They fled from fear, painful family stories, abuse, violence and racism. Ahmed, N., Hassan and Baref, Maya and Batis, Hasanin, John and Pinar are refugees and members of the LGBTQI community that found the strength to claim a life liberated from the nightmares of the past. #iAmStrong states each and everyone of them while they share their dreams at a series of stories by SolidarityNow.
“We wanted to go for a coffee or a trip, but we couldn’t. It had to be someone else with us. We were afraid”, says Hassan. “If you are gay, lesbian or transgender in our country you cannot come out. It is a confidential information. If someone learns the truth, the consequences would be dire”, Baref adds. Before becoming refugees, they met and became a couple while living in a Middle Eastern country.
“Now I feel safe. I feel free. No one criticizes me because I’m gay”, N. confesses. “It is difficult to erase the past. You don’t take easily the decision to leave your country. When you live there, you have almost everything, your family, your friends, your job … But when you leave, you lose everything for a long time, because you do not know when you will return. It’s hard to forget all that, but to some extent I prefer to be here because I have rights here, because Greece is an open society. I saved my life, but my feelings are mixed. At the same time, I feel unhappy because I left my country, but I am also happy for my new life”, says N. Few months ago, N. finally reached Greece from Ethiopia. In the beginning he wanted to leave but now he sees his future here.
My favorite Greek expression is “se agapo”* says 18 years old Ahmad from Syria, in broken Greek.
“The last time I cried was two weeks ago. I listened to Arabic music and I thought of my dead mother. The last time I laughed was … today, yes today!” says Hassanin that arrived in Greece from Iraq.
Maya, 25, and Batis, 26 years old, from Tunisia don’t differ at all from any other person of their age who is trying to mend their present and build a future, by looking for work, finding a partner and collecting experiences and knowledge. The only difference is that Maya remembers looking in the mirror and seeing a girl at the age of five, and Batis remembers falling in love with a boy when he was only nine.
It took a while for them to understand that the right to self-determination is something that exists for them too. But now that they know, and they claim it.
Pinar, a 27 year old Syrian of Kurdish origin, talks about his dreams. They are similar to the dreams of most people his age. While his need for love is the same as everyone’s, no matter their age, origin, sexual orientation, professional status or economic situation.
“Love is for everyone”, states Pinar.
Today they all live in SolidarityNow accommodation structures and apartments under the Safe Refugee program implemented by the organization as part of the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s ESTIA Program that is funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).
They all struggle for a future in their new homeland, they want to learn the language, continue their studies, find work, live openly and freely. And they have the strength to claim this future by speaking openly and without fear.
* “I love you” in Greek