled with memories of our so-called home. A place that today is nothing but a collection of pictures, moments, laughter and hundreds of tears… The unwanted daily question in your mental dictionary is: Will we go back? Will that day come when we can then go back? I can hear the noise of the railway again. I can’t remember how many times a day I hear this noise while the trains are heading south or north. And I stand still in my place… Near my ﬂat, there are dozens of buses that follow the same directions every day. People heading north or south for work or visits are taking these buses. And I stand still in my place... For four months now, I have been standing still in my place. My ﬂat is in the middle of the city, which is located in the middle of my new country’s map... Upward or downward on the four ﬂights of stairs, I ﬁnd my way. Meanwhile, I forget what the way looked like back home... Nevertheless, I still remember the sounds of the passersby.… Here the melody is diﬀerent; the tempo of the language is diﬀerent. No wonder that after a year of living here I can only use a few sentences in greeting.
اجلس كعادتي أ�مام منفضتي في مطبخي الصغير ،دقائق معدودة وتنسيني بعدها أ�دخنة السجائر في أ�ي سيجارة اصبحت. �إلى أ�ن تمتلئ المنفضة بشكل ينسيني كذلك متى �آخر مرة افضيتها اتمعن من جديد في تلك الكنيسة البعيدة وفي تلك ال�أبنية المحيطة ،كل ٍ شيء جديد. حتى مطبخي هو كذلك اليوم جديد فاللوحات اختفت عن الحائط لكن عدد الكراسي قد ازداد فلم تعد تتسح المساحة لرحلات العقل أ�نا هنا بعيد عن كل شيء لا يربطني بهناك بذلك المكان �إلا صديقاً حطت رحالي هنا َم َع ُه ،مشبعين بالذكريات من مكان كان يدعى بالوطن مكا ًن هو اليوم عبارة عن مجموع ٍة من الصور واللحظات والضحكات والمئات من الدموع السؤال اليومي المستبعد من القاموس الفكري كي لا يدمرك أ�كثر هل سنعود ؟ هل سيحين ذلك الوقت يوماً ما ونعود ؟
صوت سكة القطار يعود من جديد اغلاق للطريق ومرور لا استطيع �إحصاء كم مرة اسمع فيها هذا الصوت في اليوم الواحد ,في كل مرة ٌ للقطار متجهاً للجنوب أ�و للشمال أو�نا ما زلت أ�مكث في مكاني في الطريق المحاذي لمنزلي العشرات من الباصات يومياً كذلك تتبع الطرق نفسها يستقلها أ�ناس يتجهون كذلك للجنوب أ�و للشمال !بغرض العمل أ�و الزيارات أو�نا أ�نا ما زلت أ�مكث في مكاني. منذ ٤شهور أو�نا ما زلت هنا وما زلت أ�مكث في مكاني شقتي في وسط هذه المدينة التي تتربع في منتصف خارطة بلدي الجديد صعوداً أ�م نزولا ً ل�أربع طوابق أ�صل الطريق ناسياً لشكل الطريق في بلدي ورغم تذكري بحذاقة عمر الشباب ل�أصوات المارة فيه فهنا النغمات تختلف و�إيقاع موسيقى كلامهم مختلف لذا لم أ�نجح بعد سنة من وصولي �إلا أ�ن أ�جاريهم ببضع جمل في سياق السلام والوداع والسؤال عن الصحة
SANG YABCHEN DAGRANG
Omar’s Diary IT WAS EARLY 2012 WHEN OMAR’S OFFICE WAS BOMBED TO RUBBLE AND THE FEW PEOPLE PRESENT IN THE BUILDING AT THE TIME WERE ALL KILLED.
Some six months later, Omar found himself in France. Finally finding some peace, he decided to stay and try to start a new life. He is from a family with traditions that are not European. Arriving in France with just a few phrases in French, he felt lost for many months. By 2016, Omar began to regain his footing. He has found the courage to keep going. Below is a glimpse into his current life, borrowed from his daily notes. Let’s call it his diary.
Saturday, 14 May 2016 E AR LY M O R N IN G
Staying in bed, he reads Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant, bought for one euro from a sale of dusty old books. In the story, it’s nearly the end of the month and the hero of the book, Duroy, counts his francs: only three francs and 40 cents to get through the rest of the month, either two dinners without lunch or two lunches without dinner. Omar knows this situation very well. He always has to choose between coffee or a cigarette – he cannot have both.
Omar is writing in his notebook, hesitating: Is it je ne suis pas passéïste or je ne suis pas passéiste? He has been trying to be in the present more so that the past becomes less heavy. Hasn’t he read somewhere that le tréma is never used after the letter “i”? OK then, pas passéiste: je ne suis pas passéiste. Yes, now he remembers it, just like le subjonctif is never used after the phrase après que: après qu’Alice sera rentrée, j’irai. Oui, ça s’est avéré juste. Oh no, again. Oui, ça s’est révélé juste.
7:35 a.m.: He is thirsty.
J’ai soif, en l’occurrence, je bois de l’eau. He drinks some water. The rest of the French bread he bought yesterday morning is almost too hard to eat, but he only just bought it yesterday. Why buy bread every day when more than half of yesterday’s is still there! The people here dip it in coffee; he will try that today. MORN IN G
Yesterday he received a letter (there are many such letters) from the County Council asking for some original documents, or explanations if he does not have the documents needed. He needs to address these documents to the head of the County Council. À l’attention de M... The documents requested are non-existent, he starts writing the letter to explain. It is not the first time and will not be the last.
Viens, on va faire du jogging pendant trente minutes ou un peu plus. For some time now, he has started talking to himself when he is alone. Physically he is alone, but his children and wife have never left his thoughts. In the afternoon when it’s lunch time, he might say to himself: Prépare-toi quelque chose à manger, il faut manger pour garder la force. Donne-moi la clé, s’il te plaît, voilà, ça y est, on y va! N OON
He is on the street, returning to his place, wearing his usual jogging clothes. There are some shops open, and people strolling in the sun. Tomorrow, Sunday, everything will be closed, no shops will be open. He will buy the newspaper. Le Monde, s’il vous plaît. He hands two euros to the kiosk salesman. In the headlines is a sex scandal around this 54-year-old politician. And a bit further, in the European section: L’Allemagne pourrait dépens-
er 93 milliards d’euros pour les réfugiés d’ici 2020 – Germany could spend 93 billions euro for refugees between now and 2020.
