[i] Welcome Mrs. [Name], here in Bochum. We are here in the association Humanitarian Solidarity Middle East. In the Westenfelder Straße. Today we will conduct an interview together. I am [name], first chairman of the Humanitarian Solidarity Middle East, who is interviewing you today.

[r] Welcome,

[i] in the project Oral History in Europe. Today is 4 January 2019. I hope that it will be a good year full of love and peace for everyone, with everything they want for themselves and their families and children.

[r] Inschallah.

[i] Please introduce yourself.

[r] I am [name], born in 1975.

I live in Halab. I come from Syria, a Halab resident, I experienced my childhood there, it was very beautiful. With my family, I have four brothers, boys, and a sister. That was a very beautiful family. Unfortunately, there was also sadness. My dad died when I was little. I was nine years old. That is something that makes me very sad. Sure, we learned. Mama raised us, invested a lot of strength. Until we learned and got married. I got married and moved to another town, Homs County. I have three daughters and my husband who live in Homs. At the moment I have my daughter here. And the two daughters live with the man in Homs. One is 19, the other is 14 and my daughter who is here with me is 13. Excuse me, my middle daughter is 15 years old.

Allah protect her.

Allah keep you.

[i] Tell me a little about Halab, the beautiful Halab.

Yes, it is a very beautiful place. Everything is beautiful, the people, the industrial estate, a well-known place. I have a lot of nice memories there. I wish I could go there again.

[i] You moved to Homs because of the marriage?

I got married in 1999, 1998.

[i] Young.

[r] Yes.

[i] [She laughs.]

[r] I was 23 years old when I got married.

Did you choose your husband or […] ?

[r] Yes.

Sure, he’s my cousin.

[i] Yes, a family.

[i] Hopefully you will stay together.

[r] God save you.

[i] And you tell me that you learned in Halab.

I studied in Halab until secondary school. In secondary school I studied art.

[i] Beautiful.

After that I learned, about two years primary school, third [three?] grade after that I got married and moved to Homs.

Yes, and how did you spend your youth? How did you grow up, the phase between childhood and youth?

What I told you. My childhood was very beautiful, be it with my family, my friends. Up to now I have maintained our contact despite the many years. We were children in the settlement.

[i] Yes.

So far we have had contact, of course also with our relatives. The relationship cannot be forgotten in any case.

[i] Yes.

[r] Yes, phase by phase [?]. Mama raised us and we got older. But for her we are still small.

Is the mother still alive?

Yes, Hamidullah, she is still in Hallipo [Aleppo?] with my siblings.

[i] Yes, good. My sister is here, definitely, she moved to Germany, family reunion. And now, if God wants her to move in next to me, I’ll try. Because she lives in another city. I wish her that she can move to Bochum or to Essen.

[i] Inschallah, um […] what have you brought us today? So that we can start and discuss it? What did you bring us today?

[r] I have nothing. I have my wedding ring, it has memory value. It was] for me, from my daughter.

[i] Yes.

Everything I left in Syria was given to me by my daughter, I can’t do without it.

Yes, very nice, I watch you all the time, turning it. What is the reason why you came to Bochum? Why did you come to Bochum?

Sure, it’s a quiet city and people are very kind. When we lived in the camp, it was very likeable German people who helped us a lot. Also at the moment, where I live, I have German neighbours. No matter how much I tell you about it, I can describe it.

Yes, we can talk about it further. But I want to know why you came to Germany. Why Bochum, what are the reasons?

[r] Because of the circumstances.

[i] War.

The circumstances of the war. I was forced to come with my daughter. At first I was supposed to [come] with my husband and daughters, but there were circumstances. They wanted to come with me, they couldn’t. I wanted a family reunion. My residence permit was valid for one year and so far I haven’t made it. I haven’t seen them for about three to four years.

Do you contact them?

[r] Sure.

Yes, who made the decision to flee the war?

That was a spontaneous decision between my husband and his brothers. And there was my husband’s brother, he also sent his wife with me.

[i] Yes.

Yes, we left, they wanted to do some things because of the son of my husband’s brother, 18 years old. He was arrested. They wanted us to flee first and follow them. We didn’t succeed, he’s not out. He couldn’t come and neither could they. I have the hope that I can bring my daughters and my husband to me.

[i] Inschallah, hopefully your dream will come true.

[i] Tell me, how was the journey?

The journey, an unforgettable journey, because I was very tormented. My journey, I will never forget it.

Yes, were you travelling with a group?

We were in a group. So far, they tell me, “Let your husband and daughters come with smugglers.” I can’t, because of what I saw. I wouldn’t wish anyone the tiredness I’ve already experienced. I have fled by land, first by sea. We stayed at sea for three days, supposedly in a yacht [a big boat?]. Shortly before Italy there were so many waves. Then they decided to send us back to Greece. We were there for a while. We couldn’t take the ship again. We had to go by land. You know the areas we have to take by land. Very difficult, we had many difficulties in the woods, I fell over. I survived a lot. We got lost in the woods with the group, my daughter and me. And in Greece we were in hospital, I with my daughter. We were tortured a lot [tortured?]. My daughter had a convulsion and my feet were swollen. They got very fat, my feet were really swollen. Even the doctors couldn’t leave me [?]. They sent me to the hospital and told me, God forbid, if I had come later, they would have amputated my feet, both of them because they were so fat.

[i] Of what? From running, I fell down in the forest and was often hurt. That means I was tortured a lot on the land.

[i] The feeling of fear.

[r] Certainly. Especially when we left the forest, in Turkey. When it got dark and until the day came we walked in the forest. We walked between stones and thorns, fell down and were tormented a lot. I with the group. Thank God, in any case.

Did you help each other?

Certainly, when I fell down, immediately, my daughter. I fell several times. Whoever was with us in the group helped me already. We helped each other. We were all one hand, thank God, until we arrived in Germany.

Have you ever regretted coming here?

[r] No, I haven’t regretted it. We have come. Maybe I want to go back because of the family, the people and our homeland. But here you are safe. There is war. We came here and found security.

After the difficulties and torment you have overcome, do you think that you are a person who has gone through many difficult stages? You saved your daughter.

Yes, I didn’t expect to make it here alive and under these circumstances. So far I often think about how I have overcome all this.

[i] Yes. You are a strong and courageous woman. You performed a rescue operation. Above all, you were forced to do it in these circumstances.

[r] Certainly.

[i] You didn’t choose that.

[r] No, I didn’t choose that.

[i] The war.

Not my decision, the war forced everyone.

[i] Yes, you have contact with your family?

Yes, Hamidullah, I talk to my parents and daughters every day. I talk to my daughters and my husband.

[i] Yes.

And they are very sad, they want to see me. They haven’t seen me for a long time. [She starts crying.]

Sure, I don’t want to put you in a sad atmosphere. It builds up when you’re separated from your family.

[r] Sorry.

[i] Separated from your children and your life, do you feel that you will meet them soon?

[r] I hope so. I hope so.

Yes, you’ve got a residence permit.

[r] I have a year’s residence, after that I filed an objection, he was rejected. And now they’ve allowed me a six-month stay. Now I have a rejection again. They gave me three months. In a period of one month they want to give me a two-year stay. But I wish to bring my family here.

When the circumstances improve and the war is over, do you want to go back to your home? Now you have been living here for three and a half years, you are out of the war situation to Europe, to Germany, do you want them to come to you, what do you want?


I want to go back to Syria, there is my family, my people, my siblings and mum. I want to see everyone when it gets calmer.

Yes, tell me something, tell me about Halab of Homs, how did you get married, tell me about your life, your stories, do you have friends?

I have friends, sure, I told you, Halab is very beautiful, Homs too, but Halab is close to my heart. I love Halab more, even though my husband and daughter are in Homs. You go back to your roots. I want to see it again. And my friends, I told you, we have contact. Also my girlfriends, they have moved here to Essen, my girlfriend for 30 years. We met here again.

[i] Oh.

Even her name is similar to my name.

[i] Her name is like your name?

[r] [name].

[i] [name] and [name].

[r] Yes. Thank God.

[i] The names live.

[r] Thank you, my love.

[i] Is your mama all right?

[r] Hamidullah.

[i] Are you talking to her?

Yes, thank God, God give her strength and health.

She gave you a lot, you lost your father, she raised you.

She invested a lot.

[i] She educated you, something good.


