‘We don’t have to worry about living on the streets here’

May 2022 – from the editors

For the time being, Atifa has stopped writing this diary, she is busy with other things. We visited her in Germany, where she has been waiting for the results of her asylum application since July 2021.

Saturday evening, April 9, 2022. We are at the door of an old apartment building. Neon light splashes from the windows, shining on the bare surrounding terrain. A contrast to the neighborhood – a leafy, softly lit residential area in the southern German town of Asperg.

So this is where Atifa now lives, with her parents and her younger brother. A strange tension takes hold of us. For two years we emailed, made calls, and above all, texted a lot. This will be our first real-life encounter.

The door opens and the dark silhouet of a girl appears in a swath of white light, like in a cartoon, a fairy tale. The princess keeps up the mystery if she really exists just a little longer.

Atifa with editor Trudeke Sillevis Smitt. In the background: Mehrdad Gholami, who translated Atifa’s texts from Farsi to Dutch.

But the embracement makes it real. We are people of flesh and blood, and we already know each other. That is moving.

Atifa takes us to her family’s room. We take off our shoes – though that is not necessary, her parents say, with this linoleum floor. We shake hands, Atifa’s little brother also has the courage. There is a fruitcake waiting for us, homemade in the communal kitchen by Atifa’s mother. A woman with an open face, who approaches us with ease. Atifa’s father offers young Mohamad Jawad a safe lap. We get to sit in the chairs, the family is sitting on the beds – there are three beds next to each other in the otherwise quite empty room; Atifa’s bed is  in a seperate corner, for a hint of privacy.

Atifa with her mother, father, and brother in their room in Germany. Atifa: ‘My parents brought us to a safe place. They taught me to be very, very patient.’

They are very relieved, it is so much better here than in Greece, they say. The people are nice, nothing bad happened to them on the street yet. Only the stress if they will be able to stay or not is difficult to bear.

The first painting Atifa made in Germany hangs on the wall. The paintings she made in Greece have been sold or are still hanging at the NGOs where she painted them. Her new German painting is not good, according to Atifa herself, but we admire the magnolia blossom against a black/gold background.

Until the seven-year-old thinks it’s been long enough: he gently points out his own artwork hanging on the other wall, across the room. We are all melting, and the little horse made of cardboard and wire gets the attention it deserves. Mohamad Jawad now attends a regular primary school and already speaks a good word of German. His accent is much better than Atifa’s, she complains with a smile. German is schwierig, but she gets lessons every day in Stutgartt, so it will come.

Sunday morning: Mohammad Jawad has no school today.

Sunday morning, April 10, 2022. We pick up Atifa at 10 am. Her parents are sleeping, they were up at five to eat, because of Ramadan. Atifa is not participating in fasting this year. Mainly, she says, because it is not good for her schoolwork. She had a cheese sandwich this morning.

We walk through the town of white houses at the foot of the Hohenasperg, a mountain that dominates the landscape with its ancient fortress. We talk about Atifa’s first memory.

‘It’s from Iran, where I came to live when I was five. Before that I lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I don’t remember anything about that. I remember the house in Iran well, we had two rooms, and then there was another room where my aunt lived with five children. There was no bathroom, sometimes we washed in the kitchen and sometimes in the garden. We had a very large garden. That was a good time.’

It couldn’t stay that way. Afghans have a very difficult time in Iran. They don’t get any rights. Atifa’s family was illegal and could not keep their heads above water. They decided to take the plunge to Europe, where Atifa arrived at the age of seventeen – after a terrible journey.


In the afternoon we talk about her time on Lesvos, in the quiet of our hotel room. During Ramadan in 2020, Atifa was in camp Moria, she then wrote: ‘A month in which we do not eat and drink anything from early in the morning until evening, so that we feel and experience how poor people live. Some sort of compassion. But who has compassion for us refugees?’

Now, two years later, she still feels that way, she says. ‘I know what it’s like to live there. It gets very hot in the tents, which makes Ramadan very, very tough. I really sympathize with the people who are in the situation we used to have.’

She also thinks about Ukraine a lot. ‘Because I come from a war zone myself, I understand how terrible that is. I don’t want anyone to experience that.’ Her eyes fill with tears.

‘It is very difficult to leave your country, especially when it is torn apart by war. War is always terrible, no matter where it happens. Every person has the right to live and be happy in his own country. I’m very glad to be safe here, and the Germans are very nice. But no matter how long you’re away, you still miss your homeland.’

What is Atifa’s homeland? ‘That’s hard to explain. Actually, I don’t know what that it feels like to have a homeland. I’ve always been an outsider. People often feel sorry for you or reject you. Your own country, that’s where people don’t ask you where you come from.’

Can Germany become that country? She doubts it. ‘It would be nice, but I think people will keep seeing me as a stranger here too.’

She doesn’t say it in so many words, but whoever reads the last text in her diary knows which country Atifa sees as her own. Although ‘she does not know what the earth smells like’ when the Taliban came back into power, her heart cried for her country of birth, Afghanistan: ‘My compatriots suffer so much pain. It feels as if my house has been destroyed.’

Should we perhaps see ‘homeland’ not so much as a place, but as something abstract, there where you are with the people with whom you feel at home? ‘That’s a nice thought, but I don’t feel it that way right now.’

On Lesvos, Atifa had many friends, she was very active in several NGOs, she painted and took film lessons. ‘Yes, my friends really made the situation more bearable there, we eased the pain for each other. I am still in contact with most of them, they are doing better. Like H, the friend who was in the camp without parents and whose phone was stolen. He has been given a status in Germany, his family is also here.’

Which brings us to Atifa’s departure from Greece. Why did she leave the country where she was finally granted refugee status? ‘I was very happy when we got our permit. We wanted to stay in Greece, I also had plans for my future there. I had a friend who was following a training in permanent make-up, and I wanted that too. But to do that, you must have a place to live, and a job to pay for that training.’

Atifa takes us to her favorite place in Asperg: the castle on top of the mountain. ‘I often go here on the weekends, on my own. Then I try not to think about anything. Sitting here I feel very strong, as if I can take on the whole world.’

And none of that was there. In no time the family received a letter from the government that they had to leave the apartment. Only asylum seekers were allowed to live there, not recognized refugees. They just had to find themselves another house on their own. Atifa: ‘The monthly 300 euros living allowance for the four of us was also immediately stopped. I didn’t speak Greek, so I couldn’t find a job. The social worker advised us to leave the island, and so did everyone else who got refugee status.’

They traveled to Athens to find work there, but panic soon set in. ‘We didn’t know anyone there, it was a big, busy city. We had no house, almost no money. There were horrific stories about robberies and child abductions. The situation was even more difficult than on Lesvos. We had no choice.’

And she thinks that decision was a good one. ‘We don’t have to worry about living on the streets here. And we don’t have to live in a tent, or in a terrible camp.’ But still no solid ground under their feet… The authorities interviewed the family a month ago about their asylum request. It will now take another six months to two years before a decision will be made, they were told. ‘And that was even before the war in Ukraine started …’

What does Atifa hope her life will look like in ten years from now? ‘At this moment, I am at zero, I don’t expect to have realized my dreams in ten years. Maybe I’ll have reached six by then. If I can go to college, I would like to do something with film or communication. But above all, I hope to be in a place that I can call home, where I cannot be sent away. A humble wish? For me it’s a dream.’


Monday morning Atifa takes us to her school for newcomers, in Stuttgart. Here she is a girl among the other students. From the outside you can’t see what she’s been through. You don’t see the clouds that race through her head, sometimes shadowing her face when she talks about the things that affect her.

Atifa is learning German. This lesson is about applying for a job: ‘If you have a driver’s license, write it down, at least if it’s relevant to the job,’ says the teacher. But then auf Deutsch, selbstverständlich.

You also do not see that in her life until now she had only five years of daily education. That was in Iran, with an Afghan teacher who taught at home – Iranian schools were off limits.

Here, if you look at here, she is just a girl, who wants to join in.

Let her be allowed to stay here.

‘My poor country’

September 13th, 2021

When I was still on Lesvos, we held this memorial service for the innocent victims of violence in Afghanistan

My country is in very bad shape. My compatriots are in great pain. The terrorists have conquered the country. Innocent people who offer even the slightest resistance to the Taliban are brutally murdered. My country is injured.

I’ve never lived in Afghanistan and I have never even been there. I don’t know the smell of the earth, but I do feel the pain of the people there. It feels as if my house has been destroyed. I feel the pain, the fear and despair of all those people who are no longer safe, who are running back and forth in panic to survive.

My heart cries when I see on the Internet or on TV how easily the Taliban brutally kill innocent people and when I see how many babies and small children will grow up as orphans.

Many people have left their homes and belongings and have fled to other countries at the airport or overland. While others have gone into hiding or are locked up at home for fear that the Taliban will rape their wives and daughters.