He receives a text message from the American couple. The problem is that the message is in French. It has already been several days since he met this tourist couple on the street. At the time, they were to trying to spot someone who looked less French so they could dare to ask, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” The message reads: Tu veux venir traîner avec nous cette après-midi? So the answer is non. It would be different if the message were: Tu veux venir passer un peu de temps avec nous cette après-midi? Ah, c’est vraiment dommage.
He will cook something now. Living alone has the advantage that you can eat whenever you feel like it. He still has some vegetables. He would like to eat a bit of meat this afternoon. He will run out for a beefsteak at the butchershop around the corner. Bonjour, je voudrais deux steaks du bœuf, s’il vous plaît! The butcher weighs the two beefsteaks and says: Et avec ceci, vous prendrez quoi d’autre? Ça sera tout, merci! He is on his way back. Et avec ceci? Or, Et avec cela? He is certain that the butcher got the grammar wrong. He thinks to himself, oh, whatever! and then he goes home. EVENING
Every Saturday evening, Omar has a regular meeting with a group of refugees and locals. These meetings are called “relief sessions.” Here, everyone has the chance to share difficult moments from their daily lives (or from their “new” lives, in the refugees’ case). There are nine people tonight, five refugees and four locals. One person has a problem with a four-year-old child who lives just with his mother at this refugee’s welcome center. The child bangs on his door any moment he chooses, and the mother does nothing to stop him. Another person has problems communicating with his family far away. A third person has just lost her cat. She feels sad. And so on... Everyone has at least something to share. The sessions lasts for more than two hours.
10:36 p.m.: Omar goes to bed. Lights off.
I Know It’s Hard, but Give It a Try
MY NAME IS ADEEB RAHIMI. I AM THE THIRD SON IN MY FAMILY. I AM 22-YEARS OLD. I ATTENDED SCHOOL FOR ABOUT 12 YEARS AND THEN GOT A JOB WORKING DURING THE DAY.
I used my afternoons for studying and also attended university classes until nine at night. I was working to support my family while also earning an education for my future. I began to study IT and learn the English language. I was always thinking to myself that I wished I could continue my education and earn a degree in computer science, as I was sure I could achieve success in that field. But, during my school studies, my father told me repeatedly that I should be studying civil engineering and become an engineer, and I did not want to break his heart because a son is his father’s hope. I was struggling with this life. I have since become a traveler. I had to leave my job and university studies to come to Germany to make a better life for myself and to achieve something. After some effort to learn the language, I thought that I could study computer science here in Germany. In the beginning, when I was new here, it was a dream for me to continue my education here. I searched a lot to find somewhere I could continue my education in my field of interest. There is proverb that says, “He who seeks will find,” and I found what I was seeking with Kiron. I am happy to continue my education in my field of interest – computer science. My studies have taught me that I must repeat my lessons on the same day when I arrive back home. Experience first tests you and then teaches you; experience cannot be obtained on a soft and fragrant bed. Keeping calm is dull, and sometimes a storm is necessary. And, after my searching, I am now a student with Kiron and busy with my studies. My experiences in life have taught me that to make this life easier for yourself you must be honest with yourself and always promise not to cheat yourself. You must always seek out a great life: Live in the moment
and don’t think about the past and tomorrow. You must do the job already in front of you. Be sure to finish it today and do not let it go unfinished. Do everything on time because you may forget tomorrow! I came to a country where at first I was not able to speak the language. But it is important to learn the language and assimilate to the culture because if you are just watching the culture from the outside and do not learn from it then others will assume you will never fit into their society. I am always thankful for being attractive. It is the best form of communication and makes everyone open to you. You can share your ideas, points of view and opinions with people. This life we live has different tricks and plans in store for us. A courageous person is capable of achieving everything if they can just make it through. Use these great opportunities from Kiron and look for your joy and you will be a success. When your life situation is negative, don’t lose hope. Be strong because there is always a way.
Do not be fooled by life’s challenges, encourage yourself; patience is the best way to success.
Find An Opportunity I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE READER WHO IS INTERESTED IN READING MY WORDS AND LEARNING ABOUT MY DREAM OF BECOMING AN EFFECTIVE MEMBER OF THIS BLUE PLANET AND ABOUT MY ENTHUSIASM TO LEAVE BEHIND A POSITIVE LEGACY.
Turkey is a beautiful country and has a lot of wonderful spots, but for me, as a Syrian refugee, it was difficult to enjoy these places because I had to work 12 hours a day in order to live. I worked hard to find a golden opportunity to start my life and paint the future Iâ€™d dreamed of, but unfortunately, I was unlucky. Turkey is not a country of opportunity, so it wasnâ€™t until I saw a video seeking Syrian researchers for postgraduate studies in cooperation with Kiron that things began to change. Optimistically and immediately, I opened the link to register and started typing in my information. Fortunately, I was accepted. Initially, I participated in a business management training course as part of a program sponsored by the company SAP. I learned some things and found some opportunities, but the most beautiful of all these groups of volunteers is the organization Kiron. Here, I felt the love and security I had given up when I left my house and my family. Kiron has people of many different nationalities, but the difference here is that the organization is dedicated to and only interested in assisting and cooperating to provide everything necessary to help us to start again. All thanks and love for the continued progress and success of this wonderful organization.
51 MURAD SULEYMAN
I am Murad Suleiman, a 24-year-old Syrian national. But, as you know, there is a war in my country, so I left Syria about a year and two months ago and went to Turkey, which is where my tale begins.
First, I would like to thank all humans who are helping refugees all around the world. And a special thanks to Kiron for its support and help.
Maybe I should begin by introducing myself and writing about the experience of my first 10 months in Germany. My name is Mahmoud (an Arabic name meaning “praise”). I am 25-years old and a refugee from Palestine. I used to live in Damascus in Syria. In 2015, I earned my bachelor’s degree from the university of Damascus. I am a telecommunications and electronics engineer, and a “radio amateur” in my spare time. This is a very interesting hobby. I dreamed of continuing my studies abroad, especially in Germany (the home of engineering). On 4 August 2015, I traveled to Germany to begin this long, adventurous journey. I now live in a nice town called Kassel. At first, I found living here difficult. While I cannot say it is extremely different from Syria, it is still different. People here have other habits and cultures than in my country. But I am lucky because I like Germans and I love the way they live. One of the biggest challenges I am facing is the language. It is a huge barrier standing in front of me, but also the key to my new life and character. Nelson Mandela, who has always inspired me, was right when he said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” I am learning German now. The course is intensive and tiring, but the students are very friendly. I have met people from all around the world: Syria, Albania, Zambia, Turkey, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Afghanistan, Israel, and India. We are friends now. Everyone has a dream in Germany. We study every day in the university library. Everyone has a different way of life. People in Germany are very kind and pleasant. I have met a lot of them. My best friends are Patrick and Angela. Patrick is a lawyer I met in the library. He is a social man. We talk a lot about everything in Germany: laws, culture, language and many other things. Angela is my neighbor. She is a kind woman. We meet every weekend and help each other plant and take care of our garden. My social life helps me a lot in getting to know about Germany and learning German quickly. I hope that next time I will be able to write a new article in German.