[i] Yes, it’s not an easy thing, you tell them you have brothers and sisters, boys. Allah is to protect you. You’re all married.

Yes, Hamidullah.

[i] Yes.

The four boys are older than me, thank God.

Yes, she can be proud of it, she raised a whole family.

[r] Hamidullah.

Yes, what is the situation now with your husband, how did you stay, what did you agree?

Yes, we also talk to my girls every day, the poor man gives me strength, he can’t wait when he comes and sees me and his daughter. He tells me to be patient. Allah is great, I wish I could hear a beautiful message. I hope that we will find each other again.

[i] Inschallah, have you paid a lot of money to land in Germany?

[r] I swear, we paid, we in Syria, thank God, we were doing well financially. We certainly paid a good amount and we were also cheated in Turkey.

We paid an amount of 15,000 dollars. Yes and we were betrayed with it, we had to wait again until the men collected money for us again. We tried again from the beginning to find someone to get us out.

Did you know you were coming to Bochum?

No, we were transferred from one city to another, we were in Dortmund, after that they sent us to Essen, there we were three weeks later we came to Bochum.

Will you stay in Bochum?

Sure, Bochum is beautiful and quiet, the people here are lovely.

[i] Do you have the feeling that you are at home here?

Certainly, through the people I met beautifully. There are many lovely people, whether Arabs or Germans. The Germans treated me well. Especially my neighbours.

How did the language become, can you communicate with the neighbours?

Well, yes, a few words, to be honest my daughter helps me. I tried to learn the language but I can’t, honestly I find it very difficult. My head is not free, I try to concentrate in the course so that my whole head is with the teacher. Suddenly I am away in my thoughts, even the teacher knows my situation. Suddenly I am gone and tears run down. My head is with my daughters and my husband. I can’t help it, I wish I could learn the language, but I can’t do it. My head is not free.

Nevertheless, you can keep in touch with people.

Yes, thank God, I like it too, my neighbors, sometimes I understand them. I can say a few words even if it’s wrong sometimes. I encourage myself and try. Next to me lives a neighbor with her husband, they are very nice. She knows that I get restless, but she motivates me. I like to see her. Even if it’s just a greeting. She is very popular and I love her very much even if it is only from the door.

[i] You are a lovable person. Is your daughter learning?

Yes, thank God. She’s in 6th grade.

[r] Yes, my translator,

[i] Yes, I think Aya is very smart although she is still very young. I’m sure she’s smart. How do you spend your time?

In class, at home, household. Sometimes I bake at home

[i] Yeah, do you like the candy?

No, I don’t eat a lot of candy, but I like to bake. I learned it in Syria. Sometimes I bake a recipe and give it to my neighbors. They like our food and our sweet dishes. I let them try it.

[i] You told me that your sister is here, it’s good for you if someone from your family is here.

Thank God she wishes to move to food when they find something soon. Her husband wants to work because she lives far away in a place called Sisen [?]

[r] Sisen [?] is about 4.5 hours away, so someone from my family

[i] Sisen.

[r] Sisen, okay I am very happy that someone from my family is here

[i] For sure.

When you made the decision to fly [flee?], what was the reaction of the family, relatives and friends?

To be honest, they were very sad. In the beginning they were shocked, but they know the circumstances here in Homs and what the situation is like. They were very angry, even until now. Sometimes they say: “Come back.” And that although there is still war. I only want to go back so that they can see me and so that I can see them too.

Did any of them come with you? You mentioned that someone came with you?

No, yes, from my husband’s family, my daughter’s cousin.

[i] Yes.

And her son and the son of my husband’s brother. The son of my brother-in-law.

[i] It was an exhausting journey.

Yes, very, very exhausting.

If you had guessed what happened to you on the way, you wouldn’t have come, would you?

I wouldn’t have come.

I wouldn’t have come, so far they tell me sometimes, when people showed up, why aren’t your husband and kids with you? I would have liked that so that I could see them. I haven’t seen them for a while, but then I take it back because I don’t want the same thing to happen to them.

Yes, it’s hard for the girls.

Yes, very much, I tried that and the country, the countryside, I suffered a lot.

[i] It’s certainly not an easy thing, but when you arrived in Germany, how was your first impression, your first feeling?

Of course, when I arrived, finished, I was a little relieved, psychologically relaxed. We were taken to safety, my situation was special, as if someone was walking and inhaling. One sighs, you are safe, after a long journey of tiredness.

[i] Of course, have you been treated well?

Yes, definitely, even when we were in camp. The treatment was very good in the camp. No matter which security was in the camp, he treated us well, whether in Dortmund, whether in Essen, even here in Bochum. When I arrived at the camp, they treated us very nicely. They respected us and their treatment was very nice.

That’s very nice, the first few days in Europe. Syria is a privileged Arab country, Germany is a European country. What were the impressions when they sorted you in the camp? Tell me, were you together in the evening?

[r] Of course, definitely.

[i] What did you do? Was there fear or calm? Was it joy?

No, that wasn’t the case, we were happy. My relative, the cousin of Aya, we were always together, we went to the camp. She’s from Sham, the one from Halab, the other from Hama; we met, even from Iraq, we networked. We felt like a family, all people coming from the war zones. You find a family without problems, so it was a nice life in the camp.

Did you look for something that reminds you of your homeland?

Of course, every time we sat down, everyone talks about their memories. How did he live, who did he leave, who did he bring with him, that’s how we spent our time together. That was beautiful.

[i] The subject of “food”, what was it like?

[r] Of course, the food was […]. They had given us meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Were you afraid of the food or did you eat it?

No, we ate because we knew what we were eating.

[i] Of course.

The food was fine. There was nothing.

Did you look for Arab bread, for example? Were you going to ask about such deals?

Yes, after we got money. From Germans, of course, sometimes they show us where there are Arab shops, of course we went to ask. That reminded us of the smell from Syria, it was the bread, the vegetables.

[i] Right.

Although, most things are in the big supermarket, but various dishes must fetch in the Syrian shop.

[i] Yes. The culture, the civilization, what you brought with you. The story, every person has his story, every person has something he wants to keep, educates his children, has a basis and principles.

[r] Of course. Everyone wants to educate their children the way they were educated. Of course, I want to raise my daughters the way my mother raised me. Everything, in learning, in education, in religion. Just as our parents brought us up, we also want to bring up our children.

Do you have the feeling that your parents raised you so well, your mother did it well?

Of course, she did a lot for us. Let her live long.

[i] Let her live longer.

As they say, she became very young, widowed at 40, and we were six, he left four boys and two girls. That’s not easy. Suffered a lot in our upbringing.

[i] You have a sister?

I have a sister, younger than me.

[i] She is here?

Yes, she is here.

Does that mean you have a sister here?

[r] Yes, thank God.

[i] Thank God.

My sister has been here for about eleven months.

[i] Yes, was the upbringing hard? Was much forbidden?

No, on the contrary, I remember, we were spoiled because we were without a father, everything, thank God, was education, we didn’t miss anything. Even the family on our father’s or mother’s side, they had spoiled us a lot, very, very much, even the relatives. Thank God, we were very spoiled.

Did religion play a major role? [ [R] Please?

[i] Did religion play a big role? In your life at home?

No, normal, not everything is religious. Education is one thing, and of course religion is another thing, in general, thank God. Everything was within the framework, and courtesy.

[i] You said a nice sentence, everything within its limits. The courtesy is good in the upbringing, that’s very nice.

Was your home beautiful? Where you lived? Was your settlement beautiful?

Yes, my settlement was very beautiful. I have a lot of memories there, especially a lot of girls.

[i] That’s special.

Because I don’t forget that until now when I talk to my friends. You know, like we were in the settlement, we were a lot of girls, maybe more than eleven girls. Even the boys, they weren’t much, we were more girls, went out to play, up to high school. Go out, collect us.

[i] The neighbors?

The neighbours, many women.

In the morning? The most important in the morning.

Or, no, not too much, at sunset, sitting in front of the door, busy with something, helping her neighbor with the vegetables. Yes, there were a lot of memories. The neighborhood used to be special.

[i] We miss these things in Europe.

In any case. We Orientals, the neighborhood, the settlement and these stories.

Yes, it didn’t matter what kind of work, like winter stock or something. The way you say that, she goes in at her house, helps, the holidays, evenings, they spend the night together, bake cookies and sweets. Those were things, a lot of them, it’s a bit hard here.