It seems that we Afghans have no share in world peace. As if our share in the world consists only of war, death and misery. It has become almost normal that innocent people die. And that is the greatest tragedy, that a human life no longer seems to matter.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

این روزها حال کشورم خوب نیس مردمم دارند درد میکشند تروریستها همه جا را تصرف کرده و مردم بیگناه کسایی که مانع آنها شوند به بدترین شکل کشته میشوند کشورم زخمیست از آن خون میچکد قلب مردمم تکه تکه شده  از این همه ظلم از دولتی که کشورم را دو دسته تقدیم تروریستها کرده و فرار کرده خون گریه میکنند مردمم چه گناهی کرده اند که باید قربانیه سیاستهای دولت کثیفمان شود، من تابحال افغانستان را ندیده ام آنجا زندگی نکردم

Leaving Greece

July 27th, 2021

My life has changed completely. After we got the Greek residence permit, we came under enormous pressure. Every week we received a warning from the government that we had to leave our house. They didn’t care that we had no other shelter.

So in the end we decided to go back to the refugee camp, although life there is not exactly pleasant. Especially for my mother and my brother who are sick. We just had no other choice.

But the refugee camp refused us because we had a residence permit. Due to the residence permit, we are no longer entitled to any facilities.

Also, our IDs were not in order. In order to fix that we had to go to Athens, but with the documents that we had and which were by the way almost expiring, we were not allowed to leave the island. All government institutions were closed and we could only make an appointment via the internet, but there was a long waiting list for that.

We didn’t know what to do. All doors seemed to close on us.

I hadn’t been able to find work either, so we decided to protest for a few days at the building of the agency that supported us. The director eventually promised us that he would see to it that we would get our documents, on the condition that we left our house.

It took ten days to get our documents. Then they gave us two days to get out of our house and leave the island.

We got on the boat and left for Athens. You could see the island well from the boat. My good and bad memories were al still fresh, everything came back to me. Finally, after two years, our stay on Lesvos had come to an end.

We arrived in Athens. A busy city with a lot of air pollution. I saw a lot of people of different nationalities. I felt lonely and homesick. It was like I was lost and couldn’t find my house, but in reality we had no house.

I had heard a lot about Athens. That it was a beautiful city full of cultural sights and fun places to go out. But the only place we saw was Victoria Park.

After a bit of rest and some food we took a taxi to Victoria Park. It was a park, but actually it was a place for homeless people like us.

When we got there we saw a lot of other people like ourselves. We understood that we were not the only ones without shelter. Many other people had the same problem.

We spent the day talking to other people and at night we had to sleep on the ground in the middle of the park. It was one of the hardest nights of my life. My father lay awake all night as a precaution. We had heard bad stories about children being kidnapped and girls being raped.

After that tough night we went looking for a house. The rents were very high and you had to pay a lot of deposit as well. If we would pay the deposit, we would have no money left for the rent. Even the cheapest houses were too expensive for us. After paying the rent we would have very little left to make ends meet.

Disappointed, desperate, we returned to the park. There we heard that the police had come and evicted all the homeless. We had become homeless again.

My heart cried with so much misery, but I could not show that to my family. It would discourage them even more.

My brother had become ill and was vomiting all the time. He kept crying and saying we should go back home. But where was our house, there was no house. We had no house and no home.

My father was ashamed that he could not provide for his family. For the first time in my life I saw him cry. My mother was busy comforting my brother. It was a nightmare, but I was wide awake.

I had come to hate the Greek authorities who do not take their responsibility and leave refugees to their fate. We couldn’t bear to stay in Greece any longer.

A few hours later, an acquaintance saw us at the park. We knew him from the camp in Moria. He invited us to his home. We went with him and stayed in his house overnight.

The next morning we booked the first ticket we could get to Germany, and said goodbye to Greece forever.

And now we have been staying in a refugee camp in Germany for two weeks. Our future is still uncertain, I just hope we never have to go back to Greece.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

از یک زمانی به بعد زندگی من تغییر بزرگی کرد 

از وقتی پناهندگیه یونان را گرفتیم خیلی تحت فشار قرار گرفتیم ما هر هفته اخطار دریافت میکردیم که باید خانه را ترک کنیم برای آنها اهمیتی نداشت تا جایی برای ماندن داریم یا آواره میشویم، حتی تصمیم گرفتیم برویم کمپ زندگی کنیم گرچه شرایط زندگی آنجا افتضاح بود مخصوصا برای برادرم و مادرم که مریض بودند ولی هیچ چاره ی دیگری نداشتیم ولی متاسفانه کمپ هم مارا نپذیرفت چون پناهندگیه یونان را گرفته بودیم حق ماندن در مکانهایی که تحت حمایت دولت هست را نداشتیم

مدارکمان هم تکمیل نبود گفتند برای گرفتن مدارک (آیدی کارت) باید آتن اقدام کنیم ولی با مدرکی که در حال حاضر داشتیم و تاریخ انقضایش گذشته بود حق خروج از جزیره را نداشتیم و تمامیه ادارات بسته بود فقط باید آنلاین وقت میگرفتیم که خیلی دیر وقت میداد نمیدانستیم چه کار کنیم همه درها بروی ما بسته بود در این مدت کار هم نتوانستم پیدا کنم، پس ما تصمیم به اعتراض گرفتیم چند روزی کنار سازمانیکه تحت حمایت ان بودیم اعتراض کردیم تا رییس آن اداره به ما قول داد تا برای مدارک خودش اقدام کند و محض گرفتم آن باید خانه را ترک کنیم،

Trying to help

June 21st, 2021

Every day when I am volunteering in the refugee camp many people come to us for help. They tell us about their problems and we refer them to a doctor, lawyer or to a suitable organization for support. This is how we try to help them a little bit.

Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-attribuut; de bestandsnaam is WhatsApp-Image-2021-06-21-at-13.04.32-1024x768.jpeg

Some are in very bad shape. Some need surgery, but are scared because it is so unhygienic here, without proper toilets and showers. They rather endure the pain.

Most people in the refugee camp are depressed and some try to commit suicide. It’s very hard to hear about their problems, especially when we can’t help them.

Why can’t these children get an education? Why does a young person, who has come to Europe with so much misery and difficulty, want to end his life? Why do parents who have fled to Europe for the sake of their children now prefer to be sent back to their country – a country where schools and hospitals are regularly the target of suicide attacks?

My country is drenched in blood. Just over a month after the last bombing, I heard of another suicide bombing at a girls’ school. What had those defenseless girls done wrong for this to happen to them?

Fear eventually drives Afghan parents to flee. But now they are behind barbed wire. We are humans too, aren’t we? We just want peace and quiet.

I can’t find the words to explain what I’m feeling right now. I wish I could show God what war has done to us and our country. What disease and poverty have done to us. How refugees live on this small piece of earth. I wish I could make the borders disappear and tear up the barbed wire…

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

هر روزه ما با افراد زیادی رو به رو میشویم آنها به ما مراجعه میکنند و از مشکلاتشان میگویند ما سعی میکنیم با معرفی پزشک، وکیل یا سازمانیکه میتواند کمکی به حل مشکل آنها کنند، کمکی به آنها کرده باشیم.

وضعیت برخی از آنها در کمپ بسیار وخیم است بعضی از افراد به عمل جراحی احتیاج دارند ولی آنها بدلیل وضعیت بد بهداشت و در دسترس نبودن توالت و حمام مناسب و زندگیه سخت در خیمه میترسند تا جراحی کنند پس درد را تحمل میکنند، اکثر مردم از بیماریه اعصاب و روان رنج میبرند و دست به خودکشی میزنند، گوش کردن به مشکلات مردم خیلی سخت است سخت تر از آن وقتی است که کمکی از دست ما بر نیاید.

After the permit

June 1, 2021

I got asylum so I should be happy, but I still worry all day long. Because now that we have a residence permit, we no longer receive any help from UNHCR.

Soon we will also have to leave the house that we are living in. I have no work or other income to rent another house and neither do my parents. We’ve almost run out of savings and we don’t know what to do.

There is an organization called Helios that helps refugees who have received their permit. They pay the rent for the first six months.

We’ve been waiting a month to register, but they are closed and we have no clue when they will reopen. There are rumors that Helios has run out of budget and we are very concerned about that. And it is not only we who are concerned, but all the people who live here.

Recently I started working as a volunteer in the camp. We help people with their daily problems. For example, if there is something wrong with the tents, or if help is needed with a transfer. In particular, there is a lot of attention and support for vulnerable people. I see many people in the camp who have received a positive decision, but who have to leave after receiving their ID.

Applying for an ID costs 86 euros. Many refugees do not even have that 86 euros, let alone that they have money for rent or other things.

