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October 2017
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When refugees cross their borders

The journey

One last time did I look back to the streets behind me. The streets that I called home. The streets where I learned to ride my first bike, the streets where I used to play hide-and-seek with my friends. I grew up on these streets, became a woman on these streets. These are the streets where my parents live. My family. Those who are not in prison, at least. As we drove further and further away, I saw the image of my younger brother flashing through my head. He was 18 when I last saw him. In the glimpse of his life, he got taken away by the Iranian regime. Execution. At least he got a gunshot, they spared him the electric chair. The last thing I remember is him trying to steal my sandwich. My mom makes these delicious sandwiches, with salami, mayonnaise and sabzi, which are Iranian herbs. He already ate his and tried to steal mine. We wrestled over the sandwich and he ended up on the floor, with me laughing at him. And now, he is just a memory belonging to these streets. What will happen to his memory when the streets are not in my sight anymore?

The revolutionary guard has been after us for a while. Somehow, we got away every time. A few days ago, it got dangerous. They invaded the house where we were hiding, trying to find us. Luckily, we just went out to get food. That’s when we knew it was time. There were people who could get you out of the country. We paid them, they gave us horses. We went into the mountains, and crossed the border of Iran and Iraq. The plan was to get to the center of Iraq on our horses, after which we would continue our journey by jeep. I was almost 9 months into my pregnancy. I gave birth in one of the refugee camps near Bagdad. The circumstances of a refugee are already unbearable, let alone with a child. These times were extremely difficult, but I wouldn’t have made it without him. Every time I looked at his face, I got hope. He was born in the mountains, I had to make sure that the rest of his life would be in a safe place. I had just given birth, but we went on.

There is one event I will never forget. It happened 10 days after my son was born. We were on the horses, trying to cross the water. My husband was holding him. The sun was shining, it would have been a beautiful day, if the situation was different. Suddenly, the horse went through his leg. He fell into the water, with my husband still on his back. The horse could not get up, and water had reached my husband’s chin. With all his power, he held our child above his head. They could have both died right there. My baby was 10 days old, he would have drowned within seconds. The horse was panicking, and so was I. Just when my husband was about to lose his power, the moment when he was about to drop our son, the horse got up. He got up, and we got up with him.

A long, stressful and dangerous journey continued. By the time we arrived in the Netherlands, we had seen and been through everything. In the asylum center, we had to sleep in small rooms, together with strangers and their children, who did not speak our language. But it was all fine, because we were safe. My baby was safe. And we would have a future. When we left, we thought we would go home soon. Go back to the streets with the memories of my brother. This was 33 years ago. Today I have a job, we have a home, and three beautiful children who got the chance to go to school. Without this country, we would have been forced to go back to Iran, a different Iran than the one we grew up in. A Iran that would take away our dignity, torture our children, and send us to a place where my brother would be waiting for us.

Political changes

This Iranian couple would never have the life that they have now without the help of the government of the Netherlands. International help is very important, especially in times like this, when it seems like the entire world is in war. The amount of refugees coming to Europe is getting bigger and bigger, and help is much needed. But in recent years, European countries have stepped up their attempt to push migrants back to their countries at the border of Europe. According to Amnesty International, these measures are human rights violations, because of the huge risks and dangers that await these refugees when they go back to their countries.  And that is not where it ends, when refugees do get allowed to enter Europe, they often have to stay in prison cells, while their life is a prison already. Europe doesn’t realize, that the reason these people are less fortunate than the people on their continent, is only because they are born in the wrong places. Therefore, Amnesty International is demanding a better treatment of refugees, by calling for the following:

  • People are treated with dignity at the borders. Their rights must be respected during border control and return operations, including the right to claim asylum.
  • The right to liberty of migrants and asylum-seekers is respected. Immigration detention must only be as a measure of last resort and children must no longer be detained for the purpose of migration control.
  • People on the move no longer suffer abuse because of their migration status. Those who are abused or exploited must have effective access to justice.

The Iranian couple has a new chance of living. Shouldn’t this be a right for everyone?

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