Everyone lets the other try it, I cooked it, try it.

[r] Yes. That’s right.

[i] Yes, that’s part of our culture.

[r] Absolutely.

[i] You like to cultivate that? Do you want your daughter to be like this?

Yes, they’ve cooked a plate and let the neighbor try it. Even now, even if they are German, I do something and let them try, they found this ritual very strange. Something sweet or food, I like it when they try it, and they like it.

Do you think it’s strange? Or do they accept it?

[r] No, they accept it, they tell me: “You cook very tasty”. Even my neighbor above me says to me, “When I walk up the stairs, I smell your food, it smells very tasty.

[i] Oh, that’s very nice.

She told me that when I smell a good smell, I know it comes from you.

[i] Yes, what did you do in your spare time, how did you occupy yourself?

[r] In Syria?

[i] Yes.

[r] After I got married, right?

[i] No, in general.

Yes, in general, we were married, of course, how do we live? Of course, you saw it. You feel the day passes quickly, the raising of children, the household, the cooking. This means that if a compulsory visit is imminent, then I’ll go with you, as they say. The brothers and sisters of my husband, my sister-in-law, live in one building, four live, if there is a visit, an occasion, then we go together. Yes and sometimes we spend the evening, of course the men, my husband and his brothers, we spend nights together, we had a meeting every week. We meet in a house, eat dinner, celebrate a bit, so we had lived. Every Friday.

[i] There is a social life?

Yes, every Friday we had to meet in a house, made dinner and spent the evening together, my husband, his brothers and their wives. Those were very nice days.

Do you miss those days?

Yes very, even very, very nice memories. We were happy, sometimes I tell myself I hope they come back.

[i] Networking is difficult here because of the language?

[r] Absolutely.

[i] You tell very good things about your neighbours.

[r] Very respectful.

[i] But the language, the networking. And the different cultures.

[r] Right. He has his obligations, his appointments. We also work in our countries, but.

In any case, but here is different, here are the circumstances different as you beautifully said. They have here, their work is something and their life is different than ours.

[i] Absolutely. 100 percent. Love has played a role in your life?

From which side?

[i] Your husband, were you in love, were you in love?

In any case, I no. I didn’t honestly.

[i] You are ashamed to say it.

No, because to be honest, the family asked for my hand, I didn’t want to disappoint them. I refused from both sides so that both of them would not get angry, my father’s family. They had always treated me very well so they wouldn’t say I married someone from my father’s family Hallelujah, my husband loved me for seven years, and I always refused.

[i] From which side was he, from the motherly side?

[r] Yes. I didn’t want the relatives to get angry, from here and from there. Hallelujah, he loved me for seven years and refused to get engaged [to someone else]. He said, “Not until I know that [name] is engaged. Then she’s out of my way, then I get engaged.” Hallelujah, fate, as I later agreed.

[i] Out of love and understanding?

[r] Yes.

[i] Nobody forced you?

[r] No, nobody forced me, I said slowly, I live happily with my parents. I said, it’s still too early, I don’t want any of the relatives, Hallelujah, who was after me until I agreed. Until I agreed, fate.

When you got married and decided to have children, you said you had three girls, did you want a boy?

Everyone wants that, shall I tell you, I didn’t want that, I wanted that, so and so, but now God has given it to us, thank God. As my husband tells me, that’s good, there are people who want children, he didn’t have anything against it, he wants boys, no. On the contrary, when I got the first two, he told me, it’s good, you don’t have to get pregnant anymore so that you don’t think I want a boy. He was not against it, he wanted a boy, I was pregnant with the third, he wanted me to have an abortion, on the one hand so that I would not suffer and on the other hand so that I would not think of a boy. I have the two girls, I want to educate them sensibly, thank God, but we have continued and got the third one, he says well.

Yes, the community is ruthless.

[r] Yes.

[i] Arab community.

Yes, but from the side neither I nor my husband, my husband, he spoiled them very much. Sometimes I say at home: “No, no. They tell me: “No, our father, he never tells us”. They are used to getting everything. Even the two who are in Syria, even if the big one is in university now and so on. They are happy, they tell me you always tell us no no matter what. Guess their dad, he doesn’t beat them. He treats them very well.

Hopefully you will stay together.

If that’s what God wants.

[i] What can I tell you, the young people here are always treated differently.

[r] Yes, definitely.

[i] But you tell nice things.

[r] Yes, definitely. Maybe the treatment of boys, the handicapped people whose heads aren’t normal, who say they want boys. I don’t know, I can’t find anything, the boy is like the girl, like the older ones say that the boy carries the father’s name. The girl also has the same name.

The father’s name.

[i] Right, in any case. If the make a decision to marry. Would you force them? Or would you let them decide for themselves?

The thing. No, I’ll let them decide for sure, but if I find something that doesn’t benefit them, of course I’ll give them advice.

[i] Of course, give advice.

[r] Yes.

[i] Education is your duty.

Of course, that is my duty.

Do you want them to marry early like you?

[r] No.

[r] I do not know us at this age 23 years. It’s okay, it’s not early.

[i] Good, is not early, good 23 years is good, I was engaged at 22 years and married at 23. But there are people with 18 or 19. I’m the opposite, no, my daughter who is in Syria, who has, who told me: “Finish the subject, I can still do it, it’s too early.” She doesn’t want to think about these things now.

[i] They want to be educated?

Yes, they want to educate themselves and until you are with me I should leave the subject aside. She told me, “Let’s get together first.”

Yes, your dreams are about what? What are you dreaming about?

I’m not dreaming, just that I’m getting back together with my family. That is the most important thing in my life.

[i] Do you do anything for it?

I’m trying, I’ve got a lawyer on, that’s the most important thing in my life. I say if God wants me to, I try, it’s not so far.

[i] Those from below can’t do anything?

[r] No, no, they can’t. They can’t do anything.

[i] Inschallah good, um. We are a people with a lot of pride and honor.

[r] Absolutely.

[r] Yes. This issue, are Europeans making it difficult? […?] They are ashamed, especially because you are a woman, I want to talk to you about this topic. Because you are a woman, alone, you feel disadvantaged?

From the side of the motions. Whether I need something.

Yes, you have a right here, you must know your rights.

It’s not, I’ve got used to not asking for anything. I’ve got used to doing it alone when I want to shop. In Syria I never went shopping, I never went out, my husband brings everything home, I talked to him. I need that and that and he gets everything, here I found it difficult that I have to shop, to be honest.

Yes, um Youssef, tell us, you did the shopping?

[r] Yes, I did the shopping, I try to shop [?], in the beginning I found it difficult in contrast to Syria. I never got anything, of course my husband got everything, I didn’t have to do anything, everything I need I tell him. He gets me the things, here everything was completely changed, as they say. From head to toe, here I have to do everything myself, I go shopping. Even the paper which comes, with us in Syria we do not have such a thing at all, here the small things. You get mail, you have to work through what’s in it, you have to do it. Whether this is an appointment or whatever, I found it difficult. That I have to buy, all the paper. All these things are new for me.

[i] Yes, surely here is the paper land. The letters, the appointments.

[r] Yeah, sure, we don’t have all this stuff. Even if there is small paper, my husband does it. Not here, I did all that, I found it hard.

But you got over it, you’ve been here for three years.

Thank God, yes Hamidullah. Enough, I’ve gotten used to it, although it’s hard for me when I have to get out. I carry the things, do the shopping, thank God, also a nice thing in between. Here in Bochum, do you have the feeling that you have got used to this city, this city is beautiful? I got used to it, from the side of everything, whether Germans or refugees, Arab refugees, from Iraq. No matter from which country, you feel, they are already together. There is no difference, whether here or in Syria, in Homs. Everything is a life, there are Arabs there and here it is the same, there is harmony among the people.

[i] You don’t feel alienated?

[r] No, perhaps the stranger I want to say. What I feel is surely the distance from my daughter and my husband. I wish in the future that I would meet them, that’s the most important thing, I feel the strangeness only from this side, that my parents are a little away from me, my daughters and my husband, I wish that they are with me, maybe it would make everything easier for me.

[i] For sure. And the language, I told you, I can’t learn it. So it stays in my head I don’t understand it. Never, I try to communicate, to learn, anything, but I can’t, I hold the book to learn, suddenly, unconsciously, I get distracted. I do not understand it. I always try. Instead of learning, I open the Internet and communicate with my daughters. My wish is to talk to them all day long, what did you do in school, at the university, what did you cook? I always like to talk to her, I always want to know what she does.