There is no doubt that life should start with the sublime thing called love. That is how life started for me.
55 MONIR IBRAHIM ADAM
There are many stories in my life, but the story of in my life is the the greatest, most beautiful and wonderful one of all. I grew up in Sudan, where I had an unusual childhood, surrounded by the green of nature and beautiful tropical forests, with many animals around. My parents taught me to love life and others, to live my life with love. My father was the head of the tribe. People would come to him to solve their problems, especially married couples. He helped them overcome their conflicts and move on. My dad encouraged me to get involved in and understand these cases, which made my childhood a very special one. My name is Monir Ibrahim Adam. I am from the Darfur region of Sudan, and was born in 1980. I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. I have my own dreams, and my experience is what motivates me to realize them. Let me tell you about something that amazes me even now, the biggest turning point in my life: the story of my love. I met her when I was 17-years old. She was just 12-years old, but already grown up enough to understand life and its complexities. I had been looking for this person – my other half, the one with whom I could share a mutual understanding – for a long time. I had always wanted someone who would accept me when I , when I was , when I was , when I was, when I was… And whom I would accept with all these feelings, too. Someone to be crazy together with. Our relationship started in 2000 and continued like this until we got married in 2016. Her name is Anwar Ahmad Makki. She studied at the faculty of Music and Drama at the Sudan University of Science and Technology. Throughout our years together, Anwar has always pushed me forward and given me her love. These years didn’t pass without suffering and depravation, but these things just made us more sensitive and our feelings deeper. , but what is so special about ? It is the thing we are born with and learn to value highly especially when our parents encourage in us a sense of understanding for the meaning of human existence. The uniqueness of love comes from our parents’ ability to plant this feeling in us. I thank my dad and mom for the love they gave me and for the deep feelings I have had since I was a child.
To Be a Refugee in the 21st Century
ARE YOU A REFUGEE? DO YOU FEEL BAD WHEN YOU ARE CALLED A REFUGEE? LOTS OF REFUGEES HAVE THIS FEELING. IF YOU DO, THEN YOU MUST LISTEN TO ME. LET ME TELL ABOUT BEING A REFUGEE IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
Maybe you are a refugee in Jordan or Lebanon or Turkey or even in Europe, maybe in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark or somewhere else. It doesn’t matter – you are a refugee. Do you realize the size of the problems facing the world today? Do you know how many people in this world want to leave their country because of a bad situation? A huge number of people in this golden age – or, as we know it, the dark age – want to leave their country, and they don’t care if you call them refugees or anything else. All they want and all they dream about is a good life. But you did not leave for this reason. You were forced to leave your country, your family, your friends, work, studies… everything. You did not migrate because you wanted to, you did not go because you want money or a classy life. You were forced to leave because of the greed of some people and the ignorance of others. So you must know that your asylum is not a dishonor to you. No, it is a dishonor to humanity. It is a shame for humanity that we still have wars and still kill each other for wild reasons. You are better than so many people looking at you. They watched you at that moment when you were under fire from the war, when you were about to be killed, just because you are a human. You refuse to be an informative article or breaking news on TV. You refuse to be a number in the statistics reporting how many people were killed or wounded today. You don’t want to be in this situation, talked about on TV before they move on to explain how wonderful the weather will be tomorrow. In fact, you have refused all of this because you are a real human being, and because you are a real human being, you chose to put yourself in danger on a small boat in the sea. You believe that the disloyalty of the waves is better than those promises from people who are still talking about peace on TV and lining their
pockets with money. You refuse to be just a tool they use to attain their interests and gains. You refuse to kill your brothers inhumanely, and your humanity has prevented you from being part of this shameful war. You did not travel looking for money or wealth, you traveled looking for love and humanity, to live in peace and you want this world to be in peace as well. You are a refugee, and you have the right to be proud of yourself, and the whole world must be proud of you. You must be aware of the fact that you can be more than just a refugee. In 750, Abd al-Rahman al-Dakhil was one of the few members of his family to escape slaughter by the Abbasids, who extinguished the Umayyad line in the East. He made his way to the western Islamic world to and rose to power. He traveled across North Africa and finally took refuge among his mother’s tribe. Later, he became the leader of Spain. Madeleine Albright, an American politician and diplomat, was the first woman to become the United States Secretary of State. She was actually a refugee from the Czech Republic, and she fled the Nazis when she was only a toddler. Did you know that Albert Einstein, one of the most important scientists ever, who received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “services to theoretical physics” was a refugee from Germany living in America? All these refugees and others have decided to stand and face the world. Even if you are a refugee, you still have the power and ability to defend yourself and preserve your mind. So you must stimulate your own imagination, in order to make your own opportunities in this life. You can dance with a broken heart, and you can shine like diamonds in the sky. You have a hero inside of you, and nothing can defeat you if you are unbreakable from the inside.
All We Need Is Courage and Strong Intentions
Our neighbor introduced me to a Punjabi samosa seller, and I started selling samosas for him, earning one Pakistani rupee for selling two samosas. I had no chance to study, despite my love of education. One afternoon, the weather was extremely humid, and I was exhausted. So I decided to put the samosas next to me and take a quick nap. When I woke up, there were no samosas left on my tray. I was beyond frightened. Clueless about what to do next, I went to the shop and told the owner what had happened. He became furious and threw me out of his shop, calling me a muhajir, making the word sound like the most disrespectful word out there. On the way home, I couldn’t help but sob out of helplessness and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to buy a bread or two for dinner as usual. When I got home and told my mother what had happened, she started crying as well – perhaps the only thing we could do freely those days. Dad came home later that night. I went to him and told him the story as well. He hugged me and said:
“It’s okay son, so long as there is God, there is hope.” I asked him the meaning of muhajir since I didn’t know, thinking it was probably a vulgar word. He told me it means refugee. I then asked him why we were refugees and questioned why we had left our country. He went on to explain that it was because of our corrupt leaders and the ongoing wars. I asked whether or not we would return to our country if we had better leaders someday, and he assured me that we would surely return home. That night, I decided to be a leader, even though I had no idea what the word meant. A short while after former President Karzai came to power, we left Pakistan and came to Kandahar. I began school and grew up, but I never forgot the word “leader.” Upon graduating from high school, I entered politics and worked hard. After five years of hard work, I became a political activist – a successful one, I hope. And through it all, there was one lesson I learned, which echoes in my ears every day: There is always hope; all we need is courage and strong intentions.