In this way, many refugees run the risk of becoming homeless.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

من قبولی ام را گرفته ام باید خوشحال باشم ولی روزهایم پر شده از نگرانی

نگران آواره شدن، بعد از گرفتن قبولی دیگر کمک مالیه سازمان ملل به ما تعلق نمیگیرد و همچنین خانه ای که در آن زندگی میکنیم را باید زودتر ترک کنیم، شغل و درآمدی هم ندارم تا یتوانم خانه ای اجاره کنیم پس اندازمان درحال تمام شدن است و نمیدانم باید چکار کنم، قبلا سازمانی به نام هلیوس بود کسانی را که قبولی گرفتند تا شش ماه حمایت میکرد اجاره خانه را پرداخت میکرد، اما یکماه است منتظریم تا آن سازمان باز شود و ثبت کنیم ولی هیچ خبری نشده شایعاتی که دیگر آن سازمان هم بودجه ای ندارد تا افراد بیشتری را حمایت کند میشنوم و این بشدت مرا نگران کرده این نگرانی نه تنها برای من برای تمام کسانیکه اینجا زندگی میکنند است به تازگی در یک سازمانی در کمپ به نام Euro relife بصورت داوطلبانه کار میکنم کار این سازمان حل مشکلات مردم داخل کمپ است برطرف کردن مشکلات خیمه ها جابجایی و رسیدگیه بیشتر به افراد آسیب پذیر و دیگر کمکها…

A new life

15th April 2021

Incredible but true: we have been granted asylum!

Waiting and uncertainty were the most difficult things we had to deal with in the past year and a half. The last four months were just as hard as when we were still in Moria. Or maybe even worse, because we were told that we would get a negative decision. Whether this was a mistake or a lie – who can tell? In any case it was a terrible blow and turned our lives upside down.

We went to several authorities to get more information about our request for asylum, but we were sent from pillar to post. They kept on saying we had to wait, but waiting in uncertainty is not a pleasure – in fact, it is killing. 

Fortunately, it ended well and we got our residence permit in Greece! I will never forget the moment I heard  that we got a positive decision and were allowed to stay in Greece.

I laughed and cried at the same time, I went totally crazy. As if an extremely heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders.

After all the misery and despair we now know: we are allowed to stay here. With a deep sigh of relief we can start our new lives.

I will fill the blank book of my future my best handwriting, with beautifull wishes, dreams and plans. The title is “New Beginning”.


Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

 و بلاتکلیفی سخت ترین لحظاتی بود که سپری میکردم یکسالو خورده ای گذشت ولی چهار ماه آن به سختیه زمانی که موریا زندگی میکردیم گذشت حتی بیشتر چون آن خبر دروغ یا سوءتفاهمی که در جواب اینترویوی ما داده بودند و آن هم این بود که کیس ما رد خورده بشدت مارا تحت فشار قرار داد و به هر سازمانی که سرمیزدم تا جواب قطعی ای دریافت کنم فقط میگفتند منتظر باشید این انتظار هم تمام شد و بالاخره حق پناهندگیه اینجا را دریافت آن لحظه که این خبر را شنیدم بقدری خوشحال بودم که در پوست خودم نمیگنجیدم انگار یک بار خیلی بزرگی از روی شانه هایم برداشته شده بالاخره پناهندگیه یونان بعد از گذراندن اینهمه سختی به ما داده شد و حالا میتوانم نفس عمیقی بکشم و زندگی را از نو شروع کنم صفحات جدید دفتر زندگی را باز میکنم و با دستخطی زیبا مینویسم 

“شروعی دوباره”

Always no

Thursday, 11th of March 2021

Life is really hard for refugees. You have all kinds of problems because you don’t have the same rights as other citizens. I had made new plans for my future. I wanted to learn micro-pigmentation and start my own parlour. In order to pay for the training and material, I decided to take on a temporary job. After searching for a long time I found a suitable vacancy. I was invited to have an interview and accepted. I was so happy, I could hardly believe my luck. But when I had to file my documents they told me they could not employ me because I did not have a residence permit. I had to have insurance and I needed a bank account. In the end, they hired someone else. Yet I didn’t give up, I kept on looking. But the second time I found something, the same issues came up. This time they also needed a reference.

I thought: maybe I’d better get these documents in order first. So I went to the different organisations that deal with refugee affairs. They told me there was no such refererence that would allow me to work and that I should stop wasting my time. My plans failed. Maybe some day I will be able to realise them.

These are all very demoralising things in my life. They are energy consuming. My longing for a residence permit becomes stronger and stronger, but it seems to be further and further away. I am a human being and have the right to live. When I say this, some people tell me: ‘wasn’t it better to stay in your own country?’ or ‘there are still many safe places in Afghanitan, can’t you go and live there?’

Maybe there are places in Afghanistan that are safe, but you have to live as quiet a life as you can and you are not allowed to do anything. I mean things like studying or having a career are forbidden for Hazara people, especially Hazara women. Many many successfull people fled Afghanistan, because if they had fallen into the hands of the Taliban they would have been dead now. Yes that is what it is like in Afghanistan. You cannot live there, only survive. That is not what we wanted and therefore we fled from there, to build up a life without restrictions and with many chances. Without fear for our lives. It is our right to choose how we want to live.

When I lived in Iran I did not have a residence permit either. I had no identity. I could not to school, I was not allowed to work. If I had found a job, my employer could easily withold my pay or take it for himself. I would not even be able to report him, because I was illegal.

And now in Europe I stumble on the same problems. Waiting for a residence permit, for the same rights as other citizens. That is not too much to ask, is it? I am so terribly tired of living as an asylum seeker. It feels as if I am still behind fences and barbed wire. All asylum seekers are litterally and figuratively fenced in. I feel a very strong urge to free myself of these barriers. I came to hate word refugee.

I have heard ‘no’ so many times that there is almost nothing left of my self-confidence. No, we cannot take you on because you don’t have a residence permit. No, you cannot open a bank account because you don’t have a residence permit. No, you don’t have any right at all because you don’t have a residence permit.

I may be a refugee but more importantly I am a human being. A person who wants an identity card and the same civil rights as others. I don’t need a beautiful house or a beautiful car. The only thing I want is that some day the label refugee will be taken off me and that I can start my future without any restrictions.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

زندگی به عنوان یک مهاجر واقعا سخت است از اینکه حقوق برابری نمیتوان با یک شهروند داشت مشکلات زیادی برای آدم بوجود می آورد. برنامه ریزیه جدیدی برای زندگی ام کرده بودم اینکه تتو یاد بگیرم و بتوانم برای خودم سالن بزنم و مستقل کار کنم پس، تصمیم گرفتم کار موقتی پیدا کنم تا با درآمد آن بتوانم هزینه ی آموزش و لوازم مورد نیاز تتو را تهیه کنم، با پرسو جو کاری را پیدا کردم مصاحبه کردم و قبول شدم خیلی خوشحال شده بودم از این بابت، اما وقتی مدارکم را ارائه دادم آنها مرا قبول نکردند چون قبولیه آن کشور را نداشتم با این مدارکی که من دارم بیمه و حساب بانکی در صورتی میتوانم داشته باشم که قرارداد کاری داشته باشم و برای بستن قرار داد کاری بیمه و حساب بانکی لازم بود این کمی پیچیده شد و آنها کس دیگری را استخدام کردند ولی من باز هم بدنبال کار گشتم ولی باز هم با همین مشکل رو به رو شدم کار جدیدی که پیدا کرده بودم علاوه بر بیمه و حساب بانکی تاییدیه ای میخواستند که با این مدارک مجاز به کار کردن هستم پس بدنبال این مجوز به ادارات پناهندگی رفتم بعد از کلی جستجو گفتند چیزی به عنوان تاییدیه ی اینکه شما بتوانید کار کنید وجود ندارد و بیخود وقتم را تلف نکنم پس برنامه ریزی ای که کرده بود مجبور شدم کنسل کنم یا سالها بعد


The arrival of winter has complicated life here. The temperature is below zero, but we only have central heating for three hours a day. And we have limited access to electricity, so we cannot use electric heaters.

At night we put on as many clothes as we can and during the day we cover ourselves with blankets, but still we are cold. Cold to the bone, as if we will never be able to get the cold out of our bodies. My brother catches cold regularly which makes his asthma worse.

We also have quite some rain here. This doesn’t bother us much, but when I see the rain from my window I think of the people who live in the camp, in tents without electricity and heating. If we suffer from the cold inside, how do they even survive in the tents?

Electricity is often cut off in the new camp. Last year we lived in the former camp Moria. Once we did not have electricity for a whole week, it was terrible. But in the new camp it is the same.

Rain, cold and lack of services come to bother refugees as if they don’t have enough problems as it is.  

With the other families, we share this kitchen and the bathroom annex toilet. The kitchen is always full of people cooking or washing dishes. We eat in our rooms. Fortunately the neighbours are good people, we take turns using all the facilities.

This is the room where I live with my parents and my little brother. There are two other families in the house who also each have one room. An African family of three and and an Arabic family of seven people.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

با شروع زمستان شرایط زندگی اینجا سخت تر شده مخصوصا هوا که بشدت سرد شده بود و به زیر صفر رسیده، ما بدلیل داشتن محدودیت در مصرف برق نمیتوانیم وسایل گرمایشی ای روشن کنیم شوفاژ خانه تنها سه ساعت در شب روشن میشود ولی این کافی نیس هوا بشدت سرد است هرچه لباس گرم داریم میپوشیم و روزها هم زیر پتو مینشینیم ولی باز هم سرما در بدن آدم نفوذ میکند، برادرم سرما خورده و این باعث شده بیماریه آسمش بدتر شود، باران هم زیاد میبارد ما که در خانه زندگی میکنیم تحمل این سرما برایمان دشوار است، به آنهایی فکر میکنم که در کمپ هستند در خیمه بدون برق و وسایل گرمایشی، با سرد شدن هوا برق کمپ را قطع میکنند مانند زمستان قبل که در کمپ زندگی میکردیم، با سردتر شدن هوا ما حتی تا یک هفته هم برق نداشتیم و تحمل آن شرایط خیلی سخت بود و حالا هم در کمپ جدید همینطور است بارش شدید باران سرد شدن هوا زندگی را دشوار و دشوارتر ساخته

A wall to lean against

We have been in lockdown now for more than two months.