Can you live without a phone?

[r] No, definitely not. The reason […]

[i] The reason?

[i] […] are the girls and my husband. The connection with my daughters, mum and siblings, but I have to talk daily with my daughters, voice and image.

Do you have boredom in your life? Or is there no time to get bored?

[r] Well. There is boredom, but like you said, I don’t feel it. I call my daughters directly, so I don’t feel the time. You’re busy here, there are many things that keep you busy, even if there’s boredom, I talk to my girls, now, honestly, I want to work. Then you can fill your free time, that distracts me from thinking. And the worries, my girls, who are so far away, I wish to work very much.

[i] Yes. Do you have a hobby?

My hobby, I love working in the kitchen. I love cooking and making sweets. Very much. I like to learn to make sweets, no matter which dish, I like to learn it. I like to run, flying is very nice.

[i] Yes. What is your plan for the future?

If I say I have something, I’m sure I don’t. But I want my daughters and my husband to come, if they’re here, maybe I can think about it. They will be next to me and determined, my time will be filled with work. God frees me, I can’t think of anything else for the future.

[i] This is ambitious.

In any case, my daughters come to me and live here, they can be trained here.

[i] Um, what knowledge did you acquire here in Bochum? What did you learn in Bochum? What did you acquire here?

Yes, going shopping for the first time. I have never bought alone, even in this form, to work. To do the papers, these things changed me a lot, I had never done them in Syria. I’m more practiced now. In this city, in Syria, I could [do that?] for sure. I don’t like going out. Everything in Syria was secured for me. No matter what thing, I get it home, here you have to do everything on your own. This change it is with me.

[i] What is the cultural program that you can do or help shape here? Something that reminds you of your country, certain activities you can do? Waiting until the end of the week to do something?

Yes, I’ll wait until the end of the week to meet with my girlfriend. Yes, she is the wife of my daughter’s uncle. Yes, the two days, I like to meet. Yes, mostly that, walking, these things.

Do you have the feeling here that someone hates foreigners, has something like this happened to you? Or against the foreigners?

I don’t know much because I, I wasn’t confronted with it from my side. No, there is no such thing.

[i] Bochum likes the foreigners?

[r] Yes, very much. What I’ve already seen is determined by those around me. They treated me very well. What about other people, God knows, I’ll tell you what about me.

Do you feel safe here?

[r] Yes.

Is anything forbidden here? Pause.

[r] I don’t know what to tell you? Yes, there are forbidden things, like in every country, every country has its laws.

Do you have something in your heart, or in Bochum? What do you want to tell us?

[r] No. Do you like Höntrop?

[r] Please?

Höntrop, you live in Höntrop, do you like Höntrop?

[r] Yes.

[i] Do you want to change, to another city or something?

[r] No, I had a wish once. When I move the place to move to food, I like food, but when I came I liked Bochum. I was first in Langendreer. I wanted to move, to Bochum, to the city. Thank God, I’m happy in Höntrop, the people next to me are nice.

Did you ever think you’d ever live in one place, in another country, Europe, Syria?

[r] No, no.

[i] You would come to Germany.

So far I’m thinking about how that happened in the war. I may be sitting in Germany now, although I’ve been here for three years [?]. And a little, sometimes I think about how it happened to us, how, I live here alone, have left my children, without my daughter, my husband and my family sit here in Germany, sometimes people don’t get it. One comes back to one’s memory, I get angry, cannot understand, one lives in a wide country, very far from Syria. It is a little difficult to think about it.

[i] It was not a voluntary decision, there is war.

In any case, the war is the reason, if it wasn’t, nobody would be here, nobody would leave the country, we lived there and grew up there but the circumstances of the war, we experienced days that were hard, the days of the war, you see them before your eyes, the bombs and the rockets. I see them before my eyes when I was in Homs, a rocket factory, I see the rockets flying before my eyes. That was very difficult.

[i] How did the rockets fly?

When they fought against each other. The government and the Free Army, they aimed rockets at this factory, it exploded.

[i] A factory exploded?

Yes, a factory, definitely.

Was it very loud?

[r] Yes.

[i] near you? I don’t know, I saw it and wondered, every rocket in a different direction. Then my husband told me that this factory exploded. He tells me to go downstairs. I thought they were bombing now, but as I’ve already seen, every rocket goes in a different direction, he says the rockets are flying around. That day I was very scared. That was in the fasting month, we were fasting and my daughter was asleep. I woke her up and [we] went down to the uncle. That was a terrible experience, I was afraid. Another difficult experience: When I went to my parents’ house, I hadn’t seen my parents for almost half a year, there hadn’t been much war in Halab yet. We couldn’t [go], the streets were closed, I hadn’t seen them for a year and a half when I tried to go there. Those were the beginnings of the clashes, I went there. The day I arrived, the second day I heard there were rockets, normal, we had got used to them, there was fear but I thought maybe it was so far. When I was there, every day you got rockets in the camp. Two in the morning, two have to fall in the evening. The airport is nearby, our camp is in Halab. Many rockets have fallen, also the last day in the morning about seven o’clock in the morning. My daughters were asleep, I heard the first rocket, the second rocket and I felt the roof, I thought […] and heard the noise, it comes into the house. That doesn’t exist, a few seconds, the rocket hit my parents’ house, that was the horror. Not normal, I was forced to [take] my things, my daughters afterwards. Sure, God is the Protector, I thought it would be enough to go back to my husband. I sat with my parents for two weeks. This situation scared us a lot. Rockets are thrown at our camp every day.

How long exactly did you live in the war?

Approximately since 2015, 2011 it started.

[i] From 2011 to 2015.

[r] Yes. I fled in 2015, arrived in Germany in August.

[i] So four years. Is not easy in the war atmosphere.

[r] Absolutely. Could you get food, food, drinks, were discontinued, were those difficulties?

No, it wasn’t that hard in our region. But very expensive, there were things you couldn’t find but in Halab, yes. In Halab there was a siege, to the maximum, in the camp where my parents lived. To get water they dug wells, because the water was cut off. About as I remember they dug 18 wells, one of which was my brother. My brother did not have for himself and the others in the settlement, they had no water, electricity, for months, telephone they had about two or three years. No landline, was cut off, in any case. They were besieged for a year and a half.

[i] Their situation was bad?

Very much. Sometimes I look at Facebook and get sad, what do you find in the shop that were in camp? What else do you find there? Dishwashing liquid. Metal sponge, these things, detergents, food were not there. They suffered a lot in Halab. They were besieged abnormally. That was very irritating, it was the same in Homs, but what the situation in Halab was like […]. They suffered more than we did in relation to us or me.

From your family, who lived there?

My sister, definitely. She has tried the siege [experienced?], has suffered very much and [there] are my mother and siblings, but there is, with me a brother who had fled to Sweden a few months ago. But my other three siblings, mother and sister, really tried the siege.

Is your brother who went to Sweden married or single?

Yes, last year his wife and children were brought together.

[i] He has children?

He has three boys.

What is his situation like in Sweden?

[r] Thank God. She’s okay, but he’s not happy, maybe I’m happier here in Germany. A lot more.

[i] do you wish he would come?

The way they describe it, I say yes, Germany is very beautiful. I wished that he would come, that we would meet, I didn’t expect that I would leave if I had known that. We would have met, it was spontaneous with me when I was here.

Do you communicate with Him?

Anyway, I’m communicating with him.

Did you get a residence permit?

[r] Not yet.

How long have you been gone?

About three and a half years.

[i] Have you already received a residence permit in Germany?

[r] Ah, you mean a stay [Aufenthaltsgenehmigung], yes I already got that, I thought naturalisation. But […] He is not happy.

Do you want to be naturalised?

I’m sure no one says no.

[i] That could make things easier for you. Bring the family together, you can bring your family here.

[r] Absolutely. I wish it very much, whether with naturalization or not, I wish to see my family. If that’s for sure, I’ll tell you, yes.

Can you visit Syria now?

[r] No. Difficult.

Is that allowed in your papers?

[r] No, it’s not allowed.

Is it forbidden to go there?

Sometimes I tell my husband to leave me behind, enough, I don’t feel any progress.

[i] Yes.

That I see my daughter and my husband. I want to see them, I tell him I want to go back.

[i] Yes.

