I was born on November 16th, 1968 as the fourth child to my parents in Narmak, a suburb of Tehran. My father was a floor tiler, my mother a housewife.
At the age of 17 I was married. Ever since my 12th birthday, my marriage was being discussed, but finally my father was no longer willing to wait. I had no say in the marriage he arranged. But I was able to convince everyone involved that I should live in my parents’ house until I graduated high school. This time, starting with my 12th year of my life, in which childhood is not quite over and adolescence is about to start, proved to be a bitter experience for me.
When I was eleven years old, the Iran-Iraq War (first Persian Gulf War) began. Our family was not spared. One of my brothers fell when I was fourteen. Shortly thereafter my other brother disappeared. He was deemed missing for the longest time. After fourteen years, we were asked to identify his mortal remains, but we could not tell whose bones we were looking at. In the fall of 1987 the next blow of fate reached my family. I was 19, it was the last year of the war – stress, depression, fear, and mourning were our daily companions. This was when my eldest sister fell ill and died before she could even be diagnosed.
I had graduated from high school in the same year, two months later, and had moved into my husband’s household. I successfully completed the entry exam for the university, but my brother and sister in law decided that I was not allowed to study. My husband complied with his family’s interference and decisions. Thus studying was no longer an option for me. But I never gave up the wish to do so one day.
In the fall of 1988 I gave birth to my first daughter. My pregnancy was a sad time and always under the influence of my sister’s death. My late sister’s children – one and four years old at the time – had lost the center of their family. Along with their father, they moved from family to family. As for myself, I lived a very heteronomous life in my husband’s family. I went through many long bleak and painful times during which I was constantly reminded what I was to do and what not.
In the winter of 1990, fifteen months after the birth of my first child, I gave birth to my second daughter. She was born prematurely, tiny and weak, and only weighed 1700g, suffered from respiratory problems. Later on, we would find out that she was disabled. She could not walk. At 4 ½ she had surgery. I had born a third child, a son, who was five months old at this point. Here I was, 25 years old, mother of three, had a husband whom I did not love, and an extended family that made my life difficult.
Twelve years after graduating high school, I was finally allowed to attend university. Throughout my studies, I also worked for a travel agency. It was a difficult time – the pressure under which I was kept growing, both in regards to my private and public life. The man with whom I had to live did not approve of what I did in the least. His and other people’s continuous mean remarks made my life unbearable. So, one day, I made the decision to take my three children – who were 13, 11, and 7 – and leave the country. I had reached a point at which I no longer cared where life sent me.
Additionally, I did not know how to carry on. I only wanted one thing: To leave this poisoned life behind and to start a new one! I had a strong will which would help me to provide for my children and to build a new, better future for us. So I hoped, but things did not quite go this way – my dreams and wishes remained unfulfilled for a long time.
On September 15th, we arrived in Germany and I made a request for asylum. We stayed in Karlsruhe for three weeks. I was asked to state a reason for my request for asylum, but I did not dare to say the truth; I had heard of other women – with and without children – who had been deported to their home country. We were then moved to a refugee home in Offenburg. Here we lived for six years along with 900 other refugees of different cultures and languages. I did not speak any German, did not know any interpreters, and was scared of the Germans. They appeared to be cold-hearted, nationalist, and xenophobic to me. But because of my children, I had to cope with the situation. I had torn them from the environment they knew and taken them with me towards an unknown future – without the security and care, but instead with deprivation and temporarily also with a lack of education. Although I remember the problems of my marriage and life in Iran well, but I faced even bigger problems at this point and could not provide any solutions. All of this weighed heavily on me.
The four of us lived on €100 per month. I was forced to pick up some kind of occupation. Two to three times per week, I had the opportunity to work for two to three hours. I was paid €15 per day. We could still only afford the bare necessities and had to forego many things that used to be normal to us. But my children could finally attend a school and were each given a bicycle.
In 2003, I finally got to get a driver’s license – I had found a possibility to do so in Persian. I bought a cheap used car. My children were very happy, but of course follow-up costs had to be covered. So worked more and saved more money.
In 2005, after my request for asylum was denied for the second time, I lost the right to work. I had to give up my job at Burger King and was forced to sell my car under value. We could only buy the absolutely necessary and cheapest products with our grocery vouchers. Our daily meals were meager. But we had to be content. Many times, I wondered if we had left one hell only to step into the next one. Of course, Germany and the Germans did not owe me anything. I was responsible for my own situation. But at least I was safe here – Iran and my family relations were no longer my daily purgatory.
By now my children had grown up a fair deal; they had become hard-working students. Despite everything, I always paid great attention to a good education. Their good grades made up for many things. We are thankful to many people who helped us. Particularly Mrs. Meier proved to be a great help. She stood by my children and me in all walks of life – I will be thankful to her all of my life.
In 2007, we were allowed to leave the refugee home, and I found an apartment for us. In 2008 I was released from the marriage to a man I never loved via divorce by proxy. I filed another request for asylum in 2010, which was finally accepted, allowing me to move about freely. I moved to Karlsruhe in 2011.
Today, my eldest daughter studies design at the University of Pforzheim. My youngest daughter is in a three-year vocational training at a tax consulting firm. My son attends the final year at a high school with a technical focus. I translate sometimes, mostly for Iranian and Afghan refugees who often suffer from emotional distress.
Despite all odds, I am happy with my life today. My perception of Germans and Germany has changed tremendously. I can finally give back what I received from other people. I now have a loving partner, who helps me a lot, and who has given me a new sense of purpose in my life.
Looking back at the past 45 years of my life, I can draw a conclusion: I do not regret leaving my country even though this has caused me a number of problems. My children have a much better future ahead of them because of it. I do regret having been the victim of old traditions and of my parents making decisions about whom I would have to share my life without my consent. I regret the following unbearable life by the side of a man I did not love, and his family, who never accepted me as their daughter in law. I will probably not be able to forget these memories any time soon. But the beautiful memories of my untroubled childhood reconcile me with Iran and my parents. Today, I am hurting to see my parents who have grown old and fragile. But what hurts me even more is the loss of my siblings. They did not have to die. I miss my youngest brother the most. I was like a mother to him during his childhood. Sometimes I wonder if I left half of my soul in my old home country, while the other half of my soul is trying to make this new country my home.