The people in camp Moria can leave the camp only once a week, and then only when absolutely necessary.

I have many friends there, and Ali is one of them. He was allowed te leave the camp for a short time, so I got to see him for a little while.

He hated the camp and suffered from it. He told me about the cold and the lack of electricity. The lack of warm water too – which is a basic need of all human beings nowadays…

I saw despair in his eyes, he was no longer the motivated and passionate Ali that I used to know. He had even trouble smiling. He said: ‘I feel like a criminal who has been convicted to several years in prison… But what have I done? Except for being a refugee. It is not a crime to be a refugee, is it? I fled my country to live a quiet and peaceful life without fear for war. But now I am only alive, I do not live. There are no signs of living here, not even the most simple and basic provisions.

Ali told me that having a house had become his biggest wish.

He said: ‘The thought of being able to open the door of my house and go wherever I want, without fear of the police, without having to find excuses to leave camp for a short while. I miss the feeling of leaning against a wall. I miss the lighting, a warm shower, a clean toilet.’

He laughed and said: ‘Other people will think: what ridiculous wishes he has.’ But no, they were not ridiculous wishes. I understood him and felt for him very deeply.

I had to cry very hard, for us, for all our whishes that sounded ridiculous, but at the same time we started laughing out loud.

We said to each other that we better not tell anyone about our wishes, as they would never understand.

To have a house that is yours for the rest of your life, that no one can take from you, is one of my biggest dreams. And one of the most terrifying things is the uncertainty. That the authorities decide your life, where you will be tomorrow – in which country, and under which conditions.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

آن هم فقط برای موارد ضروری، من دوستان زیادی دارم که در آنجا زندگی میکند از جمله علی که بعد از مدتها موفق شده بود که از کمپ ساعتی را بیرون بیاید آن روز ملاقات کوتاهی با علی داشتم، او از شرایط کمپ بسیار ناراضی بود و تحت فشار روانی شدیدی بود، او از وضعیت بد آنجا برایم تعریف میکرد شدت سرمای هوا و محدودیت دسترسی به برق و آب گرم، که از معمولی ترین و ضروری ترین نیاز هرآدمیست، او از روزهای بارانی برایم گفت که چهار روز باران شدید میبارید و خیمه ها و وسایلشان همه خیس شده بودند و اکثرنقاط کمپ در آن روزهای بارانی حتی یک ساعت هم برق نداشتند، وقتی اینهارا برایم تعریف میکرد به چشمهایش نگاه میکردم، چشمهایش پر از نا امیدی بود دیگر آن علیه با انگیزه و پر شور نبود به سختی میخندید و میشد به راحتی افسردگی را در چهره اش دید او میگفت


I cannot find peace these days. I used to be positive, waiting for good things to happen, but now I am afraid. Afraid to be sent back to Afghanistan. A fear that was always there, but that I did not want to give in to.

As a child, I lived with the fear of war and danger in Afghanistan on the one hand, and the fear for the heavy journey to Europe on the other.

Once in Europe, I was happy that we survived, that we were together as a family, and safe. Together, and mostly thanks to my parents, we stood up to very many problems and challenges, in the hope of a safe life and a beautiful, prosperous future in Europe.

But when I heard our request for asylum has been denied, my world collapsed. Fear struck and seized me by the throat.

I think a lot about my country these days. The news that reaches me from Afghanistan hurts me a lot. Young people in schools and universities who die in suicide attacks. Parents, preparing the favourite meal of their beloved children and waiting for them to come home, confronted with their blooded clothes or the news of their deaths.

Neither me nor my family hate our country. My parents had no choice but to leave it, to protect me and my brother from the dangers in Afghanistan. So that they would not be confronted with the news of our deaths one day.

All those people who fled from Afghanistan to Europe did so to find safety for their children or themselves. In the hope of a life without war and attacks.

Many had to send their underaged children to Europe alone, with all dangers attached. They had to choose between two evils.

Many of those people did not make it. Some died in the sea and others in the mountains during their flight. It is hardly imaginable how painful all that is.

It hurts me deeply to see that the refugees who finally made it have to live in a camp behind a barbed wire fence.

It causes me so much pain to see the fear in my father’s eyes of being sent back to unsafe Afghanistan. And it hurts me to see my country is a bloodbath.

Sometimes I think to myself: will there ever be a day that I can carefree accompany my little brother to school, will I ever see a spark of hope and happiness in my parents’ eyes?

To be honest, I don’t know how much longer I can endure so much pain and misery.

Statue of the Asia Minor Mother In Mytilene, donated by refugees who came to Lesvos in the 1920s.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

امنی در آنجا هم به دلیل راه دشواریکه برای رسیدن به اروپا طی کرده بودیم، خوشحال بودم که جان سالم از این راه بدر برده بودم و خانواده ام سالم در کنارم هستند و با کمک آنها مشکلات و چالشهای زیادی را طی کردیم به امید داشتن زندگی ای امن و آینده ای روشن در اروپا، اما وقتی شنیدم درخواست پناهندگیمان رد شده است استرس و ترس تمام وجودم را فرا میگیرد، به کشورم افغانستان فکر میکنم، اخباری که این روزها در باره آنجا میشنوم قلبم را به درد می آورد، جوانانی که در مدرسه و دانشگاه انتحاری میشوند، آن طرف خانواده هایشان غذای مورد علاقه ی شان را درست کرده و منتظر فرزند تحصیل کرده اش است اما با لباس خونینشان مواجه میشوند…

The new camp – worse than Moria

It has been some time since camp Moria burnt down. The first week, people slept by the road side. The local people had blocked the way to the village. Refugees who you tried anyway, were attacked you and pushed back with violence.

The refugees did not want to go to a new camp, they wanted the freedom to leave the island. But after a very heavy, painful week, in the end everybody was deported to another camp on the island. This was enforced by the government and the police. If you refused they would not process your asylum request. People were denied water and food so they did not have any other choice than to go to the other camp.

This camp appears to be much worse than the camp in Mora. The soil is hard and dirty. The toilets are without water and there is no hygiene. Men wash themselves in the sea but for women this is very difficult.

People in the new camp have problems with food, water, toilets and showers. The children don’t go to school and play all day with dirty things that they pick up from the filthy ground.

The people there have a terrible life. You see it immediately when you enter the camp. The tents are very low, you cannot even stand up inside. The floor of the tents is not even. It is very hard to sit in such a tent or to sleep, and the people who live in the tents near the sea suffer from the hard wind. Most tents in that area are already torn by the wind.

Within the tents it is very cold at night and very hot in the daytime. Especially with winter coming up the cold is unbearable. I know what these people are going through because I spent an autumn and winter in camp Moria myself. We had no electricity for heating or for cooking a warm meal. We spent all night into the morning in the cold.

But the worst of all was the rain. When it rained, water came in through the roof of the tent and soaked all our stuff. All our clothes and blankets were wet from the water that seeped in and we had nothing to keep ourselves warm.

The pain of these memories cannot be expressed in words. I am worried about the asylum seekers who have even more difficult days ahead with the coming cold and rain. My heart hurts terribly when I think of that.

How many more children and teenagers must spend their future behind barbed wire? What they got from a big, prosperous continent like Europe is a piece of filthy ground behind iron gates, and dreams of freedom and education. This is nog fair and not just. We don’t deserve this. No human being deserves to live like this.  

Photo: On October 8 we had rain here. In a group chat people from the new camp exchanged photos. This expresses it better than I can with words.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:
مدتی است از آتش گرفتن کمپ موریا میگذرد بعد از یک هفته ی خیلی سخت و دردناک که مردم در خیابان آواره بودند بالاخره آنها انتقال داده شدند به یک کمپ دیگر و این انتقال به اجباز پلیس و دولت بود چون آنهایی که نمیرفتند داخل کمپ به پرونده پناهندگیه شان رسیدگی نمیشد و مردم را بدون آبو غذا گذاشتند تا آنها مجبور به رفتن به کمپی شوند که بدتر از کمپ موریا است، کمپی که زمین

Interview with Atifa on Dutch tv

All our dreams have gone up in smoke

Monday September 14, 2020

A terrible fire in Moria, again. This time much bigger and more destructive. A catastrophe leaving 13,000 people without a roof over their heads

Camp Moria was hell for me when I lived there. A hell somewhere on the outskirts of Europe that I wished did not exist. But never like this and at the cost of so many homeless people, roaming around for days in the heat, without water, food or sanitation. Who have to sleep outside, in the cold. No, this is not what I wanted, ever.

I wished and wanted that the camp did not exist and that all those people would be offered a better place. But now they are relocated to another camp with less facilities.