57 SHAFIQ MOHAMMAD
WHEN THE TALIBAN CAME, WE IMMIGRATED TO PAKISTAN, BEGINNING THE WORST DAYS OF OUR LIVES. MY FATHER WAS A LABOR WORKER. BUT HIS INCOME WASN’T SUFFICIENT FOR EVEN THE MOST BASIC ESSENTIALS, LIKE OUR RENT OR FOOD. SO I DECIDED TO WORK AS WELL.
Finding the Writer
THIS IS A BRIEF STORY ABOUT ME, TAHANY JAMAL, A 21-YEAR-OLD GIRL, ORIGINALLY FROM ERITREA, THE LAND BY THE SEA.
Why should you read this? Perhaps simply because it is a 10-minute read about a girl who made every mistake, but somehow made it through. It is not long, I promise. You are more than welcome to share my dreams for these few moments. I was born in Jeddah, although my parents did not live there, they lived in the countryside. My father worked for an oil excavation company, one of many in Saudi Arabia, and my mother was a housewife. My earliest love was for music, music and singing. I also grew up with a deep faith that gives me my very shape. I learned from an early age that everything around us has a beautiful sound, a mind of its own and a unique taste. This led to a peculiar childhood of tasting grass and exploring the town. I was an academic scholar growing up, and over the years I developed a great love of medicine. I became conflicted when I realized that I loved writing as much as medicine. Writing was my release. Many events have traumatized my family; writing was my only escape, and the blank pages were a place for me to keep many emotions that were building up into a sound and beauty of their own. As with all the things we love growing up, we then give them up in exchange for a stable income. I left writing and focused on receiving a medical scholarship so I could study medicine. I never truly succeeded, so I fell into depression.
This depression led me to a deep meditation about the world and my dreams, how I viewed the world now and then. I remembered why I wanted to be a doctor. I was never interested in the money I would earn; my goal was to create relief, to ease the pain of others, to reach out to their emotions and uplift those around me. I started exploring life and people again, and slowly I became sure of it. During an interview for a job, I discussed how I view the world and how I think the world sees me. I shared what I had written. To my surprise, I found that after all this time, I was still that 10-year girl, dreaming away with her ink, traveling clean and befriending the moon. I was given a chance to write, the most difficult challenge I have ever taken, and I did my best and more. I now know how precious it is to me. I will not give up something I love again. I learned that the difficult way. I realize that writing is my voice, my sound and what remains of me. It can be hard following a dream, investing your time and effort to develop a skill. We are afraid of pain, the fear of losing controls us, it keeps us from achieving our full potential. Be not afraid of the gifts you have, enjoy the fear they cause and savor it. Step away from the distractions you have created. Why do something the old way when you can do it your way!
ُجف حبره َ قلمي قد, كلماتي تبلكمت غرق في ِه نفسي سئمت لقد ُ ضباب ال�أوهام الذي أا ُ َ َ أا, وحيدة ً أاصرخُ في عزلتي ناديك وفي لحني حني ٌن اإليك كانت الجدرا ُن بخيل َة حتى بالصدى, صدى لصوتي ومع انني وحيدة ً ل� أاسم ُع ً اتلفت حولي أ َ َ اتحقق من انك فعلا ً هنا اريد ان اتوهم ُ وكانني ُ ُ نت َ تُرى اي َن أا, أارى خيا ُل َك المضيئ ِمن بعيد, حضورك ُ
Fear and Isolation
َ ومازلت اسم ُع قلبي يهتف ب إا شد من صراخي ُأاصرخ ُ سمك ملهوفاً أاصرخُ بقو ٍة أاكثر لكي ل� أاسمعه ولكن صراخَ قلبي كان أا ُ ِ ٌ الهدوء َ َ .وقليل من ال�أستسلام عينيك نظرة انني اهوى اهوى بقلي ٍل من دواء لي اإل� من عيناك قدري ل� أاستطي ُع َ َ �الهروب ِمنها ول The ink in my pen has dried, I am sick and tired of the fog of illusions I am drowning in, Alone I scream in my solitude, calling your name with a melody of nostalgia Although I am alone, I can’t hear my voice or any echoes… These cruel walls will not even respond I imagine your presence, I see your shining shadow from faraway Where are you now? I wander around, looking to see if you are really here While screaming, I still hear my heart calling your name… I scream louder so I don’t hear it anymore but the screams of my heart are louder than mine Your eyes are my destiny… nobody can run away from destiny Your eyes are my remedy… I am calmly surrendering to falling in love
59 ZENA SULIMAN
My words are stammering,
WADHAA AL OBAIDI
AFTER I FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL IN IRAQ IN 2006, I BEGAN TO STUDY LAW. I PASSED THE FIRST EXAM IN 2007. THAT YEAR, TWO OF MY BROTHERS WERE KILLED AND THE TERRORISTS ALSO LET ME KNOW THAT THEY WANTED TO KILL ME.
