Saman (23) from Iraq talks about his escape from IS

"My life was quite normal, you can say"


My grandparents were the first in my family, at least among those I know who lived through the 2002 war. All members of my family, especially the older ones, knew all about the subject of war. However, during our lives in Iraq we have tried to repress, ignore, tune out this issue, lie to ourselves and delude ourselves that we could lead a perfectly normal life by hoping that war will never come again. Nevertheless, the war was always there, next to us, in the other countries that border Iraq. But hope is always loud. You think the war is far away, it takes time, strength, energy and space to catch you.

As of August 3, 2014, war was still a long way off. My life was quite normal, you could say. Like any life without major interruptions. My life flowed and it felt normal. As a Yazidi, when you find yourself in the middle of a Muslim country, you have no choice but to hope that you will experience something. But this constant hoping wasn't worth it for a youngster like me back then. So you let go of hope and just live life as normally as you can until you learn to let go of hope.

The family situation was also normal. I have a large family and we have always gotten along well. Of course there were little things like arguments between parents and siblings, but we solved all misunderstandings with love, patience and communication. That's how we did it back then in my home country. In fact, a perfectly normal family and a perfectly normal life. We had no plans, desires, or desire to escape, to change our environment, or anything like that. Except for my eldest brother who moved to Germany in 2007 because he always wanted to live in Europe. Some of his friends had already moved to Germany to get an education and that's how he wanted to go to Germany. We were always, up until the catastrophe, content to live in our village where it is warm for 8 months and cool for 4 months. Where the sun kisses your skin, you run barefoot through nature and say hello to everyone in the village. Me as a child and teenager, my siblings and friends didn't recognize the hatred and the war that has already been repeated 73 times between Muslims and Yazidis and have enjoyed our lives. From our perspective, the world was innocent, holy, and loving. You could never feel the hatred and evil in our family and among the people that have been in my life. Until I was old enough to hear and understand a bit more about this hate from my parents. I can't say whether I really understood it today.

Our financial situation was stable to have food "on the floor" every day (Asian people eat on the floor). Everything else was expensive, which is not unusual. However, I never felt that we were poor or that we needed anything else.

Every day, every evening we played football barefoot. We even skipped school to play soccer. I love football. I attended primary and secondary school for 6 years. Besides that, I had a job on the construction site, but I didn't earn anything because I enjoyed so much, purely for my satisfaction, volunteering with my friends on the job and spending as much time with them as possible. Money has never played a big role in our lives.

It is difficult to answer the question of what I had to leave behind in my homeland. It would be easier to answer the question "What did I take with me from my homeland?". The answer is: my passport, my birth certificate and my physical body. To understand that I had to leave EVERYTHING behind, I will give a few examples: the house I lived in for 14 years, the weather, the sun, which often came to visit me and stayed with me for a long time, friendships , my childhood, my family, the bicycle, which was like my extended self, clothing, festivals, traditions, my upbringing, my feelings, my personality, which was still developing. This development broke off and I had to leave her behind.

"I remember endless nights without sleep, escape plans and conversations..."

The war started and of course that was the reason why my family and I had to flee. It is almost impossible to get the experiences out of your head. I remember the volume of the guns and bombs. I remember endless nights with no sleep, no escape plans, no conversation, and no support from my family. Vividly I still see many dead bodies everywhere, loose body parts... The IS terrorists killed our men, stole our women and then sold them to other countries. A pregnant woman gave birth to her baby. They took the baby from her, cooked it and then offered it to the mother to eat. Unknowingly, the hungry mother ate her baby. Then they asked the woman if it tasted good. She answered "yes" and they were happy and informed her that she had eaten her own child. They had sex with 4 and 5 year old children, we had to change our beliefs, experience days and nights without food, without water. They threatened us to contact other family members, telling them it was safe to come and rescue us, and if they came to get us they would kill our family members. Young people and children had to work with weapons, e.g. B. load with balls. Certainly there were more situations and scenes that I experienced as a result of the war, but my brain protects me from all these traumatic experiences by not being able to remember many things. It's probably better this way.