I feel very sad and stressed these days. It breaks my heart to see that my friends and other people that I know have lost all their possessions in the fire. They are homeless, roaming around, while I have a house. I am a powerless bystander, not able to do anything for them. 

All our dreams and wishes about Europe have gone up in smoke.

When I walk in the streets I see all those angry looks directed to me. When I go into a shop the owner orders me to leave. Only because I am a refugee.

I am not a criminal. Criminals are the people who set camp Moria on fire and made 13,000 people homeless. And now we all have to pay the price for that.

How long will this go on?

We are all waiting impatiently for the helping hands to get us out of here.

Waiting for the hands who will save is exhausting for all those mothers who have to listen to their kids crying of hunger, for all those young people who see the way to their school blocked by the police and forall those thousands of dreams, wishes and hopes stuck behind barbed wire.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

تکرار حادثه ی تلخ آتش سوزی، اینبار دردناکتر و خانمان سوزتر…

حادثه تلخی که به قیمت آواره شدن سیزده هزار نفر تمام شد.

کمپ موریا برای من یک تکه جهنم بود در گوشه ای از اروپا که آرزو داشتم یک روز وجود نداشته باشد  ولی در صورتی که همه ی آنهایی که در آنجا زندگی میکنند جایی بهتر بروند نه این پایان دردناک که مردم مجبور باشند روزها در گرما بدون آب، غذا، توالت، حمام،  و هیچ امکانات دیگری در خیابانها آواره شوند و شبها در سرما بدون سرپناهی بگذرانند و حالا مجبورند در کمپی بدتر از موریا با کمترین امکانات بروند.

این روزها خیلی غمگینم نفس کشیدن برایم سخت شده وقتی میبینم دوستانم و کسانیکه در موریا میشناختم همه چیزشان در آتش سوخت و حال آواره در خیابانند ولی من در خانه، و هیچکاری نمیتوانم برایشان انجام دهم.

تحمل این شرایط برایم خیلی سخت است.

امید و آرزوهایمان و تصواتمان از اروپا و داشتن آینده ای روشن خاکستر شد‌،

وقتی در خیابان قدم میزنم نگاه سنگین ساکنین اینجا را میبینم وقتی برای خرید به مغازه ای میروم و فروشنده مرا از آنجا بیرون میکند فقط به جرم اینکه مهاجرم…

ولی من مجرم نیستم مجرم آنهاییست که خانه ی سیزده هزار نفر را به آتش کشیدند و حالا باید همه ی ما به پای این جنایت بسوزیم.

این شرایط تاکی ادامه خواهد داشت…

و همه ی ما منتظر دستانی هستیم که بیاید و مارا از این شرایط نجات دهد.

و این انتظار کشنده است برای مادرانی که فرزندانشان از گرسنگی به گریه افتاده، برای جوانانی که پلیس راهشان را برای رفتن به مدرسه بسته و هزاران امید وآرزوهایی که پشت سیم خاردارهای کمپ حبس شده…


Thursday, July 9, 2020

I can resume my art lessons!

Home, I didn’t know what that meant anymore. The months in that small tent made me forget what home is and what it means.

Until that Thursday, June 16. That is when we heard that we would be relocated to a house. I couldn’t believe my luck. This house on Lesvos is our home now.
On the first day my parents and I started cleaning the place up. It was cramped with cockroaches.
A bathroom, a toilet and a kitchen, for all those things we don’t have to queue anymore. Also for food we don’t have to stand in that long, long line anymore.

My brother is laughing again, he is very happy and his happiness makes us happy. The house is clean now, but the cockroaches can’t be beaten.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:


این واژه  را فراموش کرده بودم ماه ها زندگی در آن خیمه ی کوچک باعث شده بود فراموش کنم خانه چیست،

تا امروز وقتی شنیدم قرار است کمپ و آن خیمه ی کوچک‌را ترک کنم از شادی در پوست خود نمیگنجیدم، 

اینجا خانه ی ماست، حمام ،توالت، و آشپزخانه داریم! دیگر مجبور نیستیم برای تهیه ی غذا ساعتها در صف بایستیم، دیگر ساعتها در صف توالت و حمام و ظرف شستن و لباس شستنمنتظر نمی مانیم، بردارم از شادی میخندد و ما هم از شادیه او شاد میشویم.

با پدر و مادرم شروع کردیم به تمیز کردن خانه، اینجا پر از سوسک است، 

خانه تمیز شد،

ولی سوسکها هنوز هم از بین نرفته اند

A decisive day

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Today was a decisive day for us. The day we were interviewed about the reasons and the story of our flight.

Fortunately, it went rather well. Now we have to wait for the decision for a while.
This day caused us al lot of stress. We coudn’t find peace of heart for weeks and had trouble focussing. The fear of being sent back to Afghanistan where it is not safe causes a lot of tension.

We risked our lives to reach Europe. We have seen very bad times and spent ten months in camp Moria.
I just hope that after so much misery we will get a positive decision.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

امروز روز سرنوشت سازی برای ما بود، روز اینترویو، خوشبختانه به خوبی آنرا گذراندیم، حالا باید مدتی را منتظر جواب آن باشیم، استرس زیادی برای این روز داشتم چند هفته ای بوداز استرس آن آرامش و تمرکز نداشتم، ترس از دیپورت و بازگشت به کشور نا امن افغانستان استرس زیادی را به من خانواده ام وارد میکند، ما برای رسیدن به اروپا روزهای بسیار سختیرا گذراندیم با خطر مرگ روبه رو شدیم، و ده ماه بسیار سخت در کمپ موریا داشتیم، امیدوارم بعد از گذراندن این همه روزهای سخت جواب مثبتی از مصاحبه مان دریافت کنیم.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Moria, residence of thousands of homeless – if you can call those tents, huts and handmade plastic
constructions a residence. Ten months of my life I spent there. I witnessed many bitter events that
made Moria into a hell for me. An unhygienic place that is dangerous for every healthy human being, let alone people who are sick, like my mother and my little brother. We went through a lot stress and pressure in the camp. Because of the recent events and the threats I did not feel safe there anymore. Life in the camp had become unbearable for me.

I had to do something. I had to save myself and my family from that situation. I pressed charges
against the boys who were after me, but it was to no avail. The police are very busy and not so keen
on receiving new cases. Also I could not prove that I was in danger.

I went to several aid agencies, but at first this did not work out either. I had almost lost hope when
via VluchtelingenWerk I got in touch with a lawyer from the Greek Council for Refugees. She got us
out in the end, because of my mum’s and brother’s medical files.

Finally, after ten months, we are now living in a normal house where we don’t have to stand in line
for the showers, the toilets and for food. We always have electricity and at night we don’t have to
eat in the dark. We have showers in a clean bathroom and we feel safe.
I am very grateful and overjoyed.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

موریا! خانه ی هزاران پناهجوی بی خانمان…

البته اگر به آن چادر ها، کلبه ها، قوطی های پلاستیکی بشود خانه گفت!…

ده ماه از زندگی ام را آنجا گذراندم، اتفاقات تلخ زیادی را با چشم خودم دیدم که آنجا را تبدیل به جهنم کرده بود، محیط بسیار آلوده ای که برای هر آدم سالمی مضربود، چه برسد به آنهایی که بیماری داشتند، مانند برادر و مادرم.

فشار و استرس زیادی را در کمپ تحمل میکردیم، کمپ برایم تبدیل به محیط ناامنی شده بود دیگر تحمل نداشتم باید کاری میکردم و خودم و خانواده ام را نجاتمیدادم، به پلیس شکایت کردم نتیجه نداد، وکلا همه وقتشان پر بود و پرونده ای قبول نمیکردند به هر سازمانی مشکلم را میگفتم جوابشان منفی بود، داشتم نا امیدمیشدم، که خبری از ترودکه ی عزیز شنیدم، وکیلی به ما معرفی کرد و پرونده ی بیماریه برادر و مادرم به جریان افتاد و به کمک آن توانستیم از کمپ خارج شویمو پس از ده ماه اکنون در خانه زندگی میکنیم دیگر برای حمام ، توالت وغذا مجبور نیستیم ساعتها در صفهای طولانی بایستیم، برق دائم داریم شبها در روشناییشام میخوریم، در محیط تمیز دوش میگیریم و تازه حس امنیت میکنیم از این بابت خیلی خوشحالم و واقعا سپاسگزارم از کمک سازمان دی سی آر و ترودکه یعزیز.

Turning 18 in Moria 

Tuesday, May 29, 2020  

When I think about me turning eighteen in three months’ time and having to leave the camp and my family, I get really frightened.

Today a friend came by. She was very worried as she has been told to leave the camp within a month as she turned eightteen and has received her own ID-card. She came here together with her brother and mother. She lost her father when she was a little girl.

My friend was already granted asylum, but her brother got a negative decision and her mother did not yet have her interview. Until you are eightteen, you can stay with your family in the camp even if you have been granted asylum. But when you come of age, you have to leave.

My friend is terribly upset and worries a lot that she will have live all by herself somewhere outside the camp. 