So I left law school and studied nursing, because that was safer, receiving my degree in nursing in 2009. In 2010, I began to study law again, and I finished law school in 2013. I worked as a nurse for four years. After that, I left my job and worked for the organization Juristic. I tried to defend human rights and did many things related to human rights, which was difficult in a country run by militia and gunmen. I worked as a lawyer, working on behalf of innocent and wrongly accused prisoners. My work was made more difficult when the militia tried to kill me. After that, I escaped to Turkey and Greece and Macedonia and Croatia and Slovenia and Austria and arrived, at last, in paradise: Germany. The difficulties in Iraq began at the time of my birth. At that time, there was a war with Iran, then later the coalition forces fought over Kuwait, and after that there were economic sanctions that killed a million children. During this period, I suffered from the worst kinds of pain. After that came the war with the USA in 2013 – which turned Iraq into a place filled with “forest monsters,” people who acted like animals, people who wanted to kill each other. There was fighting between many countries and the battlefield was “Iraq.” There was also a civil war, and unfortunately I was born into the Muslim Sunni religion, though Islam is not something I believe in. Of course Iran wanted to kill all the Sunni or at least displace them, which is what eventu-
ally happened to my family and me. To make matters worse, ISIS and Al-Qaida organizations wanted to kill my family and me, because my brother was working as a translator with the UN. In 2006, the terrorists bombed part of my house and killed my brother. He died in my arms. And after two months – just two months – they killed another brother! Oh my God, it’s really difficult when I remember this! I searched for my second brother, looking through many headless bodies, but he was in the morgue at the hospital with the other bodies. My family and I were displaced many times in Syria, north of Iraq, and lived in many cities. When we came back to our city, they put a bomb under my other brother’s car to kill my brother and me, but we didn’t get seriously injured. Then a few months later, they tried to kill my father. I have lived a very, very difficult life. My tears and the tears of my family have dried up. Now one of my brothers is in Sweden, and I’m in Germany, and my parents are in Iraq. Anytime I hear bad news from Iraq, I worry about them, and I miss them every day. I have too many things to write, and I need a lot of time to do that. I have so many dreams I want to achieve. I aspire to change some aspects of Arab culture, whether in Germany or the Middle East, concerning women’s rights, full equality between men and women and the freedom to choose a religion without pen-
alty. Also, I aspire to transform the way refugees are integrated, including giving children the freedom to choose which culture they like, not just their parents’ culture. I want to work in International Law and Human Rights so that I can improve the situation in the Middle East. I know it will be difficult and take a long time, but that is my dream and I will stay strong to achieve it. My good life began on 4 January 2016 in Germany, when I saw a German policeman and hugged him and cried! From that moment on, I felt like I was reborn because I’m in Germany. And after just one day – yes, one day – in my camp in Germany, I volunteered to work as a nurse with the German Red Cross. I worked there because I was very, very happy in Germany and I did many things to help German people and the refugees. After that, I transferred to another city and got a new small flat – not like my big house in Iraq, of course, but for me it is much better because in Germany I’m happy – not like in the hell of “Iraq.” After a few days in my new city, Rosenthal, I also volunteered as a translator, because I can speak English as well, and to help anyone in my city or to clean the public parks or help refugees with the German volunteers or to help anyone who needs it. Now I am with the “Landjugend” in my city, and we dance every week, and if there is a party or some occasion sometimes we also travel to other cities. I volunteer in school to teach refugees who do not know how to read or write
because I know a little bit of German. I’m really happy in Germany, and I feel like I’m a German person. Despite some difficulties, I know in Germany no one will try to kill me, and I can make my dreams come true. I know that the people I met when I came to Germany are like me and they made me like one of their family. I will never ever forget the people I met when I first came here, especially the people in “my city,” Rosenthal – they helped me learn German, they made me a new man, they helped me to forget my past bad experiences and they gave me their love and trust. They let me laugh again.
I have so many stories about them, I could write about them for a year! I want to say to them, “Thank you.”
MOHAMMAD RADWAN AL JOHM ANI
Generations are born and die, happiness and sadness, life on a windmill... This image of a windmill, which looks unchanged since the Second World War, evokes basic feelings. Fought over in the course of many conflicts, it now stands empty. (On the border between Poland and Belarus)
MOHAMMAD RADWAN AL JOHM ANI
Warm colors in the forest in summer. Stillness, silence â€“ just the sound of flies and birds. (National park, Poland)
Even nature has eyes with which to watch us, created in different seasons. (Warsaw, Poland)
AN OLD STORY
In the middle of the forest, isolated, out of service because it is old, this train once carried many things between countries, including weapons, drugs, civilians, soldiers, refugees, food, etc. But now it stands alone. (National park, Poland)
RADWAN AL JOHMANI
Freedom for Humanity EVERY SINGLE CHILD IS BORN INTO A POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT AND ALSO GROWS UP SURROUNDED BY THESE POLITICAL CONDITIONS. THOUGH THIS PERSON IS NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN POLITICS, HE OR SHE IS INDIRECTLY AFFECTED BY THE STATE AND WORLD POLITICAL SYSTEMS.
(National park, Poland)
Although this person is not willingly involved in politics, he or she is a victim of politics. Because of some leader’s power, I have to suffer. The word “politics” is a good word. It is necessary for describing how our society, states and world are run. The necessity and impact of politics in our life is unquestionable; but the real question is: How does politics impact our life? In today’s world, what kind of politics are we practicing: fair or unfair? If there were fair politics in our society, every single human being would taste truth, justice and the full range of human rights. With unfair politics, on the other hand, every person is the victim of oppression, repression, slavery, bondage by the state and terrorism. Monarchy is established in the name of democracy. It is happening now. They tell the people they are free, whether or not they really are. Freedom, rights, safety, justice – these blissful words are used for destructive ends. Politics is the most wide-reaching platform in the world. From birth to death, our education, our living conditions – everything is determined by politics. Our leaders and the political system hold the highest position on this platform for humanity, which is supposed to work in the interest of humanity. But it is a matter of great regret that this platform, which should serve to promote the welfare of all, is being converted into a platform that serves the interests of just a few. This is shameful, dangerous and worrisome for humanity. Like a knife, we need politics in daily life. If I know how to use a knife, then it works for the good. If I don’t know how to use it, then I can kill someone. I have to know how to use politics to lead the world for the good of humanity, not for harm. The state and world should be for everyone, not just for one party, thought system, belief, model or ideal. Every single human being has his or her own ideas, believes that he or she has the right not to be hurt. Democracy should be based in truth, logic and wisdom. But democracy today is more frightening because it is based only on the majority.
Many believe that a father is the guardian of a family like the government is the guardian of a state; in this way, the world’s leaders are the guardians of the world. The question now is: Are we aware of our duty? Are we able to perform our duties and responsibilities regularly? If we perform our duties properly, why is the world facing so many problems? If a single man is hungry in the world, then that is my problem. Why is this person hungry? What do I need to do? Today, the entire world is afflicted by conflict, terrorism and many other inhumane activities. The lack of real education and dirty politics are at the root of this problem. Another major cause of this problem is that we have all lost sight of our real identity. We are divided into Hindu, Muslim, Christian and so on, just as we are also identified by various political parties. This identification is not bad, but we should remember that it is not our real identity. Our real identity is that we all are human beings. We forget that we are the supreme creation, that our position is so high above all other things, animals and commodities. That’s why when one human being kills another it’s really an act of anti-humanity. It is said that the hyena is the most ferocious animal on earth. Is that true? The hyena never killed another hyena, but human beings – who are much nastier than this beast – do. The fact that we are human beings is essential. We are the supreme animal on earth. But if a dog is hungry, he never kills another dog to eat it. A dog is born, grows up and finally dies. We lead the same life, so how are we supreme? A dog never contributes to the destruction of humanity, but mankind always does. The question is, who is supreme? Who is the best? Answer thyself. Peace and conflict depend on state governments and the world’s leaders. So we need knowledgeable, honest and good human beings working in these positions. For example, in America, the government is selected by the American people, but it does not impact them alone but the people of other countries as well. Depending on whether the American people select a good or bad leader, the world will go either in a good or bad direction. Not everybody should be allowed to enter politics in the name of freedom. Disrespect of others’ rights is not freedom. Let us combat this with knowledge and gift the next generation with a better world.