"All you have is hope"

Since my brother already lived in Germany (as mentioned above), he was our resource. He had to get as much money as possible to get us from Iraq to Germany. How he got the money for all the family members I still don't know, and to be honest I don't want to know. Bringing a person to Germany cost around €10,000. That was the first time I heard how much I'm worth. I felt like an object. I wondered if I was expensive or cheap. These 10,000 € were then divided between people in Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia etc. for each escape aid. We fled on foot through Turkey and Bulgaria for about 2 months. We had enough water and food to traverse each country on foot. In each new country we had to buy food and water again. We drove from Serbia to Germany in a station wagon. The driver took apart the seats in the car and then hid us in them. Then he put them back together again so no one would notice we were going with him. Other people sat on us. Driving 7-8 hours without seeing lights without being able to breathe normally felt like 2 years. Above all, you don't know where you're going, what's happening outside. All you have is hope.

"I have great respect for the Germans, who have incredible patience with us foreigners with a weak knowledge of German."


I've been in Germany for 5 years now. I don't know how I got to my new home, that is, to my brother in Germany. Nobody saw me and I saw nobody. All I know is that I walked straight from the car into the room of my new home.

The first thing that surprised me in Germany were the trams. They were very interesting means of transport for me. A big culture shock for me was the clothes that people in Germany wear. Brands, fashion, hairstyles, general looks came as a shock to me as there is only one race, religion and tradition in Iraq. In comparison, there are many races, cultures and religions in Germany. I found the people kissing in the street very unnatural. The language was also a shock as I only knew the Arabic script. I also found it strange that young adults immediately move away from their families or their parents. We live with our family almost forever, or at least close to our family. The most disgusting thing I can't stand to this day is the vast amount of papers and documents that you have to have in Germany and that you get while you're here.

I particularly liked the openness of the people. Here you can talk about many different things without being judged. You can express yourself freely and express your opinion. I have great respect for the Germans, who have incredible patience with us foreigners with a weak knowledge of German. I wouldn't say there was anything particularly bad when I came to Germany. Maybe only occasionally racism towards me on the street, on public transport, in schools, at work. Otherwise, I really can't say that I've experienced something indescribably bad since I've been living here.

I find the weather uncomfortable. You never know what kind of weather will be in Germany. It's just unpredictable. On the same day it can rain, snow and be 15 degrees. Fun and interesting weather, but it's killing me personally. I come from a country where the sun always shines. Although my skin is light brown, I need vitamin D all the time. I'm still cold at 15-20 degrees and I usually chill in a jacket by a lake.

I find the food in Germany rather unhealthy. In my home country we produced all the food ourselves. To this day I am skeptical when it comes to supermarkets and their products. Who prepares all these products, are they sprayed and do they contain chemicals? Such questions come to me and my family often. At home we prepare the same traditional food as at home. At least we try to prepare it. Sometimes all the products needed to make our traditional dishes are not available. And even though we eat almost the same food, I feel the difference between the food at home and the food in Germany. The products are of a different quality than those at home.


"I had to grow up ahead of time."

What do I miss from my home country? Missing myself is the first thing that comes to mind. I had to interrupt my childhood in order to continue living. I had to grow up ahead of time. I miss my childhood, the carefree days and free feelings I felt back then. I miss the person I was back then. I had to leave her quickly and couldn't say goodbye to myself. I miss my friends with whom I talked about everything, the family that still stayed in Iraq, our traditions, the weather, the food. I miss the smell of my country, the colors of my country. This missing is most likely just my traumata that I can still heal, and just because I'm homesick, I don't want to criticize Germany. When you're a foreigner, especially when you're a refugee, you feel like you have multiple personalities, multiple languages, multiple cultures. You don't belong anywhere. One is too strange for Germans and unwelcome at home. You can't win. I miss the times when I didn't worry about whether I would get a job or not, whether my vocabulary was sufficient, whether I was too dark to get a job. Now I think about the money more often and how I can make more money. Germany sent me to the world of work as a foreigner. Whether that's my fault or Germany's, I don't know.