That’s my wish, I tell him I want to see them, even if it’s still war, I want to go back. He told me no, the situation is very difficult. He says, maybe because you’re far away now. You still say let me go back, but the situation is too difficult to return.

Can you help them a little? Financially?

Yes, no, I don’t know. My husband doesn’t want to deal with it, he says I don’t want anything, I just want us to meet and be together. What he wants, Allah should bring us together.

Is there work at the moment? In Syria?

Yes, thank God. He works with his brothers and sisters, they have a camp. They distribute medical products for the pharmacists. This is his work with his brothers and sisters.

[i] Do drugs determine [?]? That’s very much in demand, especially in the war zone.

In any case.

[i] And the girls?

At the moment my daughter is in the 10th [class]. And the older one is in university, Arabic literature.

[i] Do you love education?

Yes, thank God. I believe most the middle one.

[i] Yes.

She loves education very much. Even when she’s finished, she always learns repeatedly.

[i] Yes.

She is afraid, even though she has learned well, her teacher came to us and advised me to take the book away from her, she has learned well. She’s very scared and she always wants to learn, even if she goes to sleep, she does. The book next to it, she hides it under her pillow, I take it away from her, she loves it very much.

Do they joke with you on the phone and try to distract you?

[r] Yes. Sometimes I get angry but now I don’t show them that.

[i] Yes.

My middle daughter, too. In the week before the holidays, she has exam, she wants to learn, enough, go learn. She said no. She leaves the video phone one hour on and told me, I’m learning, please stay. Please stay in touch with me, she always wants to connect with me. When I say hang up so that you learn. She says no I am learning, stay in touch. That’s why I often wear the video camera. It stays, it likes that. Always in touch with me, the feeling does her good that I always talk to her on the camera.

We had, today is the fourth of the month, New Year’s Eve? How did you celebrate New Year’s Eve, you with Aya? Where did you celebrate?

At home, where should I celebrate? At home and I opened the camera with my daughter.

[i] And they, where did they celebrate? Also at home, no, sorry, they were with my parents, in Halab. They visited my parents. They had holidays, two weeks.

[i] Yes.

They went to see my parents. I had called them. The internet in Halab was difficult in the camp. I have WiFi at my home, but there is not, they buy it themselves. On New Year’s Eve we talked on the phone with a video camera.

[i] Well, they spend nice time with your mother.

[r] Absolutely. With her, my big daughter and the second one who says we want to look after her. And at the same time they are happy, with their uncles there are many girls.

[i] Yes.

They have about 6 girls, 7 girls.

[i] Teu, teu.

[r] Yes, they love to meet with them. They love to go to Halab, very much when I was there.

[i] Halab is very beautiful. In the camp, my brothers and sisters, who all live in the same building, you find them, they meet. With my mother and the children together who are happy.

[i] Being together in the camp is very nice.

[r] Yes. In the evening they meet, even on New Year’s Eve. She sent me photos. The children together and the girls bought a cake and fruit. Also juice, set a small table.

[i] Beautiful.

[r] Yes, they are busy.

[i] Maybe you even banged [fireworks], maybe you had fireworks?

[r] Yes. Yes, they had some fun, she told me.

[i] They were busy.

[i] That’s one of those days that are hard. How did the New Year start? It’s still at the beginning.

We are still, have hope, if God wants this to be a good year. For us and everyone, I’m seeing my husband and daughters again, and there’s good news. If God wants that.

[i] Are you learning at the moment?

[r] A 2.

[i] A 2 Course, the language, are you finishing that? Will you be able to finish it?

I continue, I learn, but sometimes I feel that I learn for nothing, I don’t know, I don’t get it. In the beginning, the course A 1, I was good, even my teacher, he was super good, he was Turkish, excellent, very nice. I told him, when I started with A 2, I showed that it was up there with me too. He laughed. I told him I don’t get anything anymore who sees I’m not in class when someone asks me what happened to you? Unconsciously I start to cry, I wish I couldn’t help it. I wish I could go on very much, I am often thoughtful. I do not know, I do not feel well. I ]Could it be that the work is good for you?

To be honest, I want to work. Better than the free time I spend in school, no, let me work. Useful work, better than staying like this.

[i] That’s not so easy? Finding a job, especially when there’s no language?

In any case, there are things, there are different things that you can work on, if you find something in the Arab, you can contact it. Those who are naturalized here, as they are with them, they are naturalized here, they can employ someone. An Arab. Such things.

If God wills it, he can make everything easier for you. What are you afraid of?

God protect you.


[i] Yes.

I think about a lot of situations. [She starts crying.]

When I die before I see my daughter and husband.

[i] No, certainly not, God should let you live long.

That’s what concerns me the most.

Whoever dies will die in his homeland or anywhere in the world. You have Aya. You are not alone.

Yes, the joy becomes complete when the family is complete together.

[i] You have good neighbors.

[r] Thank God.

Those who see other problems simply find theirs.

Surely there are worse things than what I experience. There are people who have lost their parents, their children […].

[i] There are many of these people?

[r] Absolutely.

[i] All who have come with you?

Even in our home, the brother of my husband, we lost him, and his son, who was 18 years old. He was kidnapped.

Have you not heard from him?

No, that’s why my husband couldn’t leave. My husband, everyone tells me, why didn’t your husband go with you, how did he let you go with your daughter? I’ll say he can’t help it, he was forced. My husband with his brothers and sisters. They love each other very much, not normally, God keep them, they couldn’t leave each other. Everyone wanted, how can I say that, they wanted to be together. My older brother-in-law, whose wife came with me, was abducted for 20 days, they have been in contact for so long. So that he could pay the millions to get out, for the gang, after he came out. The son of my other brother-in-law, the son of my husband’s brother, 18 years old. They came [?] who said we wanted to ask him two or three questions and then bring him back, we never saw him again, he had passed his Abitur. We are a family, we love each other very much. We had it very nice, we lived together in the same house, they had arrested him, three months later his father died. That’s why my husband [stayed].

[i] Did he die like that?

No, he had supplied the pharmacies. A pharmacist had advised him against going to a certain place where there was a bombing. He put his hand on his neck, and said no one takes this neck except the one who created it. He has gone. To the mosque, to pray, he wanted to go to another pharmacy afterwards, when he went out, a bomb exploded. On his neck, where he put his hand.

[i] Oh, God.

He died the day his son, who had been kidnapped, had his birthday. Therefore, the brother is dead, my husband and his brothers, they could not go, on the one hand the brother died. They could not go and the son the brother, they know of him nothing, they wish, they want to make an effort that he comes out at least because of his mother, their husband died and the son.

Is your mother-in-law still alive?

No, my mother-in-law died when I was only five months married. A car accident, she wanted to send her condolences to someone and distribute money for the poor. She said I wanted to distribute money for the poor, to Ramadan. A car had hit her. A car.

[i] Heartfelt condolences. Is your father-in-law still alive?

No, my father-in-law has been dead for a long time.

[i] You have only your husband’s brothers and sisters?

Yes, so I tell you, we’re not all gone. Together, they tell me it’s funny that your husband didn’t come, there are situations nobody knows. Why he didn’t come, the reason is the death of his brother and before that the other was kidnapped and the son by the other. They don’t know about him, hoping they’ll get him out before they leave. Not yet, nobody knows anything about Him.

[i] Nobody knows anything? Whether he died, whether he […]?

Every time they tell us something, once they said he was alive, another time he was dead. But now the last time they said that he was alive. Until we don’t get his ID or something else from him. In hope we remain, we know nothing.

[i] All people lost a lot in the war, many died.

Therefore, yes, I tell you. In the family, we’ve experienced a lot, that’s what counts [?] my family together, my brothers-in-law. The other was kidnapped, the other, 18 years old, what is his fault? They told us he was a terrorist. 18 years old, what kind of terrorist?

All these things have left their mark on your life.

[r] Absolutely.

[i] This is something very difficult. We lived happily together, in the family, I always told you. Our rituals, no matter what, we always send food when we cook, when we bake sweets. Immediately I let my husband, my brother-in-law, all come, try here. New recipe, so together every week, every Friday. Had we met at one of us, make dinner, spend the night together. Even if the men go to sleep, we women stay awake. Those were very nice rituals. Very nice, these memories cannot be forgotten.

[i] You have a girlfriend here? And your sister, does that make it a little easier?

[r] Absolutely.