The same goes for another friend of mine. He lives together with his mom, who is very sick of cancer. Now he has to leave his mother too. When I heard about that, I felt a sting of pain in my heart. 

And when I think of myself turning eightteen in three months’ time and having to leave the camp and my family, I get really frightened.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

امروز یکی از دوستانم به دیدن آمد او خیلی نگران بود چون اعلام کردند افرادی که آیدی گرفتند باید کمپ را ترک کنند، او با خانوادهاش(برادر و مادرش (پدرش را بچه که بود از دست داد)) به اینجا مهاجرت کرده بود ولی اینحا مجبور است تا از خانواده اش جدا شود چونکیس برادرش ردی خورده و مادرش هنوز مصاحبه نداده، و از اینکه مجبور است خانواده اش را ترک کند و به تنهایی زندگی کند بسیارناراحت نگران است، و هچنین شنیدن خبری مشابه راجع به یکی دیگر از دوستانم که با مادرش به تنهایی اینجا زندگی میکند و اوهم مجبوراست مادرش را ترک کند در حالی که مادرش مریض است و سرطان دارد بسیار قلب مرا به درد آورده، وقتی به این فکر میکنم که کمتر ازسه ماه دیگر من هم به سن قانونی میرسم و ممکن است این اتفاق برای من هم بیوفتد بسیار نگرانم میکند.

Being here without parents 

Tuesday, May 29, 2020  

The weather was much better today than before. The rain has stopped, the sun is shining everywhere. I felt like taking a walk and called H., a friend of mine, and asked him to join me. H. is sixteen years old and has lived in camp Moria for a year now.

In Afghanistan or Iran I would never be allowed to hang out with a boy like that, it does’t fit in our culture and religion. But here in the camp my parents are okay with it, because the situation is completely different here. 

H. was very depressed. He is so desparate for his parents. The minors live in another part of camp they call ‘the Section’. There are about a thousind minors there. 

Life conditons in the Section are somewhat better than in the rest of the camp, but the children don’t get any money and the food is not always sufficient. Sometimes they have to steal to get money for food, shoes and clothing. 

Some time ago H.’s Phone was stolen, hence he could nog call his parents. Being seperated from his parents and waiting in uncertainty makes him very anxious and sombre. Mentally he is feeling very bad.

But he is not the only one in the Section who gets depressed there. Almost all the kids I know from there feel depressed. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

امروز هوا کمی بهتر از روزهای قبل بود باران بند آمده بود و خورشید نورش را همه جا میتاباند دلم کمی قدم زدن میخواست به یکی از دوستانم زنگ زدم تا باهم پیاده روی کنیم، اسمش حسین است، او شانزده سال دارد یک سال است که در کمپ موریا زندگی میکند، دلش گرفته بودو سخت دلتنگ خانواده اش بود، حسین با این سن کمش به تنهایی مهاجرت کرده بود چون شنیده بود که اروپا زیر سنها را زود پذیرش میکند ولی از وضعیت فعلی اش ناراضی بود، آنها در قسمت دیگر کمپ زندگی میکنند ،آنجارا سکشن میگوید که حدودا هزار زیر سن آنجا زندگی میکنند، شرایط زندگی در آنجا به نسبت دیگر قسمتهای کمپ بهتر است اما آنها چون زیر سن قانونی هستند پول دریافت نمیکنندبه همین خاطر اکثر آنها برای بدست آوردن پول مجبور به دزدی میشوند گوشیه حسین را از او دزدیه بودند و او نمیتوانست به خانواده اش زنگ بزند، دوری از خانواده، انتظار، و بلاتکلیفی او را سخت کلافه کرده و در شرایط روحیه بدی است نه تنها او همه ی آنهایی که در سکشن زندگی میکنند و از خانواده ی شان دور است تحت فشار روحیه زیادی قرار دارند.

Quarrels and fighting 

Monday, May 25, 2020 

I took these pictures on May 23. I was walking around camp with some kids from my photography class when we saw this. Someone had been stabbed. The police had come and taken the wounded with them. There was blood everywhere on the ground, and someone was dragging the blood-soken shirt. Only this month we have had five or six fights like this. 

I can’t bear it here anymore. Or rather, much less than before. There is no end to the ugly things happening here. Since the quarantine we are shocked by news about knife assaults, fights and murder.

We have been in quarantine for three months now. Everywhere the quarantine has been lifted, except for us here in this camp. We used to go the beach or to town for a walk. But for three months now, everything is closed and forbidden for us. 

Our asylum procedures have been on hold for months. That also causes a lot of psychological pressure. Because of all this misery, people can no longer suppress their irritation and anger. They have little resilience, they have a short fuse so to speak. 

The smallest things can result in big arguments that often escalate. Discussions, arguments, quarrels and fights in the long lines for food, at the showers, the toilets and so forth – it happens all the time. 

These things have changed Moria into hell for us.

Our hell.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

دیگر تحمل اینجا برایم خیلی سخت تر از قبل شده، اتفاقات بد تمامی ندارد، چاقو کشی، دعوا،قتل،از روزی که

کمپ بسته شده و کسی اجازه رفتو آمد به بیرون کمپ را ندارد این اتفاقات چند برابر شده، قرنطینه سه ماه شد، عمه جا برای دیگران باز شده ولی برای ماهنوز هم کمپ بسته است و کسی به سختی اجازه خروج را دارد، قبل از اینها ما برای گذراندن اوقات کلاسهای مختلف شرکت میکردیم برای پیاده روی به ساحلو شهر میرفتیم ولی در این سه ماه درهای همه جا به روی ما بسته است، کارهای پناهندگی ما متوقف شده و فشار زیادی را تحمل میکنیم اینها تاثیرات خیلیبدی روی اعصاب و روان ما گذاشته باعث شده تا اکثر مردم اینجا کنترلی بر اعصاب خود نداشته باشد و با کوچکترین اتفاق و یا حرفی دعواهای بزرگی رخ دهد،هر روزه سر صف غذا صف حمام، توالت، محل شستشو،دکتر و صفهای دیگر بحث و درگیری اتفاق می افتد بین مردم، این اتفاقها باعث شده موریا تبدیل بهجهنم شود برای ما.


Monday, May 11, 2020 

I don’t dare going to my hangout place.

Today is Monday. I haven’t been outside for a week. 

I had a date with a girl friend to go to Hope Project today, but yesterday evening we heard that the quarantine has been extended again.

Art classes will not start for another month. I don’t have any hope anymore to ever leave this camp. 

I am also afraid to go to my hangout. I think of the girls who have been raped. What a painful and horrifying experience. I wonder what they are going through mentally. I am afraid it will happen to me too. 

And it is not possible to go to the police out of fear for something like that. They would say: come back when it has happened. 

I feel so cramped and lonely. As if I am suffocating. 

Such a life I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. 

Pessimism is rooting deeper and deeper within me. The negative thoughts are taking over and I cannot control them. On top of that, the returning headaches make me crazy. 

I waited for better times with enthousiasm and impatience, but my hope has turned into despair. 

I am at the end of my hope. 

It is harder than ever to bear life in this camp. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

امروز دوشنبه است نزدیک یک هفته از خانه بیرون نرفته ام قرار گذاشته بودم با دوستم امروز برویم

hope project

ولی شب قبلش شنیدم که قرنطینه باز هم تمدید شده و کلاس نقاشی هم برای یک ماه دیگر بسته خواهد بود، دیگر امید ندارم از اینکه دیگر بتوانم از کمپ خارج شوم، دیگر به خلوتگاهم هم میترسم بروم، به دخترانی فکر میکنم که به آنها تجاوز شده چه درد روحی ای را تحمل میکنند، از اینکه نکند این بلا سر من بیاید بشدت ترسیده ام کاری هم نمیتوانم بکنم اگر به پلیس بگویم میگویند برو هر وقت بلا سرت آمد بیا شکایت کن، چقدر احساس خفگی و تنهایی میکنم من انتظار این زندگی را نداشتم امیدم خیلی کم رنگ شده است افکار منفی دارند در ذهنم  قدرت میگیرند نمیتوانم کنترلشان کنم سردرد کلافه ام کرده، من منتظر روز خوبی بودم ولی تبدیل شد به یک روز دردناک، تحمل این کمپ برایم سخت تر از قبل شده.

Going out again?

Friday, May 8, 2020

I have not been out for two or three days. I don’t feel safe and I am rather tense. My headaches have worsened. 
A girl from my art class sent me a message that the quarantine will be removed on Monday and that we can start going to class again!

I was so happy to hear this. I cannot stand it here anymore. I get so happy knowing that I will be able to spend my days outside camp and pick up painting. 

I’m getting in the mood again.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

دو سه روزی است که از خانه بیرون نرفته ام احساس خطر میکنم فشار روحیه زیادی را تحمل میکنم سردردم هم این روزها شدت گرفته، یکی ازهمکلاسی هایم پیام داده که دوشنبه قرنطینه ی کمپ تمام میشود و کلاس نقاشی هم باز میشود از شنیدن آن خیلی خوشحالم دیگر تحمل کمپ خیلی سختشده از اینکه میتوانم روزهایم را خارج از کمپ بگذارنم و دوباره تابلوهای نقاشی بکشم باعث شده تا روحیه ام خیلی بهتر شود.