67 JAMIL MIA
Silence, stillness, the sound of the river and birds, living in peace.
MOHAMMAD RADWAN AL JOHM ANI
SHAPES FROM FAR AWAY
Climbing to the top of a tower for the view, the most interesting sight turns out to be the cafĂŠ on the corner, right below. (On the border between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands)
WHO AMONG US DOES NOT HAVE GOOGLE EARTH?
When you have lost your home because of the war or feel nostalgic – the two motives are often linked – you will turn to electronic painkillers: the image on your desktop of your father, a song on your iPad, a video of your mother while she is making coffee, and you will probably go to Google Earth to see the roof of your home and the markings of your old residence. These things can ease the wounds of the incurable memories, the ones that make you ”you,” that change you, change others and equally create misunderstandings or upend good intentions. Often we do not stop at looking at our house on the computer screen. Suddenly, we will move the map to the site of our old school, or those places where we conducted the rites of our childhood in its full brutality. We will head north or south on those maps to check out the home of a girl we loved and think about the time we gave her bubble gum as an expression of our unintelligible desire to be with the opposite sex. This expression results from years of urgent desire and turns into a direct expression of poverty, since a gift of bubble gum will not make the girl, any girl, fall in love with you – not even if you gave her a bubble-gum factory – because what adorns her now is not in line with your purchasing abilities. We keep rotating the maps to examine the city’s soil and the gravestones that mark its death – the only thing that is still upright and not tracked by the war machine lurking there. Your hand clicks the mouse haltingly, searching for the new place where your family lives, rotating the map and waiting for the image to load completely, saying to yourself: This is where my parents live. You pray for them and then you leave behind the map of your country, memory needling you, so you head to other countries, listening to a song by Wadih Al-Safi in the background. You then look at the map of another country, since your sister lives there, far away, while your other sister moved years ago to another map and some friends left the maps altogether to move to underground. The maps are only interested in the surface of the planet, but seeing to the core of the earth will
require more advanced technologies. So, who knows? Perhaps in years to come Google Earth will invent something that might be called “Google Memory.” For example, with it, you would be able to see your grandfather’s bones in his grave. Hey, anything is possible in this era of allergy and prescription-meds abuse. Google Earth tugs at you with its map again. Your friend lives on the other side of the world map, so you look through the earth, take the detailed address from Facebook to find it on the map, and after a little research discover a modest place, just as he described – he told you it’s heaven. Maps keep tugging at your shirt sleeves and you feel the weight of memory and addresses suspended in Google Earth, names you may have forgotten because of your emigration, and all the houses you have entered or inhabited before float by on the screen. In the background, Wadih Al-Safi sings “Laila, the night is calling me” and his words tug at you too. Why is the night calling him and why should Laila know about it? You leave your computer and head to the window, look at the sky and scream: “My God, Google Earth has kidnapped my family.”
Hello Istanbul… THE LIFE OF HUMANKIND IS A COMPLICATED PICTURE, INFILTRATED BY A STRANGE AND UNEXPECTED REALITY. IT’S A LONG TREK ACROSS SCATTERED SEASONS WITH NO SPECIFIC NATURE OR TIME FRAME. AND YET HERE WE ARE.
May spring arrive!
71 WASEEM ZANPUAA
We, Syrians, have been facing a long winter for six years, yet it’s still not over. This harsh winter leaves behind widows and orphans and separates lovers. Between imprisonment, farewell and departure, each of us is living a story with too many chapters. In an earlier chapter of my personal story, Istanbul was mentioned in many lines; however, I had never visited it, and never expected to. Yet now it has made its presence felt, a breeze blown in by the will of fate and sheer coincidence. Istanbul started leaking into my awareness from the moment I knew that it was a shelter to a child I knew who fed pigeons wet bread. Later, while staying in Jordan, I would see Istanbul every day in a majestic painting that hung on the wall of the Turkish House where I worked and had befriended some gentle Turks. I looked at that painting every time I felt tired or needed to meditate, although I couldn’t say why. Finally, in China, where I lived for a year, Turkish restaurants were my favorite destination when I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat. When that chapter ended – where I must put a full and complete stop at the end of the sentence – I went to Damascus, never thinking that I would ever leave again. A year has passed. A new chapter is beginning, and my address in this chapter might be Istanbul! It’s strange that I will be one of the last arrivals to Istanbul, after my long history with it. And while I may not find the spot to take the picture that no other Syrian has ever taken before, I have certainly found new words to say:
Glimmer of Hope (An Untold Story)
ONE THING YOU CANNOT HIDE IN THIS WORLD IS WHEN YOU ARE CRIPPLED INSIDE, EMOTIONALLY AND SPIRITUALLY DRAINED, DEAD, BUT PHYSICALLY ALIVE; SMILING BUT WANT TO CRY. I TALK WHEN WHAT I REALLY WANT TO DO IS BE QUIET, MOSTLY PRETEND TO BE HAPPY, BUT, DEEP DOWN, MY SOUL IS NOT HAPPY. Pain. I have lived life as though it were written by my enemy. But, no matter the extent of hatred and bitterness involved, you can always change your destiny through perseverance, discipline, hard work, humility and, above all, the fear of God. In a civilized community, where the privileged have a much better chance than hard-working folks to earn a good livelihood, it is always necessary to make prudent choices. Each of us has high hopes of greatness and, through our own attitude, we can tap into this unique essence hidden in us. Personally, I have arrived at my own definition of life and the forces that lead to a resentful ending. Sometimes in life, we have to pass through certain unforeseen, difficult, disheartening, harsh circumstances in order to prevail in the end. And, just as the beginning often doesn’t count as much as the ending, that is how I see things: Because, even as I put down these words right now, in their current state they do not do justice to what I would like them to be in the end. At times, I find life to be strange in so many ways, the proposed path paved with uncertainty. But this is not the life I have chosen. It has taken me quite a long time to find a challenging environment in which I can try to live more than just an average life, with a beautiful family and a career that is well-suited to me. But, as they say, no gain without pain, and I have always tended to look at the brighter side of life. At the end of every storm awaits perfect sunshine.
