Mahdi on Life Experience and Making Friends in Berlin

Mahdi talks in an interview about the initial difficulties in meeting his classmates in Berlin and how he dealt with the experience of marginalization. He also addresses other refugees and the German society.

Mahdi © private
Mahdi © private

When I first went to school, it was very hard, the atmosphere was very unfriendly. The other children mostly laughed at me because I mispronounced many words in German. They were younger than me, I was 15 or 16 at the time and was much more mature than them. The others were 14 and had a different idea about life. That’s why it was very difficult in the beginning.

I didn’t devalue myself as a result, but told myself that the other young people were children who hadn’t experienced anything of life – who didn’t know what I had gone through. If I had the choice, I would not have come either – but I couldn’t be deported to Afghanistan. I had no life there. I did not come here voluntarily, I had no other choice. Many people did not understand that. […]

Now sometimes teachers at school think that I was born here. In the beginning, when I speak German, they think that I come here or at least that I have been here for many years, but when I tell them that I have only been here since 2016, they are surprised. I am proud of it. And I can also say that I had a different life.

I have contact with many young people my age: Afghans, Persians, Germans, Turks, Arabs, whatever. I have two or three real friends. I know a lot of them, but I would not call most of them real friends.

Mahdi © private
Mahdi © private

My father is religious. I am Muslim. It is forbidden to drink alcohol in our country. And my father was afraid that I would start drinking beer when I came here. But that’s not really my thing. There are many young people who do it, but not me. I just go to school normally. I also played in the Deutsche Oper Theater for three years and that’s where I met other German teenagers. But it has nothing to do with [religion] whether I drink alcohol. You can decide everything yourself. […]

To be completely honest, I would say that I have had much more experience than a 25-year-old who was born in Germany. Because I have experienced that one could not do things for which one needed courage. For example, to go from Turkey to Greece – on a boat where it was dangerous, without being able to swim, where you could die. Many young people could not do it. Most German young people could not even go to Spain alone when they were 15. But I managed to do it all. That is why I would describe myself as a strong person.

For the people who read this:

If they are refugees themselves, I would say: Stay strong, life will always improve. The moon will not always hide behind the clouds. And for other people who read this: You should not judge anyone. Nobody knows about the lives of other people. Therefore, you should not condemn if you do not know what happened in life. Many of the people who fled had no other choice. It was not my decision to be born in Iran and to be confronted with racism. Therefore, one should respect all people. All people are equal.

Interview with Mahdi A. on 15.07.2020 in Berlin.

Mahdi was born in December 2001 in Iran, in the capital Tehran. His parents came from Afghanistan, but had fled to Iran forty years earlier because of the war in Afghanistan. Mahdi’s mother died when he was still a child. Mahdi’s father is still in Iran, where he is in a constant state of emergency due to the poor economic situation. Mahdi still has two little siblings who also live in Iran.

At the age of twelve Mahdi decided to flee to Europe because of the difficult political situation in Iran and the racism against Afghans there. At the age of fourteen, he set off by car and on foot to Turkey, from there to Greece and across Europe to Berlin.

After his arrival in Berlin, Mahdi lived for over a year in various shelters for refugees until he moved into a shared apartment. Mahdi graduated from secondary school and is now doing his vocational baccalaureate at a school for fashion design. Since 2018 he has had a residence permit in Germany, which is valid until 2021. Then he has to apply for an extension for another three years. He hopes to study or do an apprenticeship in Germany until then, so that he can get another extension of his residence permit and sometime an unlimited residence permit.

In the interview excerpt, Mahdi tells us that the encounter with his German classmates was difficult at first because their life situation gave them little understanding of his story. But Mahdi remained strong. Today he says that he has some “real” friends in Berlin and is proud of how well he learned German.

The interview with Mahdi A. was conducted on 15.07.2020 by We Refugees Archive in Berlin.