For our first ever story as part of our Afghans of Athens series, we share the story of Nafiser. Our series seeks to display the conditions of the members who use the space and services of the Afghan M&R Community Center and Generation Outside Afghanistan, located in Athens, Greece.
Nafiser is an Afghan-national raised in Iran who recently came with her husband and son to Greece in search of a better life. Her story was captured in Farsi, and translated into English thanks to our partners from Generation Outside Afghanistan, and the Afghan M&R Community Center in Greece.
Read her story below.
I was born in Afghanistan, and when I was 10 I came to Iran, and for over 30 years I lived in Iran. I was a child when I was in Afghanistan so I don’t remember much. In Iran I got married at 13 years old and straight away I had to work. In Iran I had a very hard and bitter life. My husband is 30 years older than me, he is an old man and nobody gave him work so I had to do all of the work. I was like the man of the family, for 15 years I worked and worked. I was responsible for the rent and all the expenses. It was hard physical labor and 5 years ago, I had to have an operation on both of my hands, I also have a slipped disk in my back, I didn’t have enough money to do this operation. I also had growths under my breasts, which needed a 3rd operation. All in all, I could no longer do this work due to the health problems. I could not afford to stay there, so some people suggested I go to Europe to get a better life.
I also came here because of the future for my son, for many years I could not see a future for me and my son in Iran. We didn’t have any documents, so my son couldn’t go to school. In Iran they don’t give documents to Afghan asylum seekers and refugees so many people are undocumented, and cannot access services. In the beginning we had documents, which we needed to pay to renew every 6 months, but as I was the only earner in the family we sometimes couldn’t pay – so they closed our file and we were undocumented.
So I borrowed money and traveled to Turkey with my husband and my Son. It was very difficult because all the time we were in the desert and the jungle. I was in turkey for 2 months and then we came to Lesvos, where I lived for 8 months.
For 8 months we had a really hard time. We were 3 people in a very small tent. It is very hard because I hate my husband, after 15 years of sleeping separate to him in Iran I had to sleep next to him again in this small tent. It is difficult even to stand him, knowing that he is my husband. After 8 months the government moved us to Oropos, far from Athens, then after another 8 months they transferred us to a house in Athens. In August 2019 we arrived in Greece, we waited 2 years to do the asylum Interview. 2 months ago we did the interview about Turkey and we are still waiting for a decision.
I hope that my son can study here in Greece. Due to Covid, nothing is moving, when my son was registered for school he still has to wait at home because they say that there’s no teacher. He is 16, in the future if he can he wants to study to be a doctor. I hope that he can reach this dream.
I have been coming to the Afghan Community Center for more than 1 month, someone suggested that I come as there are language classes and activities. I would like the community to create a bigger space with more education programs for people in very bad situations and help with finding work for people. I have been volunteering here for a week cooking for the volunteers, and cleaning and it makes me feel really good, instead of staying home I come here and do anything that I can do to help out, it makes me really happy.
All of my family is in Afghanistan, we are 6 sisters and 3 brothers. 6 of my siblings are in Afghanistan and 2 are in Iran, from the day that the Taliban took over the government in Afghanistan I have been so worried about them and it has changed my psychological situation. My family are in danger I don’t have the ability to do anything about it.