“My name is Samir, and this is baby Mustafa.
He is 21 days old today and he is my little prince. My pride and joy.
I would like to share with you my story.
I left Afghanistan because the Taliban were trying to kill me. I used to work with the British and American armies because I speak very good English. I come from a rich family you see, so I had a very good education. I have a masters degree. I grew up in a huuuuge house.
We had everything. We had staff even.
When the British and the Americans left Afghanistan, things became very dangerous for me. I was wanted by the Taliban and I knew they wouldn’t stop until I was dead. I was scared but I tried to continue my life as normally as I possibly could. I love my country, I love my home and my life, I couldn’t leave…
One day I received some devastating news. They had killed my brother. I was absolutely heartbroken, as were my parents, and most of all, my younger brother, who has Downs Syndrome, and doesn’t understand much apart from infinite love. He felt our pain though, that, he understood.
Still, I persevered. I couldn’t let them win, I tried to be brave for my parents, my brother and my newly pregnant wife…until that dreaded day….
It was a grey afternoon, I was travelling in the passenger seat of a taxi with my two friends in the back and the driver next to me in the front. I noticed a motorbike behind us in the wing mirror but tried not the feed the constant anxiety I felt in the pit of my stomach…
As we approached a fork in the road, the motorbike sped up until it was driving alongside our car. For a moment I locked eyes with the driver before he disappeared down the other path, leaving a trail of dust….
Before I had time to think, the world around me exploded. The driver of the motorbike had attached a magnet bomb to the car I was in, and in that moment, my world changed forever. My two friends and the driver of the car died instantly, and I suffered injuries from which I was never recover, but somehow, I was alive.
I spent months in hospital, my family crying by my bedside. My wife expecting to give birth to a son who would never know his father. But I was determined to be there for the birth of my first born son and I fought, I fought hard, until I had enough strength to walk out of that hospital.
Whilst lying in that hospital bed I had made the decision. I had no choice but to leave. We left in the middle of the night, my parents, my brother, my pregnant wife and I. We took as much money as we could, but left everything else behind, our beloved home, everything we had worked our whole lives for…it meant nothing compared to our lives.
We paid smugglers thousands of dollars to take us across Iran and into Turkey. I am a proud man and I felt responsible for my parents, my brother and my beautiful wife. I wanted to make the journey as dignified as possible, I thought that if I paid more, we would at least be treated well. How wrong I was.
They squeezed us into the back of a truck and told us not to make any noise or move at all, as if we were found whilst still in Iran, we would be sent back to Afghanistan. We had to make it to Turkey. We sat in the Truck, our knees to our chests, for days. My little brother didn’t understand. My wife was having stomach pains. Silent tears rolled down my mothers cheeks. I could see them glistening in the darkness. I felt so helpless. Like my whole world was crashing down around me.
We sat and we sat, as day passed into night, and into day again. I still had pain from my injuries but I had to be strong for my family. We sat until my wife couldn’t take it anymore and became totally unresponsive, her eyes rolling into the back of her head. That’s when I started banging. If they sent us back to Afghanistan, if I was killed by the Taliban, that would have to be my fate, by I could not sit there and watch my wife and unborn baby slip away in front of my eyes.
I banged on the wall of the truck, shouting, screaming for help, until they heard us and opened the doors. I don’t remember anything about the people that opened those doors, apart from the fact that they were speaking Turkish. I didn’t understand them, but they were the sweetest words I had ever heard in my life.
We were safe.
In Turkey life is impossible. There was nowhere for us to go. Nowhere for us to sleep, to eat, to even get water. We slept on the street that night, out in the open, on the pavement. There was no other option for us. It was illegal for me to work in Turkey and there was no one there to help us. I saw no future there for my family and my son, and I felt the responsibility to make a plan, so we decided to keep going to Greece.
We paid the rest of our lives savings to a smuggler to get us to Greece. He promised it would be safe, that we would make it, but the moment I saw that boat, in the middle of the night, I wanted to turn back.
“There is no turning back,’ the smuggler told me, reaching his hand to the gun in his pocket. My family all looked to me with a panicked expectancy.
“OK” I breathed…we are going to Greece.
Once everyone was on board the boat we waited for the smuggler to get on but he never did.
“You,” he said, pulling me out of the crowd. He spent a matter of seconds showing me how to start the engine and pointed to the horizon. “just head towards Greece,’ he told me as the panic rose through my body.
I couldn’t believe it. I had never even driven a car before let alone a boat. Every bone in my body was shaking with fear, but again, I forced myself to be strong for my wife, my family, my little brother and I started the engine.
Thankfully we were lucky and the sea was calm. We made it to Greece where volunteers waited for us on the beach with blankets and bottles of water. They held our hands as we jumped from the boat. I have never felt relief like it.
Here in Greece, my son was born. My Mustafa, my future. We had no baby clothes, we had nothing, but he is alive and growing every day. We have remained in the same camp since his birth as my wife is still weak and we don’t know what to do next, but life here is still very hard.
My beautiful mother, once known to be very glamorous and stylish, wears donated clothes and sleeps in a tent. My father, a proud businessman, spends his days just sitting, staring into nothingness. Since we got here all my hair has fallen out. I am 26 years old and I am nearly bald.
I try to keep myself busy translating for volunteers and teaching in the school. If I lose myself, I don’t know what would happen to my wife, who cries herself to sleep every night. This is not the life we wanted or worked for or deserve. I wanted to give her everything, and look at us now.
All I want is a chance. I will do anything. Any job, I don’t care, just a chance at rebuilding my life for my family.”
Samir lives in a camp in Oinofyta, not far from Athens in Greece. To directly support our work in this camp: