New Friendships

Alaa Muhrez talks about the new friendships she has made in Berlin and about the potential as well as difficulty when it comes to contact with other people from Syria.

© Alaa Muhrez
Alaa Muhrez © Minor Kontor.

“Wir haben ein Jahr im Hotel gewohnt, auf dem Antonplatz in der Nähe der Schönhauser Allee. In dieser Zeit haben wir den Deutschkurs besucht. […] Dort haben wir andere arabische Geflüchtete getroffen. Auf Facebook gibt es mehrere Gruppen, und ich habe geschrieben und andere kennengelernt. Außerdem habe ich freiwillig gearbeitet in einem Projekt, das geflüchteten Frauen beibringt, Fahrrad zu fahren. Und ich konnte Fahrrad fahren, also habe ich anderen geholfen. Das hatte ich auf Facebook in einem Event gesehen und geschrieben, dass ich mitmachen möchte. Ich finde das toll, denn Fahrradfahren ist eine kleine Sache, aber in Deutschland ist es sehr wichtig. Es ist toll, wenn wir als Flüchtlinge auch sehr kleine Information weitergeben und dieses Wissen austauschen und uns damit gegenseitig helfen können.

Es gibt ein Projekt für Menschen aus verschiedenen Kulturen und Flüchtlingen, Start with a Friend. Ich habe dort eine deutsche Freundin gefunden. Wir treffen uns oft, gehen ins Kino und spazieren. Jetzt ist es etwas schwieriger, weil ich Kinder habe, aber sie ist sehr hilfsbereit.

Ich habe viele syrische Freunde, die ich über Facebook kennengelernt habe. Und wenn ich jemanden getroffen habe, hat diese Person einfach gesagt: ‚Komm, ich habe noch andere Freunde‘, und hat mich mitgenommen. Es ist gut, sich mit Menschen zu treffen, die die gleichen Erfahrungen machen. Aber ich treffe mich lieber mit Deutschen als mit Syrern, denn ich möchte nicht über meine Erfahrungen sprechen, über den Krieg. Und nicht über meine Eltern und meine Familie. Mit meiner deutschen Freundin spreche ich nicht über das. Wir reden über andere Sachen und spielen mit den Kindern. Wenn es neue Nachrichten aus Syrien gibt, dann müssen wir natürlich mit unseren arabischen Freunden aber darüber sprechen, und das mache ich nicht gerne.”

“We lived in the hotel for a year, on Antonplatz close to Schönhauser Allee. During this time we attended the German course. […] There we met other Arab refugees. There are several groups on Facebook, and I wrote and met others. I also volunteered in a project that teaches refugee women how to ride a bicycle. And I could ride a bike, so I helped others. I saw this on Facebook in an event and wrote that I wanted to participate. I think that’s great, because cycling is a small thing, but in Germany it’s very important. It’s great when we as refugees pass on even very small pieces of information and share this knowledge and thus help each other.

There is a project for people from different cultures and refugees, Start with a Friend. I found a German friend there. We meet often, go to the cinema and take a walk. Now it is a bit more difficult because I have children, but she is very supportive.

I have a lot of Syrian friends that I got to know through Facebook. And when I met someone, they would just say, ‘Come, I have other friends’ and take me with them. It is good to meet people who have the same experiences. But I prefer meeting Germans rather than Syrians, because I don’t want to talk about my experiences, about the war. And not about my parents and my family. With my German friend I don’t talk about that. We talk about other things and play with the children. But if there is news from Syria, then of course we have to talk about it with our Arab friends, and I don’t like to do that.”

In the wake of the war in Syria, Alaa Muhrez and her husband fled to Egypt after 2013. After Abdel Fatah El-Sisi came into power by a coup d’état, the problems for refugees increased there. It became more and more difficult to find work, so Alaa and her husband decided to go to Germany. It became more and more difficult to find work, so Alaa and her husband decided to go to Germany. From Egypt to Italy she and her husband went by a small boat with 400 other people on it. They changed the boat several times. “If you got up, you couldn’t sit down again,” explains Alaa, that’s how crowded it was. After the dangerous journey, they arrived in Catania, Sicily. There their personal details were recorded. They knew that it could be difficult to apply for a residence permit in Italy to continue their journey, so they did not wait for their papers to be received.

They arrived in Austria by plane and from there to Munich. From Munich they were brought to Leipzig, and they were assigned an apartment in a nearby village. Alaa reports on several incidents of discrimination that she had to experience there. After more than a year, they came to Berlin, where they found an apartment and work after some time. Alaa talks about where and how she made contact in Berlin – with German friends and other refugees – and how she deals with these new friendships. She talks about the importance of mutual support in the refugee community, for example in a project in which she taught other refugees how to ride a bicycle. She also says that while it gives her comfort to be with other Syrian refugees who have had similar experiences, it can also be stressful, as she does not always want to talk about her traumatic experiences.

The interview with Alaa Muhrez was conducted by We Refugees Archive in Berlin on June 30, 2020.

Translation from German into English © Minor Kontor.