Five years ago, I remember that I found myself tangled up in the crucial decision of whether to opt out of university or stay in school and join the millions of unemployed graduates out there screaming for job opportunities. I made education my priority, so I could excel and acquire knowledge to use for myself. I have always known for a fact that knowledge equals power, so the potential struggle to find a job, which is unavoidable in my country, never really felt like a threat. Moreover, it has always been my ambition to continue my studies outside my home country; I knew I needed more exposure to the vibrant educational and technological opportunities around the world. That was when I truly embarked fully on my project to earn a master’s degree in my area of specialization and requested information from universities across Europe and America. I received a few information packages from the United States (Virginia, Chicago and California) as well as from Germany’s Heinrich Heinrich University (among others in Europe). Towards the middle of 2012, I prepared and sent out a few applications to some of these schools. Having graduated from university with a BSc in Administration (with a major in Marketing), I was vulnerable to the retrogressive nature of our job market, where candidates who deserve positions do not get them due to nepotism and favoritism. The recruitment system in my home country is messy and leaves a large number of graduates unemployed and with no capital
to invest in any kind of business, even though some have entrepreneurial skills. The emphasis is basically on the arbitrary filling of vacancies, without careful scrutiny of the candidate’s field and specialization. As a result, regardless of your area of specialization, if you have connections in a company where you would like to work, you are automatically guaranteed a spot. But I won’t get into how bad these conditions are in any further detail, but rather throw more light on my experience in Germany instead. Fast forward to the present in Germany, Bavaria, somewhere in Munich, where I am currently writing this brief account of my experience in Europe. Germany has opened its arms wide to accommodate me this whole time. On 17 October 2014, I was taken into custody and told to register in the country’s system as an official alien. Within exactly four days, I registered as a “tolerated asylum seeker” in the Republic of Germany. At the time, medical registration, fingerprints and a final interview for all temporary asylum seekers were carried out in Kamen, near Iserlohn. On 18 November, after a successful interrogation by the officials, a transfer list was published that stated that I would live temporarily in Witten while awaiting the official decision of whether I would be integrated or deported. And so I arrived in Witten at noon on 27 November, exactly 27 days before Christmas. From the moment I stepped into the Rathaus (town hall) to register and be placed in accommodation, I felt that a strong spirit of endurance characterized Witten. My instinctively resilient nature has always made me think of myself as a conqueror. But my experience now and during the few years of my life in Germany has literally felt like a movie to me, with a series of déjà vus and shocking revelations that were both expected and perplexing at the same time. I shared apartments with various people from across the world, some burdened with nightmares from their home countries, others bursting with enthusiasm for their journeys, whether or not they were really moving forward. I have finally come to the solemn conclusion that, no matter how bad your life experience may be, there is always someone worse off than you, and that you should just live your life, no matter what may come next. Another personal realization I have come to is that bad situations may hit you harder than a bullet from a revolver. They may cause you so much pain that you want to stop living, but you must live. This magazine is the only platform I have to draw on all the words in my diary to form an insightful theory I can sit back and reflect on for some years to come. This is a virtual simulation of life from a confused but sober mind, determined to change its way of thinking to a more productive one that works better than this current
lame one. This July will mark the two-year anniversary of refugees living in idleness, with no access to any means to feed their minds. A recent development, the NGO Kiron, has given people like us the opportunity to become active again, with an infrastructure to offer proper education to help mitigate the stress with which all these many people live. I am fortunate to be part of the Kiron student body. I want to bring change to the society in which I find myself and to that of my home country. Kiron restarts idle minds by providing virtual courses, which is very helpful. At the moment, I am learning German through an online platform, which I think is awesome. But perhaps Kiron is more than just educational assistance for many of us; I, for one, would be glad to show my appreciation and give back by working with them in the future. Life in Germany is an ongoing lesson for me, a virtual streaming class where you just need to observe and study the strategies to remain hopeful despite any storms that may arise. I now live in North Rhine-Westphalia, in Düsseldorf, a city I would call “transparent” because it reveals all the behavioral patterns an individual possesses but usually keeps hidden. For the time being, I somehow believe that the word “family” has no bearing on my life here in this awesome city. Here, friendship has turned out to be of greater value than family as the days became darker than the nights. Loyalty has turned its blind eyes to its roots, with ties of friendship often proving more binding than blood, and from my position in a new territory I now see many people in a new light. The need to prove myself to the world and to the society in which I find myself makes me stronger every day. But I cannot do this all by myself. I need to take advantage of the resources available now, integrate systematically and educate myself in order to come out of this journey successfully. This essay has been a brief glimpse into the experience of one African with a global state of mind and a dream to feed more people than the population of China. My long-term objective is to build an initiative to end African migration by enabling Africans to settle in their home countries rather than to embark on a suicidal mission to seek greener pastures.
SAMAH AL JUNDI-PFAF
Peek into a Kiron Student’s Journal
MONDAY AT THE CAMP It is too early to leave my warm bed on this snowy morning, but I have no other choice! My roommates are sleeping so I think I will apply to Kiron.ngo. I need to avoid their mocking and the noisy breakfast time. I keep delaying this step, waiting for the right moment, but I have come to realize that I have to create my own right moment. Yesterday’s discussion was about to turn into a fight so I need to do things my way. I will not put my life on hold until the social services or JobCenter offer me the chance to study. My roommates’ frustration and doubt robbed my red eyes of sleep, but I will give my soul a lift with a big mug of hot coffee and start on my “mission impossible.” I love my cell phone. It is multi-task device: dictionary, GPS, family chat time, my window to my home and all its bad news (!), and a record of my German life. Now I may add yet another task to this friendly black instrument, giving it the honor of playing the significant leading role of “my future study portal.” Luckily, I have a fast Internet connection. It is so inspiring to read this quote on Kiron’s site:
“Less than 1% of refugees globally have access to higher education.”
Kiron believes that everybody – me included – has the right to fulfill their potential and improve their life prospects through education and they will help me overcome the obstacles I am facing in accessing education.
