This is the personal story of Amir, brother of Arash from ‘Our House’ in Athens – who were escaping tyranny in Iran, together. Amir wound up in prison on Lesbos island, Greece.
I grew up aware of danger.
My father and brother murdered, another in the notorious Evin prison for 3 years.
I understood that Arash needed to leave Iran to protect his life.
Even though I knew and understood these things, they do not remove the shocking realization that the time had come for myself to leave.
Then, you must think fast, protect those around you from what is happening and move quickly to safety.
Everyone you love, every place you love, miss out on any fond farewell.
I could not tell my mother until I was across the border. In any event, how would I put to her that her youngest child will leave her, when she has already lost so much and had already faced such heartache.
I miss her every day.
The Iranian government decided that the NGO I continued after my brother had left, was not legal. The authorities sent for me to attend a meeting. The past experiences made the present danger entirely clear. On the next day, I crossed the border into Turkey.
You do not quite realize this adrenaline high will stay with you for the next 3 years. Constant alert. I am not sure it will ever leave.
I am asked: What is my experience of coming from Iran to Greece.
There are several ways to consider this question.
The least interesting is the journey itself. This was documented many, many times by people like me. It is dangerous but all of those who fled are driven forward by hope.
Then, I think of that hope, and expectation of freedom and safety in Europe and the vision I had of human rights for all.
How all of this hope, expectation, and vision were crushed.
The hell of the camp, the attempt to illegally deport me, the time held in prison against all recognized processes- even torturing survivors – the failures in my case and, even after I got accepted, being held on this island unable to travel.
A prison still.
I have been separated from my brother for 18 months now.
“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing to live when I wanted to die” –
To be deep inside yourself, isolated, trapped, in a void. To crawl my way back to living.
So, another way to view this circumstance is to consider what life and lifestyle your son, brother, a partner would have in a “normal” pattern between the ages of 25 and 28. Would my choices have been different than theirs?
I love music, art, sport, socializing with friends, taking a beer, going for a swim, simply going for a walk. I’d love to see a gig, a match, to go to the cinema, to play table tennis, enjoy a comedy show and..travel.
I’d love to learn to drive, have a motorbike, have a job.
Have I made any statements yet that would be different from the aspirations your son, brother or partner may have? Experiences to simply have, live out as in an everyday life?
The only difference is where I was born and the circumstances which forced me to escape.
And that the human rights I expected to see, are not here, in Greece.
A person is kept in absolute poverty, not allowed to work or contribute to society, segregated from access to medical care, education or social networks.
So all this: a regular life and lifestyle of a 28-year-old guy are inaccessible.
That I have had to spend these years fighting just for safety.. is astonishing.