My name is Jamal, I am 26 years old and come from a city called Sinjar, in Iraq. In summer 2014 the Islamic state occupied many cities, this was the last phase of my Abitur. The political mood was very heated, we lived right in the middle of it. Despite the situation I graduated from high school, I had to postpone one subject because the pressure was too high. The Kurdish army withdrew when ISIS moved in, they did not protect us. The families tried to defend themselves, they only managed to a certain extent, they did not have enough weapons to fight ISIS. Many people were murdered. ISIS owned the weapons of the Iraqi army, they were much stronger than the others.
We escaped, we had to escape. We fled to a place called Duhuq, thank God we survived the escape. Many people fled, those who remained died and the elders died in the mountains. Children died of hunger, it was a difficult escape. Few people made it. ISIS destroyed an entire city of the Yezids, they raped the women, killed the men and took the children with them. An unimaginable, terrible situation.
We were supported by aid organizations, they built camps for us, provided us with the most important things. They really helped us a lot. I had to write another exam to get my Abitur, I failed, the exam was postponed to the next year. In 2015 the situation calmed down a little, we lived in the camp, I worked in the relief organization and used my English language to help. We rented an apartment, I took the test and passed. I signed up for the Medical Institute, but unfortunately I never started studying there.
We had to escape. We decided to flee to Germany. It was a very difficult decision, but we as Yezidis had a difficult time in Iraq, we were constantly treated like second-class people. Our town was destroyed, our houses were burned, our family still lives in the camp, far away from their family. Most of them fled, I decided to flee to Germany at the end of 2015. I fled with part of my family. I stayed in Turkey for 15 days, I had no choice but to flee with a smuggler.
I came to Greece on a rubber dinghy. Many did not finish this route either, thank God I did. We passed many countries. We stayed one night in Greece, from there we drove to Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Austria. From Austria we drove to Germany. When I arrived in Germany, I felt sad on the one hand that only a part of my family came with me and another part still lives in my home country. And about leaving my homeland to flee to a foreign country. And secondly, I felt happy because I had arrived, safe.
In 2016 we were registered in Germany. We stayed the first four months in Menden, in a gym. We slept on double beds. We were 400 people in one room, the situation was unbearable. Then we came to Cologne, same circumstances, another gym. It was difficult for us to endure the situation. Nine months passed until our interview, months of full insecurity. We moved again, back to a gym. We suffered greatly from it, psychologically it was a great burden. I couldn’t do much, wasn’t allowed to work, so I looked for a job to help. I speak Kurdish, Arabic and English. I use the languages to convey, I accompanied people to offices and doctors, translated for them. Most of the time I was in the home management office.
The first year passed, it was hard for me, we were still living in the gym. I came to a point where I couldn’t go on. We finally got a stay in 2017, I decided to start a new life in Germany. I decided to help myself for now. We found an apartment, it was not easy to find something in a big city like Cologne. It was a tough road, but we found one. I made new friends, went to an integration class, where I still am today. A lot’s changed, I’m looking for an apartment. I live with my brother and his family. I’d rather live alone, so I could learn better. My little nephew is great, but studying with a child in the apartment is exhausting.
In Germany we have difficulties with bureaucracy. Until today I don’t understand what you need a document for. The language is not easy to understand. I wish to build my future here. I was exhausted, but I want to achieve something. It’s hard for me to be in class because of all the other stress. I try to learn German well and hope to find a good job. I would like to learn more. It may be a long way, but it’s not impossible.
My dreams in Iraq burst, now I try to build up new dreams in Germany. Wherever a person lives, he has to work on himself and make an effort. What we experienced was much, but more important is our future. I can’t claim to have left everything behind, it still concerns me, of course. Every time I hear news from my home country, it hurts me here. Integration is not easy for me, maybe it is easy for people who haven’t been through much. But for me, it’s difficult. Finding a job, studying the language, the bureaucracy, all this is difficult for me because I have a lot behind me. We are exhausted from what we experienced. The time in the gym was hard. I had nothing to do. But I never give up, I get stronger when God wants me to. My dream, to learn German well, to get a good Abitur and to study something meaningful. Reality is not always what you dream of, to make it come true you need endurance and strength. I’m trying to get my Abitur. If I don’t make it, I’ve done everything I can. I want to accept reality as it is.
Storyteller’s name: Jamal
Interviewer’s name: Sarah El Desoke
Country of origin: Iraq