Chased by boys

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 

In camp Moria

Today the girl next door stopped by. She told me something disturbing. She said I had better look after myself, as her brother heard that some boys are after me. From the way she described it, I got a hunch who they are. I thought to myself: things aren’t bad enough… 

I suspect one of the boys is the guy who asked me out some time ago, which I refused. He was insulted and threatened to harm me if I did not go with him.

I did not take it seriously, but to be honest I am a little worried now. Especially because I heard about women and girls and even children being harrassed and raped. The police doesn’t do a thing. It seems as if they don’t care much. 

I talked about it with my parents, they are also worried – but what can they do?I can only hope that the quarantaine is lifted soon so that I can go to my classes again. That is the only way to get a little bit away from the distress and the dangers of the camp. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

امروز دختر همسایه به خانه ما آمده بود اسم او سیمین است،خبر های خوبی نگفت، میگفت بیشتر مراقب خودم باشم برادرش میگوید چند پسر

چند روزیست مرا زیر نظر گرفته مشخصات یکی از آنها را گفت حدس زدم چه کسی باشد، ای وای این هم به دغدغه های من اضافه شد، به

چند ماه پیش فکر میکنم پسری که  بمن پیشنهاد دوستی داد ولی من آن را رد کردم تهدید هم کرده بود که اگر با او دوست نشوم بلای سرم می

آورد جدی اش نگرفتم، اما این روزها استرس زیادی دارم چون خبرهای تجاوز به دختران و حتی کودکان در کمپ زیاد به گوشم میخورد پلیس

هم هیچ واکنشی به آن نشان نمیدهد، امیدوارم زودتر قرنطینه تمام شود تا از محیط پر دغدغه و خطرناک کمپ دور شوم با شرکت در کلاسها.

Hotter every day

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 

Children cooling off 

Summer is coming and it is getting hotter and hotter in our small tents. It becomes harder to endure the heat when staying inside. 

Also, the showers are busier than they used to be, nothing is changing for the better. 

The hot weather induced my headaches again. And that makes it hard for me to concentrate. 

I go to my hangout, far from the masses and the noise of the camp. 

The blazing sun burns my head. There the headache is again. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:


 تابستان هستیم و هوا گرم شده خیمه های کوچک ما این روزها بشدت داغ میشوند و تحمل ماندن در آن بسیار سخت استحمامها هم

شلوغتر از قبل شده اند و وضعیت دشوارتر شده با گرمتر شدن هوا سردرد های من هم شروع شده سخت میتوانم تمرکز کنممیروم به پاتوقم

خلوتگاهی که دور از جمعیت و صداهای کمپ است، آفتاب بشدت میتابد و باز هم سردرد…


Monday, May 4, 2020

Inside our tent 

These are terrible days for me. I have a very hard time with the uncertainty, the quarantaine and because I am sick. Mentally I don’t feel well at all, more like a wreck. And now, on top of that, I have a cold that doesn’t seem to go away. My loud couging keeps everybody awake at night.

My father stands in line for food all day long and my mother is busy washing the dishes and the laundry in a confined space with little water.

I turn on the electric kettle. My father enters with the food. He can see I look terrible and it saddens him that he cannot make me some soup. He brought me honey and lemon to add to the hot water. 

Soon after that my mother arrives. She is dead tired and her back is aching. She has trouble sitting and even lying down. At the same time she is worried about my health. It makes her sad that, because of the shortage of this and that, she cannot cook me a decent meal to give me some strength. 

It has been raining non-stop for two days now. In this weather, and the state I am in now, I cannot stand in line for hours to see a doctor.

God! When will this exhausting time finally be over?

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

این روزها بشدت سخت میگذرند بلاتکلیفی، بیماری، قرنطینه ،اینها همه فشار زیادی به من وارد میکند از لحاظ روحی اصلا حال خوبی ندارم اما بیماریجسمی هم به آن اضافه شده سرماخوردگیه ای که گریبان مرا گرفته و خوب نمیشود سرفه های بلندی که شبها آرامش را از همه مان گرفته، پدرم صبح تاشب صف غذاست و مادرم همه روزه مشغول شستن لباس و ظرف در یک مکان کوچک با آب خیلی کم است، چایساز را روشن میکنم تا کمی آب جوشبخورم پدرم آمده غذا آورده مرا با حال بد میبیند و ناراحت میشود از اینکه نمیتواند برایم سوپ تهیه کند او لیمو و عسل آورده تا با آب جوش بخورم،مادرم خسته از شستشو برگشته کمرش بشدت درد میکند به سختی میتواند بنشیند و دراز بکشد و نگران و ناراحت من است که از کمبود امکانات نمیتواندغذاهای مقوی برایم بپزد، دو روز است باران میبارد نمیتوانم با این حال بد زیر باران ساعتها صف دکتر منتظر بمانم، خدایا این روزهای سخت پس کیتمام میشود.


Friday, May 1, 2020 

Today I watched the children around me playing. With wood and old stuff from everywhere and nowhere they made themselves some toys. 

They look content and happy, but they have no clue that the stuff they use could be contaminated with the coronavirus. They made kites using twigs that they broke off the trees and garbage bags that they found in the trash. They make bubbles using empty water bottles and they turn fruit boxes into cars. 

This they do every day and they are happy for it. I can see that they enjoy the smallest of things.  

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

نشستم به بازیه بچه ها نگاه میکنم به چوبها و وسایل کهنه ای که نمیدانم از کجا پیدایشان کردند و به عنوان اسباب بازی از آنها استفاده میکنند و خوشحالند که آنها را دارند به این فکر نمیکنند که ممکن است آنها آلوده و عامل بیماری باشند. با چوبهایی که از دست کنده اند و پلاستیکهای زباله بادبادک درست میکنند، با بطری های خالیه آب حباب ساز مسازند با جعبه های خالیه میوه ماشین درست میکنند و تنها سرگرمیه آنها همین هاست و دلخوشند به همین چیزهای کوچک.

The jungle 

Thursday, April 30, 2020 
The place in the jungle where I often go to relax

These days I often wonder what the future holds for us. What will be our fate? How long will we roam and wander around? I have nightmares about being sent back. The fear of ISIS and the Taliban does not leave me alone anymore. 

All the time I try to distract myself with positive thoughts about my future and my goals. I walk to the ‘jungle’, that is the area surrounding the camp. As the official camp is full, people have built their own places there. I often go there for a walk to chase away negative thoughts, but mostly to kill time. 

I see houses that were built out of wood and leaves in a very creative way. Wonderful, I think to myself. I pass clay ovens that people made themselves to bake bread. Then I think: how creative and stunningly beautiful. I stroll by with a smile on my face. 

A few metres ahead I suddenly smell an incredible stink and I see a heap of garbage that annuls and completely spoils the beauty of the trees. I leave that place quickly and head for the quiet spot where I often go to relax.

Again, I do my best to think positive and remind myself of beautiful things. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

این روزها به این فکر میکنم که سرنوشت ما چی میشه تا کی آواره و سرگردان خواهیم ماند و کابوس دیپورت به کشور خودمان و ترس از داعش و طالبان آرامش را از من گرفته، خودم رو درگیر فکر کردن به آینده و اهدافم میکنم تا کمی این افکار منفی دور بشم، میرم جنگلهای اطراف قدم زدن تا کمی اوغاتم سپری شود خونه هایی رو میبینم که با چوب و برگای درست با چه خلاقیتی درست شدند و کوره های کوچکی که مردم برای نان پختن ساختن واقعا شگفت زده ام میکنن ولی کمی جلوتر که میرم با انبوعی تز زباله و بوی بد روبه رو میشم که زیبایی رو از این جنگل گرفتند، از اونجا دور میشم و

میرم خلوتگاه خودم با خودم خلوت میکنم و سعی میکنم کمی انرژیه مثبت از طبیعت دریافت کنم.


Thursday, April 23, 2020 
My brother watching other kids play 

The days follow each other and we are still waiting for good news or something nice to happen. To stay in the camp all day is becoming harder and harder. If I could go out, I would restart my painting and English classes. How long can we keep this up? My brother is asking all the time: ‘When are we going home, so that I can go to school?’ Unfortunately I have no answer. 

A third group, vulnerable people from the camp, would be transferred to camps and hotels on the mainland because of the coronavirus. But they announced on a loudspeaker that for now this plan was cancelled. We don’t know if someone in the camp caught the virus, but we did see a few ambulances entering camp after this announcement. Everybody in the camp was talking about it. We don’t know what is going on exactly. I can only hope that all refugees will be relocated as soon as possible. 

Today is also the start of the Ramadan. A month in which we don’t eat or drink anything from early in the morning until after sunset, in order to feel and experience how poor people live. A sort of compassion. But who has compassion with us, refugees? 


Friday, April 17, 2020

It was at about two o’clock at night when we all woke up because there was screaming at the neigbours’. My little brother cried out: ‘Fire! Fire!’ We all thought that there was another fire. We ran outside, panicking. Then we saw our neighbour, who screamed: ‘It was a thief!’ 