It is not easy to navigate the website on my cell phone. What should I study – what a big question! I only know a little about the German education system and what expectations I will have and what qualifications I will need after the refugee crisis. I hate that expression! It’s not fair! Anyway, I am concentrating now! Computer Science? Business & Economics? Mechanical Engineering? Hooray, Social Work – my passion! Who knows, I may be able to be the change I want to see. I can imagine my name on the graduation certificate and myself standing there wearing a university gown and flipping a purple mortarboard! Yes, I will study Social Science, not Political Science! The world has enough politicians, but only few dedicated, innovative social workers! My fingers ache, my neck is stiff and I am tired. I need a laptop if I want to take all these courses! What does “Study Tree!” mean? It looks like the Amazon forest, not just a tree. Why is it so complicated? “Forum/ 5 CP,” “7 CP,” then what? Oh my God! I have already spent three hours and have barely managed to take any steps towards reaching my goal! Something needs to be done. I’m afraid my cell phone won’t do for this learning venture. It’s breakfast time; I hear the lovely squeaking of the beds as wake-up time arrives.
MONDAY IN MY NEW HOME A year and a few months ago, I arrived at Frankfurt airport carrying my Syrian passport and ID and a vital desire to study at Bremen University. I was intimidated by Bremen University’s “Science for everyone” project. I imagined my life as a student in a friendly learning environment, not “shut up in an ivory tower.” Too many things happened and too many decisions were made – sometimes willingly, more often unwillingly. Life taught me to step back, pause and then choose the best option on the table. Sometimes, the options on my table are poor! My German table is overflowing with folders: Ausländer (foreigner), JobCenter, asylum-seeking documents, my new ID cards, Let’s Talk project and Let’s Work project, museum work… The list goes on and on. But the best folders are those devoted to my marriage and Kiron. I have been awaiting for the right time to start my Kiron study plan for months, and today I got up early as usual. My coffee is ready, my cigarettes, the ashtray, the candle and a few words written in my journal. My first coffee today accompanied my journal writing. The second will be for studying; I stopped writing and, to avoid temptation, have put my journal in the bottom drawer! Kiron has kept the vivid blue color of its website but added new services. I can study German online, I can get a Mentor and a Buddy. Great, I will check how to get a Buddy. Hopefully a Buddy will help me navigate Kiron more easily. Actually, I cannot keep track of my studies using my cell phone. Jumping here and there is making me dizzy. My notes are not enough to capture the essence of what I am reading. At this moment, my eyes are about to jump out of their sockets! “A Buddy will be your local or online contact… He or she will introduce you to life in your new country and support you in overcoming cultural and everyday challenges…
become part of an international community… available in Germany & France… You can register…” This is when I had my “aha” moment, realizing that a Buddy is not a laptop. That dream vanished, but I added a new word to my personal dictionary at least. My grandfather used to say, “A blind man dreams about a basket full of non-blind eyes.” May his soul rest in peace. It is a good service for many refugee students, but not for me! I will check the Study Center now, it sounds promising. Hopefully there is a Kiron Study Center nearby where I can have free coffee. A new word to enrich my personal dictionary: MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses. When I read the word massive I had butterflies in my stomach. This word – massive weapons, massive attack, massive flood of refugees – for me, it is linked with war and violence. But it’s different with Kiron – here it is linked with a Study Center! Be positive, woman, keep reading! Kiron acknowledges that the students need computers, headsets and Internet access along with a calm but social space to learn… But where can I find these centers? Good news, there is a study room in Aachen. Another “aha” moment! Aachen is not nearby and the study room is “in process”! Another lesson in German bureaucracy. Let’s wait together and wish for the best. “Get a Mentor” applies to me best. I meet all the terms: I live in Germany and need to get paired with an employee from a Kiron partner company to share experiences – who knows, I may even find a chance to work! I will register and tell my journal about this experience… Stay tuned! It is lunch time. Wow, I have spent all morning navigating Kiron. Just imagine all those who are working on this great learning platform. How many hours of work – or, better yet, how many cups of coffee!!
MOHAMMAD RADWAN AL JOHM ANI
Between Warsaw and northern Poland, spring brings a golden color to nature, warm life to an island..
The Starting Point
AT THE TIME WHEN I WAS WAITING FOR AN END TO MY ASYLUM PROCEDURES IN THE NETHERLANDS, I USED TO WORK AS A SUPERVISOR IN THE REFUGEES’ COMPUTER HALL. AT THAT TIME I WAS LOOKING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE NETHERLANDS.
But, unfortunately, it was not that easy. In fact, it was pretty hard, especially for a refugee like me who did not yet have the necessary documents. At the time, everything was incredibly slow due to the refugee crisis. One day, I noticed an African guy constantly coming to the computer hall, carrying papers and books. He would open a strange website and then start reading and studying. I wondered: What is this guy doing?! Until, finally, one day, I decided to ask him what he was doing. “I am studying at a university,” he said. “What!? What kind of university are you talking about? You are a refugee without any documentation yet. How can you do that?!” I said. Then he started to explain to me about the so-called Kiron Open Higher Education. “Kiron is an open online higher education project located in Germany, that you can participate in as soon as you can prove that you are an asylum seeker. It saves time for those refugees who are suffering from so many things, including the lack of documents required to start higher education. “You can choose your preferred specialization and start your studies directly online wherever you are. The first and second year, you study completely online, and for the third year, you move to a partner university where you can complete your studies on a real campus.” It was really interesting and very important thing for me to hear about Kiron from that guy. I sent my application through the Internet. I was then asked to take just two simple online tests to prove that I am eager to learn and willing to commit to the learning process. Kiron gave me a starting spark on my path to higher education and I learned a lot about online education platforms such as EdX, Coursera and Saylor Academy. I had access to so many online courses about so many topics and specializations. I liked this experience very much and I think that Kiron is doing its best to support refugees on a large
scale. They were able to recognize the real problems that most of the refugees in Europe face, such as a lack of documents and the need to learn a new language, and the fact that it might take a refugee several years to solve these problems on his own.
Above all, Kiron offers a starting point for every refugee who wants to learn.
Support our mission! Get involved! www.kiron.ngo TRANSLATO R
Sarah Al-Ahmad STUDENT MEN TO R A ND E DI TO R
Samah Al Jundi-Pfaf PR O DUCTIO N
Clare Celeste Bรถrsch A RT DIRECTIO N, LAYO UT A ND DES IGN
PHOTO G RAPHER, FACES O F K IR O N
LINE AN D CO PY ED ITO R
WRITIN G MEN TO R A ND CO PY E DI TO R
LINE AN D CO PY ED ITO R
EDITO R AN D STUDE NT L IA S O N
D ESIG N INTERN
R E F LE CTI O N S HA P E S Different shapes transmit information to our brain about what an image looks like. This image, for example, looks like a submarine or an eye. (Olsztyn, Poland)
by AL Johmani Mohammad Radwan