Starting a new life

Two brothers from Afghanistan agreed to talk to us on Thursday afternoon. Sayed Zabihullah Walizai (aged 20) and his  younger brother Sayed Zainullah Walizai (aged 16) came to Germany from Kabul. They arrived with their family of six one year ago.

- How long are you going to stay?

Hopefully forever if possible.

- What do you do here?

Sayed Zabihullah – I’m a student, first I want to learn the German language to communicate with the Germans and  later I’d like to study Computer Science and become an IT specialist.

Sayed Zainullah – I want to learn  German too, now I mostly do that and later I’ll will decide what  to do in the future. When I have already learnt the language I hope to work in the medical service, maybe I’ll become a doctor. Who knows.

Our parents also study German and when they reach level B1, they we’ll get a work permit. As a literate family, my father is a jet engine engineer with an MA from a Turkish university, my mom is a physiotherapist, they want to work  for Germany. So now they study to find the way to work for the local community, Germany or maybe Europe.


- Why did you decide to come to Germany?

Germany was, as we’d heard, a good country for refugees. Now  I think that it’s even better since the Germans behave well towards refugees. They take care of them, give them good homes,  good salary, offer many facilities and send their children to school. Refugees are happy with the German regularity and order.

In Afghanistan  the political and social situation is disastrous, constant attacks, bombings… People can’t feel safe there. It’s good for us to be here.

- How do you like it here?

Sayed Zainullah – It’s a place of high security. Back home in Afghanistan every day on the radio or on TV I heard of death, injuries, bombings, attacks. There is nothing like that here. I’m very happy because when I watch the news I hear only good things, good news.

- So you feel safe here?

Yes. It’s all about being safe. When you feel safe, your life is good. In Afghanistan our life was so dim. We’d like the situation to change but there is no great hope and I think we’ll never go back to Afghanistan as it’s getting worse and worse.

- But if the situation changes?

Sayed Zainullah – If it changes we’ll decide what to do. We’ll choose then what will be better for us. If living in Afghanistan will be better, we’ll go for it but if staying in Germany will seem to be better, we’ll stay here. It’s a difficult decision cause you don’t really know when it happens.

- Do you have any family or Afghani friends here?

We have no family or friends from Afghanistan but we have made friends with people from many countries like Germany, our neighbors are German, Canada, USA, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Poland and the Czech Republic. We enjoy our life here.

- How do people react when they see you?

There are different kinds of people. Even in our homeland, actually in every country, there are the bad ones. Here in Germany we meet people that are kind to us, we are happy here  but sometimes we hear from other refugees that they have experienced some hostility.

When sometimes I play football with the Germans, I really enjoy it, I can see that like 80% of the people are truly friendly, the others are not, but you can’t say it’s like that only here. It happens everywhere.

- How did you get to Germany?

We were for one year in Istanbul, Turkey, we’d been given Turkish visas and got there by plane, then we got to Greece by boat, travelled by train or on foot  through Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria. On the way we had both good and bad experience as we had no visas to cross any of European borders. We actually did it illegally and reached Germany after 2 weeks.

- How did you leave Turkey?

Some people helped us but they wanted lots of money. They provided us with a boat but it was in terrible condition, we could have drowned like many other people.

- Weren’t you afraid?

Yes, of drowning,  of dying on the way…

- How did the smugglers treat you?

Those were bad people, they had  made  a lot of promises but never kept them. And we paid them loads of money…We had sold our house to come to Germany,  we had a comfortable life in Kabul, a good home, good cars,  good jobs,  but then the situation became very bad for our father and mother too.

- Why did you actually leave Afghanistan?

Our father was a military employee,  he was quite famous  and it was very dangerous for him to stay. When he started to have serious problems, he decided to leave the country. We lived in the capital city, Kabul then  but we had been unable to  move around freely for 10 years because of the Taliban.

- Did you choose Görlitz to live by yourselves?

We just came to Germany.  First we were in a camp in Heim and there they found a home for us in Görlitz.

Sayed Zainullah – It’s not really about where we live but how safe we are. Görlitz is just a safe place to be.


Najla Elmajri, whose name means “big eyes,” has come to Germany  from Libya with her husband. Now she is a mother of a baby daughter and has been here for 14 months.

- How long will you stay?

I don’t know if the authorities allow us to stay. We only had an interview in October now we have to wait and they will decide for us.

- How does it make you feel?

Very bad because I can’t plan anything in my life. I have to wait. Wait for the post. If it comes, I check if they allow us to stay, then we’ll look for a lawyer… but  if they don’t, we’ll have to go back to our country and start again.

- What will happen if you return?

They will kill me. Really… They will kill me. One person  in my family joined ISIS/ Daesh. He went to Syria to kill people, got injured and came back home and tried to kill me many times. I wear trousers, I live a modern life. He said I was a shame to my family. He’d been told that if he  killed me he’d go to heaven. So he tried. Before I got married I’d talked to my husband and we agreed that I could work, wear trousers, travel alone, drive a car so he tried to kill my husband, too. That is my story.

My life and my husband’s life are at risk. I tried to change. I changed my clothes, gave up driving a car but I couldn’t change the way I think, what I believe in. They say a woman must stay at home and always say YES to everything men want, wear black. I have to work, I finished my studies to do something for my country.

- What did you study?

I obtained an MA in biomedical science but I’m not allowed to work because I work with men. I’m a shame. My family – my mother, father, sister and some of my brothers respect my choices. But the others and my cousin told my brothers to stop me from being so independent. They think I should be like other women: stay at home, look after children… My cousin called me  bad names, accused me of some really shameful behaviour.

- How did your husband react?

My husband tried to convince them saying I had to be respected, I had to work. I got trained by WHO and  went to Jordan to get a professional diploma in infection and quality control. I am well qualified and could do something for my country but they say only men can do it.

- What does your husband do?

My husband is a manager in a high school and we met when he came to the Ministry of Health where I used to work to look for some help for his friend. We then talked and talked…

- How did you get to Germany?

We had to go to an embassy in Tunisia because all embassies had been closed  in Libya and there we  got a French visa for 3 months. We went there by car, first my husband, then me. I followed him. Then we took a plane to Paris and from Paris to Berlin we travelled by train.

- You were pregnant at that time?

No, I got pregnant in Berlin. We had been trying for 6 months before but probably due to this oppressive situation nothing happened. We even underwent some  medical fertility test but doctors said everything was fine.

- Why did you choose Germany to stay?

I don’t know. For me it could be anywhere outside my country. But my husband had met some German people and said they were kind and hardworking. He told me I could work there as he knows I really like it.

- Do the Germans  behave the way  you’d expected them to?

I’ve met a lot of German people both men and women. There are some who don’t know us, our culture, religion, don’t like us but the others respect us, our privacy. Our neighbors are so nice and supportive. They always offered help when I was pregnant, showed understanding during Ramadan. But if someone doesn’t like us, it’s not a problem for me. There are bad people in my country too, everywhere. 

- How do you feel here?

I’ve  been  looking for a safe life, so I have found some peace and quiet here. But I’m worried about the future. I’m quite old now but what about my baby? Is it ok or not? If they allow us to stay, it will be good for her but if they don’t… I don’t know. I haven’t got any plans for the future.

I think some day my baby daughter will be proud of me because for 2 years I tried to stay in my country and change something but when your life is at risk you can’t do anything. Even if you have money. Money doesn’t help when your life is in danger.

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