In the beginning 8 people including me lived in a 1 bedroom apartment for a few months. Now we have an apartment with several rooms. We have all found housing, financial support, training, work, etc. through careers advice, a job centre, teachers, friends, relatives and acquaintances. Since I'm 23 years old now, I have to leave the apartment where my parents and siblings live together. I can understand why this is so: too many people in a 3 bedroom apartment and too many tenants for a 3 bedroom apartment. We have never had such rules or limits.


"We all know each other, but at the same time we are new people in a foreign country."


The current family situation is still stable, but we all feel how war, moving, work and adult life have affected us; we don't spend as much time together anymore, we don't eat together at the same time as we used to. This whole situation has both separated us and brought us closer together. How to understand that is difficult. We all know each other, but at the same time we are new people in a foreign country.

If I could give any advice to other refugees, it would be to read this text, see it and understand that you are not alone, that there are always people who feel the same way as you do. The trauma and emotions are It can be very unclear in the beginning and it takes time to heal, but it is doable and possible. There is always a solution to every problem. When it comes to Germany, I would recommend going to school. First to learn the language, then to stay in school, possibly to complete an apprenticeship or a degree and to work. The Germans have great respect for those foreigners who know German and are either studying or working, which is also logical, because if you come here just to live from the job center and sit at home, you don't deserve the openness of Germany . Also, I would like to say that Germany offers so many opportunities in many areas for every person, whether it's work or school. So if you're complaining, I recommend that anyone who feels uncomfortable or unwelcome here just go back home. It is so easy!


"I see a perspective for me..."


I graduated from middle school (B1) in 2021. It took me 5 years to get my degree because I never did very well in school, neither in Iraq nor in Germany. I was never self conscious when it came to school and learning. I had opportunities to do an apprenticeship or go to another school and then study later, but I never had a goal, wish, idea, or idea of what I would like to be or in what area, as what I would like to be in the future to work for most of my life. Maybe that's because I had to interrupt my life in Iraq so suddenly and I still haven't fully found myself since then. Or because German was and still is a barrier for me. That's why I decided to work. Since graduating I have had various jobs such as B. Warehouse clerk in bakeries, clerk in various shops and DHL employees. I got all these jobs through the contacts of my brothers and acquaintances. I'm currently working in the kiosk as a salesman.

Sometimes I regret that I chose the commute to work and not school as I now have difficulties in finding a job. I want to make myself independent of my family and my acquaintances in the professional field in order to earn more money and to improve my German language skills. If I don't have contacts, I won't get a job at all, because the high school diploma isn't worth much in the working world. That's why I recommend that the young refugees first learn the language intensively. No matter how long it takes, you should take your time. At first it will seem like it takes years to learn just one language. Also, it will seem to them that they are just wasting their time with the language, but they are not losing anything, they are gaining a new language. It doesn't matter when you finish your studies or training, sooner or later you'll have to work anyway. After that, they can follow their dreams either through education or study. And even if you have no idea or plan what you want to do, there are many opportunities in Germany, starting with an internship in any area to see and test what you want to do. Besides that, they will always get help from teachers and career guidance. You never have to feel lonely and clueless in Germany.


I personally have no contact with Germans. I don't contact friends from my home country that often because the time difference is too big. From time to time I send the money to my grandmother and aunt in Iraq. Since I've been in Germany, I haven't been to my home country. I know a lot of refugees here.


I see a perspective for me: work, support my family financially and emotionally, get my driver's license, travel, maybe start playing football again... The only thing I lack is my passport to travel and to get a new job. For the future ideal life in Germany, I only wish for Yazidi people that they get a passport so that they can be independent of a country."


Thank you Saman for having the courage to tell this story here!