We don’t want to forget our rituals and culture. It’s a mercy to be here.

[r] Yes.

[i] In a city like Bochum.

[r] Right, my sister is here, my sister-in-law and my girlfriend But I tell you, you miss these days, I get sad [when I see?] how the country has become, no one expected that. that sort of thing happens in the country, until now, I tell you. Sometimes I tell myself, really, Syria was destroyed, it was a very beautiful country, Syria.

Was it safe before the war?

[r] Oh yes, very much, everything was normal for us. You think, I don’t know, you [went?] in and out that you want, also to the other countries. Most Gulf states, they knew that, they come to Syria, they know it’s safe here. No matter where we go, even if we are late at night, everything was [safe?]. We weren’t that afraid.

Do you like the atmosphere?

[r] Absolutely.

[i] Do you like the party?

Yes, in any case, especially the celebrations, we Arabs, we have customs and traditions. Well, the holidays, you see the small celebrations after Ramadan. People start to work, prepare sweets, distribute them. They do things, when you walk past the settlement you smell the pastries, that’s something special. You miss it here, even if you do it here, it’s not like our customs in Syria. You have a different feeling there than here.

[i] Do you miss Syria very much?

[r] Yes. Absolutely.

[i] Yes, Um Youssef we continue to talk.

[r] Please.

[i] You have four brothers? One of them is in Sweden?

[r] Yes, four brothers.

[i] Yes and the three boys?

Three are still in Syria, they live with my mothers in the same building. No, the two big ones live with my mothers in the same house. And the youngest one, he lives a little away from us. But thank God, they treat my mother well, they don’t leave her alone. Even their wives, not [?] very respectful.

[i] Married?

Yes, my older brothers are married. Married to two siblings. Yes, thank God, my older brother. I have a lot of respect for Him, especially when I was little. He was like a father to me, we were little when our father died. On holidays he ironed our clothes for me and my sister. We got used to him when he worked. He was kind to us, he gave us pocket money, he worked hard and hard.

[i] You love him especially.

Yes, everyone is, thank God, dear to me. Yes, like you said, my older brother, he is like my father. Allah should let him live long, he was very kind to us. He now works in the city. My younger brother is director of a primary school, my brother who is in Sweden. The very young one, he is two years older, he has a travel agency. For the federal states [regions?] between Lebanon and Iraq. It’s a booking office, thank God, it’s running.

He has a normal, stable life. You work, you don’t think about leaving the country now?

Yes, thank God. No, they don’t want to, they’ve got used to the situation. At first I wished for this very much after I had left. The situation is okay, it’s true that it was bombed and that they experienced a lot. Very bad [is it?] when I contact the relatives. The situation was tough, especially in winter, they didn’t have electricity for the heat. They experienced a lot, but thank God, now you have everything again. As they say, they stand on their feet.

Is the situation better now?

There is improvement, my husband says there is fear and no security. There are bombs in different places, but there is no security. No security, bombs and so on. Maybe it’s less, you don’t hear it the way you used to, the situation is almost the same, but everything is very expensive. Very expensive.

[i] The psychological situation and the economic war?

In any case, that concerns them already, everything is expensive. I would have liked that, but they wanted to stay there.

Most people wanted to stay. Only those who were between life and death wanted to leave.

Especially who was affected by the war. There were also people who wanted to go, but financial [hindered them?].

[i] Yes. Because that plays the biggest role.

Yes, I’ll tell you.

[i] If people had money?

There are people who, if they had money, would be gone. There are people like that. That’s why they couldn’t escape, because of that reason.

[i] You paid a lot of money and you were set up?

I did when we went to Turkey. Our situation was good in Syria when we went to Turkey, where we wanted to stay a week, two weeks at the most. We didn’t expect it, the smuggler took us to a hotel. A good hotel, nice in Marsin, we had fun, I wanted to stay there. But my husband wanted us to come to Germany. When we went to Marsin, all the money we had taken with us was lost, we couldn’t help it, we were in the hotel, just a room and a toilet. We couldn’t cook, there was no kitchen, whenever we said we wanted to buy a small stove, they said no, they didn’t buy. In two days you might be gone again, in a week. We stayed two months. Waiting in Marsim. In the end we lost fifteen thousand dollars.

[i] Is everything expensive in Turkey?

No, normal, because we didn’t know anything. We don’t understand anything about currencies, with the money we had we thought it was normal. Although we were rarely in a restaurant, we only ate sandwiches. So we spent the time. We went to a restaurant and ordered sandwiches and told ourselves in two days we are gone. When we already noticed that it will drag on in the length.

[i] With how many children were you there?

My daughter and I, her uncle’s wife and son. And the son of his parents’ brother-in-law, they are still in Homs. He came alone as a minor.

[i] How old is he?

Now he is 14, 15 years old. as old as my daughter who is in Syria.

[i] Who was responsible for him?

We lived together in the camp with my sister-in-law for about a year. In Langendreer we had shared an apartment, after that we had to separate, we were told it had to be like this. Everyone should have an apartment. When she left with her son, she was forced to take him with her because she had a boy [?] She was the older one, she took him with her.

[i] He wasn’t her son?

No, not her son. The son of the brother-in-law was taken along. My brother-in-law’s son. They have an apartment on their own.

Because you have a girl, she has a boy, he’s her son’s boyfriend and related?

[r] Yes. Please?

[i] Related to her?

Yes, the son of the brother-in-law, the son of the brother of our two men. He also came to make a family reunion? We were together in the camp and also in Langendreer in an apartment together. When we were in Turkey we stayed about two months when we found out that the smuggler had set us up. We were not alone. We had to talk to our men until they could send us an amount. We were also in Istanbul, we were there for about a month. Even to Ramadan, where we were still in Istanbul. We were in a yacht. We should be in Italy in three days. In Italy we would take a taxi [?] 01:09:12:03 01:09:19:12bBis Germany. To Austria and then Germany. We stayed another month. We waited until this happened, we sat in the yacht [boat] and the waves started.

[i] Were you in a yacht [boat] with light? How many were you?

We were many, about 50 people. We were out at night.

[i] Was that a big yacht [boat]?

[r] No, I swear.

How did you sit in it?

I suffered a lot, the smuggler looked, we heard there were people who flew, they sent us a photo. Of the people I knew, they were in a boat. Very beautiful and big. But our boat, which he brought us. I was shocked, so that he was fucked himself. [?]

[i] He was taken for a ride?

Yes, when we walked through the woods at night. First we drove in a bus, about ten hours. Then we […]

How many did you sit on the bus with?

We were 50 but I don’t know if there wasn’t a second bus. We got on the bus and I didn’t know if there was another bus behind us or not.

[i] This bus, was it for the government or the smugglers?

No, for the smugglers. He brought this, we drove it. When he brought us into the forest at night. It was forbidden to light a cigarette [?], we walked in the woods, I slipped while running. I fell down on thorns, it was a very difficult situation. Until morning, then we saw the boat, in fact we were shocked. Broken, the yacht or the boat, that was in a very bad condition. At that time I had fallen down in the forest. My feet hurt so much. I fell in the forest, my daughter was crying, Mom got up twice until a woman helped me. In the dark, the others went ahead and I could hardly follow them. I run with difficulties, I have lost the group. My daughter cried, I calmed her down, saw a shadow, heard voices in her ears. I listened from where they came, until one came that I could follow. My niece was running fast because she had two children with her. She had to make it. We ran after her. The people ran one after the other, with me the difficulty was that I could not run because of the swellings also no more Therefore it went with also in the boat very badly, when they wanted to pick us up, in order to save us. I went barefoot. They also took us to a stadium in Greece, where we spent some time. We spent two nights in Greece. The first night. Also the second night I went to a hospital. My daughter had seizures. They wanted to keep us there, but I told them that we had to stay with the group. I can’t lose them. I had to stay with the group, otherwise I get lost. Then they gave me medicine, including one serum, several. They said I had to take the medicine. After the discharge we went to Athens. Athens was beautiful, a very beautiful city, we stayed for a while. The smuggler […]

[i] How long did you stay in Athens?

Also about three weeks, the smuggler divided us into three apartments. We all together, we started two attempts at the sea, it didn’t work out. Later we were forced to go by land. After three days at the sea it didn’t work out. We would have sunk. There were a lot of waves, we took the land route and you know how. The way was long, from one country to another, Macedonia, Serbia, we had to pass all these countries.