The neighbour told us that he came back from the toilet when he saw a strange man getting into their tent. When the man saw him coming, he ran off with a knife in his hand. 

We went to the police all together, but the policeman said we had to come back in the morning. We talked for a while with the neighbours and then went back to our tents. 

At around five in the morning my father got out again to get a waiting ticket for the supermarket. There is only one supermarket in the camp where 20,000 people do their shopping. My father came back for lunch. He had number 60. 

At around three in the afternoon he went back to the line at the supermarket to see if it was his turn. It is now five thirty and my father is not back yet. 

It is raining and it’s also a bit chilly. We are very worried about my dad having to be in such busy places for so long. Especially in this time, when everybody tries to stay inside to avoid catching the coronavirus. 

I myself don’t feel so well today and I am afraid that I have caught the coronavirus. Tomorrow early in line for the doctor’s. It is going to be a long wait, with a lot of worrying and uncertainty. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

ساعت تقریبا دو شب بود همه خواب بودیم که بازم با صداهای دادو بیداد همسایه بیدار شدیم برادر کوچیکم با ترس از خواب پرید و داد زد آتیش آتیش ما همه فکر کردیم بازم آتش سوزیه ولی رفتیم بیرون دیدیم مرد همسایه داد میزد دزد دزد اون میگفت وقتی از توالت برگشتم دیدم یه غریبه داشت داخل خیمه ی مان میشد که تا اون رو دید چاقو بدست فرار کرد رفتیم دنبال پلیس ولی اون گفت فردا صبح بیاین اداره پلیس پیگیری کنید بعد از چند ساعت گفتگو با همسایه ها همگی برگشتیم داخل خیمه ها ساعت ۵ صبح بود که بابام رفت فروشگاه کمپ تا برای خرید نوبت بگیره و نوبتش شماره ی شصت بود (چون ما اجازه خروج از کمپ رو نداریم و کمپ فقط یک فروشگاه داره که جمعیت بیست هزار نفریه کمپ از یک فروشگاه خرید میکنن و بشدت شلوغه).

بابام بعد از برگشتن از صف غذا و خوردن ناهار ساعت ۱۵بعد از ظهر بود که رفت فروشگاه(چون هنوز نوبتش نرسیده بود) الان ساعت ۶و نیم بعداز ظهره بارون شدیدی میباره و هوا کمی سرد شده ولی هنوز بابام از فروشگاه برنگشته و ما خیلی نگرانشیم که مجبوره ساعتها توی مکانهای شلوغ منتظر بمونه تو این وضعیت خطرناکی که همه تو خونه هاشونن که به ویروس کرونا مبتلا نشن از یک طرف من هم مریض شدم و نگرانم که به ویروس کرونا مبتلا نشده باشم باید فردا صبح زود برم و تو صف طولانیه دکتر منتظر باشم


Tuesday, April 14, 2020
I made these paintings at Hope Project. 

A new day with the shadow of death hanging over the camp as a vulture. 

I want to do something fun. I pick up my sketchbook – I have almost run out of blank paper. I think about the time before the coronavirus. In the mornings, I used to go to the school that was set on fire in March. I think of ‘Hope Project’, where I used to go in the afternoons. There, I got so absorbed in painting that I forgot about our misery. 

I think about the past, the time before we fled. My interest in art grew every day. I wanted to engage in drawing, photography, fashion design. I had great plans, I wanted to make the world more beautiful with my art. 

But life also showed me its cruel side. We had to flee. Along the way I experienced some terrible things, and fate brought us to Moria. But even here I continued with my plans. Step by step I proceeded. 

After all we have been through, this terrifying virus will not be the end, life will show us its beautiful side again. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

شروع یک روز دیگه در کمپ بازم روز مرگی. دلم یک اتفاق تازه میخواد فکر می کنم که چیکار کنم میرم سراغ دفترم که نقاشی بکشم دیگه صفحه خالی هم ندارن.  یاد قبل کرونا میوفتم یاد مدرسه‌ای که هر روز نصف روزم با کلاس هایش سپری میشد که آتیش گرفت و یاد Hope project که هر روز از ساعت ۲ تا ۶ شب اونجا بودیم و اونقدر غرق نقاشی کشیدن بودم که ذهنم خالی از هر دغدغه ای می شد.


Friday, April 10, 2020 
Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-atribuut; de bestandsnaam is dagboek-4-1.jpeg
After the 17 March fire 

My father woke us up this morning, he was scared: ‘Get out quickly everybody, there is a fire!’ We hurried out of the tent. 

The fire could be extuinguished quickly. Two tents near us burnt down completely. The tents are made of plastic and fabric, very inflammable. 

This time there are no wounded, but on March 17 a girl got burnt completely, I saw her. Since then my little brother and I are scared and stressed out even when we see smoke. 

After I recovered a little bit, I went to shower. There was only cold water, and halfway through even that stopped. And my dad come back from the foodline without lunch: it was finished. We filled our stomachs with bread and sugared tea. 

Still, in between all those ugly events a cheerful thing happened: our neighbours told us they got their refugee status. We are happy for them.  

Later I drank tea with my mom when my little brother came running in to the tent: ‘Mom, mom, my friend says another fire will come and we will all be burnt!’ 

How or when will we leave this misery behind us?

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

رسیدیم به بازار کمپ شلوغترین نقطه ی اینجا مردم مدام در حال رفتو آمدن هستن. کمتر کسی از اونا ماسک و دستکش دارن.
و میبینیم که روی دیوار ها اعلامیه هایی در باره ویروس کرونا و راههای پیشگیری از اون نوشتن همه میخونن و رد میشن.

Playing kids

Thursday, April 9, 2020 
Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-atribuut; de bestandsnaam is dagboek-3-1.jpeg

Today I went for a walk with my friend Nazanin. Because of corona we have to stay in the camp. Before the corona regulations, I often went to places outside the camp. I followed courses in photography, art and English at an NGO.

Nazanin told me her mother has not been well lately. Her father is deceased. Nazanin is scared to death she will also lose here mother. 

We passed the market. It is busy here, people are passing eachother at short distance. I see only few face masks and gloves. Posters about corona and precautions are everywhere. People read them and just follow their way. 

And playing children everywhere. A lot of them play marbles. The children touch eachother’s stuff. They pick up dirty things and play with them. And then they eat something without washing their hands. We often say something about it to the parents. But they tell us they feel helpless and desperate. They cannot keep their children inside, because staying in the tent they get bored to death. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

رسیدیم به بازار کمپ شلوغترین نقطه ی اینجا مردم مدام در حال رفتو آمدن هستن. کمتر کسی از اونا ماسک و دستکش دارن.
و میبینیم که روی دیوار ها اعلامیه هایی در باره ویروس کرونا و راههای پیشگیری از اون نوشتن همه میخونن و رد میشن.

No water from the tap

Tuesday April 7, 2020 
Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-atribuut; de bestandsnaam is dagboek-2.jpeg
How can we follow the hygiene regulations if the camp is so filthy and we often have no water? 

This morning I went to the toilets to wash my hands and brush my teeth, but the water was cut off. I stood in line for hours to get drinking water. At 9.30 I could brush my teeth. 

Every day the water is cut off for like four or five hours. Sometimes the whole day, and nobody knows how it happens. I am worried that we cannot wash our hands regularly. And how can we follow regulations if there is no water? My mother is constantly afraid that we will get infected with the corona virus. 

At five o’clock, we had water again. Without water, the toilets become very dirty very quickly. The stink is unbearable. Used plastic bottles everywhere. 

When I went to the toilet I suddenly got very afraid to catch some disease or other, not to speak of corona. I wanted to get out there as quickly as possible.

Tonight, I decided to brush my teeth near the tent.

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

برای من خیلی نگران کننده ست که نتونم دستامو چندبار در روز بشورم و چجوری بدون آب بهداشت رو رعایت کنیم.
مادرم خیلی نگرانه ماست تا در این محیط آلوده و شلوغ کمپ به ویروس کرونا مبتلا نشیم

Going home without food

Monday, April 6, 2020
Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-atribuut; de bestandsnaam is dagboek-1.jpg

I am waiting in front of a hall where women can take away their lunch. This hall is not big, and when it is filled up they close it and you have to wait until they open it again. It is tremendously busy here, there is no way to keep distance, not even an inch. The women standing in line talk about the corona virus all the time. They are worried because they cannot take precautions. But we still have to gather here for food, we don’t have much choice.

I have been waiting for an hour in front of the hall, but the food was finished. The police locked the gate and no one could enter anymore. It happens often that they run out of food and you have to go back to your tent without lunch.

Now I am forced to go and buy eggs on credit. We get money at the end of the month, but we cannot touch it because we are not allowed to leave the camp. 

Fragments (in Farsi) of our WhatsApp conversations with Atifa:

یک ساعت پشت در منتظر بودم متاسفانه غذا تمام شد. وقتی آن سالن پر شود در را قفل میکنند و کسی را راه نمیدهند.
در بیشتر مواقع غذا تمام میشود و افرادی که بیرون منتظر میشوند مجبورند بدون غذا برگردند.