[i] How long were you on the road until you arrived in Germany?

I swear I don’t remember. I [don’t] remember.

One day, twelve hours?

[r] No, days, days. Count how many cities we had to drive past.

[i] Is there a country? A country where you stayed?

No. We were in cities when we were in Athens, something happened to us. I can’t forget this situation either. When we got lost, the smuggler my sister-in-law and I. In Macedonia or Serbia, they had packed us in cars so we could go to another place even though we were only supposed to walk to a bus station. A young man was also with us, each group had a mobile phone with them. This young man, although he was young, we were in mafia cars [?]. I had two pieces of clothes so I could change things. We arrived, changed cars directly, we lost our Saxons, nobody knows how. They had taken us to a forest and we were all supposed to meet there. There was nobody in this forest. Then we slept in the forest, we were about five young people. We didn’t know where to go anymore, the connection was interrupted. After the connection was gone, walking past an old Muslim man named Mussa. He took us to the bus, to the train station. We walked with him for a very long time, I cannot forget such a day. We walked to the bus stop, everything was closed, we sat under the trees. The children, my daughter, they fell asleep, I found a box. I took it apart to pray. [name] begins to cry]. We sat on a branch and that night we slept there. An old man brought us a watermelon to eat before we fell asleep, God should give Him the best. He gave it to us and told us tomorrow at six, seven o’clock I would come to you. When it was light, one of our group had a reception and talked to the smuggler. The smuggler was in Turkey, but the young men leading the group told us where to go, we took a bus to meet people, people from our group. The meeting place was in a big park, we slept there too. Sleeping outside in these places is very difficult, but there were a lot of people in the park, everyone slept there. The biggest difficulty was the first night in the forest. Next to it was such a road, that a few hours passed until the old man fetched us. This night we slept under the tree and I covered my daughter with a cardboard box. That was very difficult, I cannot forget something like that. Then we left and found a car, so the last place, I do not know. In Serbia we were in a closed refrigerator truck. A refrigerator truck, we were not all, just such a group of us. We were several people, because it was also very exhausting for me, I had to stop for seven hours. I could no longer, my back, I leaned against the door. On the way the car was also broken, until Austria, but we did not stay there. We hid in a corner until they got us another car. They repaired our car, then they delivered us to the beginning of Germany. Some men and women wanted to change, the police came and grabbed us. And then they transferred us.

[i] He found you first?

We agreed to surrender. But they just wanted to change, between the trees. And we waited in that time, the police had grabbed us. We wanted to surrender.

Were you afraid?

No, we weren’t afraid. Normal, they had taken us and searched us, then transferred us. In Munich, but we went to see a friend of my brother-in-law. We stayed two days, recovered afterwards. We went to the police.

[i] How long did Aya and you sleep after arrival?

[r] Where?

When you arrived in Germany. How long did you sleep?

[r] Yes, sure, how can I tell you that? We sleep but at the same time we don’t rest, something has occupied us.

[i] You arrived in Germany and couldn’t sleep well?

[r] But on the train there was. In the course of the train there was free space, we sat there like homeless people out of sheer tiredness. We relaxed on the ground.

[i] Oh.

We weren’t sitting, we were just on the floor, where the doors open, there’s room. In the middle, we were sitting with several people, then we split up, that happened to us.

Do you still have contact with others in the group?

Not everyone, I used to have contact with everyone, but I am, frankly, I have memories in the Turk that I met in Greece. Also the ones who were here in the camp, we came by land. I haven’t been able to communicate with them for a year and a half. [?]. I was on my way back from the job centre. I had my papers, was angry and crying, the mobile phone was next to me. I had my black mobile phone, you can’t really see it next to the chair. I got out of the car and forgot my mobile phone, all my numbers were lost.

[i] You couldn’t find your mobile phone?

[r] I wasn’t paying attention. In seconds, I wanted to talk to my daughter on the phone and told myself I’d put the papers away first. I lost it, I left it on the train. All the numbers are gone, there were a lot of nice memories. There are difficult memories in it, you think later, we have experienced this time [survived?], it remains well in memory. On the way it was difficult. Also beautiful memories, later you talk about it. When we get old, we will tell our children and grandchildren.

[i] How long have you been in Bochum?

I have been in Bochum since 2016.

[i] That didn’t take long until you came to Bochum?

[r] No, first we were in Mainz. We spent two or three days in camp next to people we already knew from Mainz. After that they had sent us to Dortmund, we stayed there for four days. After dinner we stayed in the camp for three weeks, then we went to a school, I can’t remember the name, next to the August-Bebel-Platz. Maybe Elisabeth, I don’t know, this school. We stayed there for a month.

[i] Elisabeth Street.

Yes, afterwards we moved to Langendreer, I was with my sister-in-law in an apartment in Langendreer. Swiveled [?], that was only for refugees. We stayed there for about six months. After that we were transferred. I stayed about a year in Langendreer and my sister-in-law moved into an apartment. The social welfare office accommodated you, I had searched for an apartment myself beforehand. I was in a measure and there we had a Turkish employee. God should give her something good when she has found an apartment for me, she tells me. She picks me up with her car to visit the flats, she helped me a lot, I can’t forget her. No matter what she told me. If I told her [she told me?] someone has an apartment for me, come visit it. She says no, don’t go with anyone else so you don’t pay commission. She said I’m looking for you. If I find something, then we go together and if you like it, then we take this apartment. In Wattenscheid she chose one for me.

Are you satisfied there?

Very much, thank God, a spacious apartment for me and my daughter. She has a balcony. I like her because of the balcony and there are my neighbours. They are very good, I am happy with them, I have a neighbour from Halipo [Allepo?] on the upper floor. And the German neighbours are very nice, whether up or down or on my side. In the beginning, I can’t forget their help, they helped me a lot when I came into the apartment. There was nothing in it, not even a kitchenette. Nothing. They helped me a lot. The man who lives upstairs. I have a lot of respect for him, he reminds me of my uncle, that’s why I love him. Especially he helped me a lot.

[i] Who painted the apartment for you?

Of course I did. I painted it. An amount from the Jobcenter [did I get?]. But they helped me, the man next to me with his wife. They drove me to pick up my kitchen. There’s my neighbour downstairs, she’s a widow, her sister lives upstairs. They’re siblings, my neighbour downstairs has a daughter. Her name is Sandra, very nice, with her husband René. They work for the Telekom in Dortmund, they help me until today, two days ago they were with me in the evening. They were with me when they found me a bedroom. About a friend of mine who wanted to sell his bedroom, I picked it up. Your uncle upstairs, he didn’t want to sleep until he set it up. He said, “I’ll take care of you, what you need, I’ll help you.” I got the bedroom without a cupboard, he got me a cupboard, he asked: “Do you have a vacuum cleaner? I said, “No.” He said, “Tomorrow I’ll bring you one.” I can’t forget their help, they treated me very, very well. So far, they ask me what I need. I’m supposed to let them know. No matter what I need, sometimes I feel ashamed but the feel what I am missing. They know it.

Is it possible to love the German people?

For me there are people like that and others like us Arabs. There are good and bad people, it’s the same. There are the bad and the good, for me those who surround me are very good. Even very, I can’t forget their support, how they treat me. What I need, I tell them, even my neighbors next to me, no matter what mail. Even if I don’t understand them [the mail], he talks to my daughter and fills it out. Just like yesterday, he told me this letter is for the job center, we have to fill it out.

[i] You’re lucky?

Yes, thank God. I can’t do much for you, I’ll try. A week ago, I invited you to lunch, they were very happy. Seven people, older people, I had made lunch. They were very happy.

What did you cook for them?

I made vine leaves. A yoghurt speciality, cabbage, they tried something at my place before, everything at the beginning was new. I made chicken, saffron rice and salad. They liked that very much.

[i] What did they like the most?

To be honest, everything. After lunch, I gave them all the food. Because they liked it, they asked me what it was, and sometimes I can’t explain it. I translate to my mobile phone or I show the products, such as Mluchia, a specialty. Shichbarak, they liked that very much, also white cabbage. My neighbour wants to learn, I cooked with her. My neighbor wants to learn the Mahamara, she told me: “If you cook something like this, if we smell something good, then we know that it comes from you”. Sweets, I like to do that, I let you try it. They like that.

[i] They like candy?

Yes, my neighbour next to me too. I made an Esfinjihey [Syrian specialty] for the first time, taught it to her, she liked it a lot, she said I can do better. With me it gets thicker, but good.

[i] Are you happy to do something good for them?

Yes, because there’s nothing else I can do. They’re very happy with the food, they tell me someone once came to me, he told them, “Please let [name] know that we love their food very much. No matter what. I’m happy when I do something sweet, the neighbor next to me, it doesn’t always have to be for everyone. If I send something, it’s no problem, no matter what I cook, I like it very much when they try. I like it that they try, my sister is with me to visit, she has made pizza. She became like me, she asked me: “Will you send them something?” I said: “Yes”. She made pizza and sent it [over?]. I’m happy, my neighbour sometimes gets me things, be it a piece of chocolate. She told me you Arabs, you taught us something, you gave it away. I say it’s not necessary. She said, “You teach us how to return the plate, reciprocity.” They don’t have these rituals.

[i] This is customary with us.

Yes, she said, “You teach us something. You taught us how to give each other something.

Yes, you are accelerating integration. [She laughs.]

[i] You integrate through eating?

Maybe, but the language isn’t so good yet. Yes, I tell you, I like that. I like that they try everything.

[i] They welcome the idea.

Yes very much, they accepted the idea. No matter what, I send something to eat, they are very happy, the proof is that they ask me what it is. They want to know that. They tell me we love it when you cook something, no matter what we eat. Even my neighbor, an old man, if I don’t find him I stay restless, I tell myself he’s an old man. He lives alone and I always like to give him a plate. I don’t know, I feel sorry for him, I say he is alone. I like to give him food.

In our country, traditionally and culturally, an old man gets special help.

[r] Yes, exactly.

[i] We don’t have this system of sending older people to a home.

[r] No, we don’t.

[i] With us is the son and the daughter, they are the pension.

Yes, it is a duty.

Their parents, when asked where their pension is, answer that they sent their children to school and raised them.

Yes, of course, what else? We don’t have anything like that.

When they grow up, they support me.

It’s the same with us, the other one doesn’t exist. The love for the father and the mother and taking care of them until they grow old.

Is that a task?

Yes, very much.

[i] It’s a duty.

Yes, it’s our duty, I get sad because he lives alone. The first time I gave him something sweet, he told me that he was sick and not allowed to eat anything sweet. When I cook I bring it to him.

[i] Does he eat that?

[r] Yes.

Does he love the cooked food?

Yes, when I invited them all, the Germans, I was annoyed that he didn’t come because we had an appointment. Unfortunately, I put something aside for him before the guests came. I would have liked him to eat with us. The guests sat with me for about an hour. They ate for an hour and a half, took a break and then continued eating. They wanted to try everything. After that we spent another hour, two and a half hours at my house.

[i] Bravo. You’re trying to give something back in a way.

They were happy, even two days ago she came. Sandra, she developed the photos and I don’t know, sent them somewhere, she sent them to me too. She has photographed the food, us too, they are happy with me and like to try everything. As I said, that makes me happy because I can’t offer anything.

[i] You show them something of your country, of your culture, of our culture, which we want to show.

[r] Yes. Certainly.

Just like those who educate us, their welcome culture, who come and show us that. They show us their homes, if they have good things, they give us that.


The German people are known for it. A very loyal people.

Yes, with such things, very much. What I need, the old man upstairs, he said to my daughter: “Tell your mother that I care for you”. That hit me very hard, I cried. “No matter what it is.” Just like my daughter, on her birthday, believe me, I cried, they had her, the one next to me, the one baked her a cake with candles. A very touching situation. I was happy, at the same time I was sad, even last year. We celebrated her birthday. I said, we didn’t have that, they asked: “Don’t you celebrate birthdays? Are you celebrating? “To be honest, no, there are people who celebrate. We don’t have this ritual. In the family there is only one cake, without invitation. You have seen what their birthday is like. Holy.

[i] Very much.

[r] Yes.

[i] It’s part of their culture.

Unconsciously, you exchange your cultures.

Yes, that’s so.

[i] A cultural exchange.

[r] Yes.

[i] You show them something of our culture. Our kind of education, how we support older people.

In any case.

[i] Without him asking anything of us when he throws the plate in our faces [?].

Yes, of course, what, this thing I’m saying. [?] Yes, Hamidullah, I know they liked my cooked food when I did that. The thing I’ve gotten used to is how I’m raised, but I don’t tell you anything, man notices whether the person eats it or not.

Do you think that’s appreciated?

[r] Yes, I don’t know. What should I tell you?

[i] You have told me many beautiful things, this courage. You have something you can offer, for German society, for your neighbors, they offer you help.

[r] Yes.

A joy for your daughter that you cannot make [yourself?] on her birthday. They offer you things. But you don’t miss out either.

I told you, I can’t thank you any other way. But this thing makes them very happy, I’ll tell you that.

It’s not about the material value of food.

That’s it.

[i] You stand there for a long time and try hard.

That’s what they tell me they’re happy about. Yes, they tell me you do the work, your time, that’s what they feel. The neighbour next to me who says no. She thinks of the money when I send her a plate. I say to Aya, explain to her that the one bite doesn’t matter, since I’m with my daughter, I get money from the job center. She feels that, she says, but it’s also about the money. Your expenses will increase, no, the food doesn’t play the role. Right or not?

Did you tell your daughters that you are friends with your neighbours?

[r] Yes, even very much. They saw them on video, they always hear me talking. About those who know how much, it’s Christmas now, they give each other presents on 24, 25, and 26, they give each other presents. They came to me with gifts for me and my daughters, even for my sister’s daughters. My sister visits me, she told me, imagine how nice they are. You are their neighbour and you know each other but I am only your guest here. They thought of her and her girls and brought gifts. My neighbour went downstairs, visited her mother. They told me: “Get dressed and come down.” I didn’t know what they wanted. I got dressed and went down. I tried to get a bike for my daughter some time ago, I opened the door and they got one for her. Two bicycles, one for me too.

[i] Oh.

[r] Imagine me hugging them and crying. A situation, frankly, I don’t know what to tell you.

[i] Very nice.

[r] I was so happy that they said no, don’t cry. I had been searching for some time. She has a small bicycle, which she doesn’t use. Allah is great, imagine how good and nice they are. My neighbours. [name], not in all cities it’s like that.

[r] I’ll tell you, not in all cities. Not everyone is like that. I have a girlfriend in Berlin, the girlfriend of my girlfriend. When we were still small in the settlement, I haven’t seen you until now, for 19 years, I wish to see her. The circumstances, I’ve come this far and so far I don’t know my way around here in Germany. She told me that here in 19, 20 years I haven’t met anyone like you [your neighbours] say. I try to move to Bochum so that I can see these people. She told me that not all people are like that, I have been here for 19 years, I have not met such a person. Not a fraction, really, I know a man who said: “[name], I have been here for three years. Three years in the building and I don’t know the faces of my neighbors.”

[i] Oh.

[r] He told me, “I don’t know their faces, not all their people.” I told him: “Certainly.” So far, the [acquaintances] tell me God loves you. I wished someone would tell me that my neighbors are like that too, but nobody is like that.

[i] Do you love Bochum?

[r] Yes. I’m surprised, so far no one has told me that he also has neighbours like that. They tell me the God, he loves you, he sent you neighbours like that.

[i] Very nice. It’s like family.

Yes, I don’t know, they love Aya very much.

[i] Aya is very likeable.

[r] Yes, they love my daughter very much. Even Rolf, my neighbor, told me, “When you came last year, Aya grew fast, she was still small. When she was standing on the balcony, I could hardly see her when I wanted to greet her, for example. And now, Allah is tall, very fast, they love her very much. She also has fun with them. Like a friend, both of them, they are very happy.

[i] Do you have anything else?

Thank God.

[i] With these beautiful words. From Bochum. And the people from Bochum, with that beautiful smile.

Thank you my love. First of all I thank you very much for this session and for the interview. My dear, I wish, if God wills so, that this year will be a good year for everyone. All Mohammedans, I wish to see my family soon, my husband and my girls. That we will be together.

I very much hope that your dreams will come true and that you will have a wonderful time with your children. Thank you for your time that this will be a good year for all of you. Thank you for the great interview, you gave us a good feeling. It was exciting, there were funny situations, but also sad ones. We talked extensively about your life, which included happiness and bad luck. I wish you and your family happiness and a beautiful life.

God protect you.