March 30, 2015

From Afghanistan to Catania, Jamal’struggle for peace and happiness

 “Mummy, I’m afraid of bombs. Can we live in the safer place?” four years old Jamal asked his mother. Family decided to move from Afganistan to Iran expecting to find peace. It was 1985.

Today Jamal is living in Sicily, Italy. At the end of this two  hour interview I asked: “Are you happy now?” His answer was “I’m trying to be”. But the road from being a child full of  fears to an ambitious and happy man is never simple. During the conversation Jamal said, that there were moments in his life, when he was praying for God to not have the experiences he had.

By Akvilė Žaromskytė

Escaping the war

When Jamal’s family decided to move to Iran he was just a four years old boy. His only  wish was to escape from the sound of bombs.  His parents thought that this will be a safer place to live in. Furthermore they expected to find a place for family with seven children in country with similar culture and language.

When they reached Iran they found out, that living in foreign country is quite complicated. It was not so easy to start living there from zero. His elder brothers used to work difficult and physical jobs. The whole family was going there every day to help them carry up heavy stones – so did he, the youngest one in family.

Violence against teenager

When Jamal starts to talk about his teenager life, he confesses: “I didn’t have shoes or pants to go to school. Others were bullying me for that.  And once I bought a fashionable red jacket. I thought bullies will stop. But then they started to bully me, because I’m afgan who wears a fashionable jacket.” Kids were making jokes about him not only because he didn’t dress like others, but because he was from Afganistan in general.

Classmates were not worst thing thogh. All of the media was full of hate speech about Afgans. Newspapers were writing bad things about his nation at that moment. There were big headlines such as “Afgan killed Iranian”. Society became crazy and angry with Afgans. When Jamal was at school even teachers were acting cruel. He was not Jamal for them. He was just afgan.

Young teenager boy was feeling horrible because he didn’t feel safe in the streets,  at school or anywhere else for that matter. You could be beaten in the street just because you are Afgan. The school became like a jail for him. His grades started going down and down. In his first school he was student number one but later he couldn’t even recognize where and why was he. “I was just praying for God: I don’t want to stay in school, I don’t want to stay in Iran. I want to go to Afganistan, even if there is war, but there I can be free as Afgan.”

Search of peace

JaGreecemal’s father didn’t let him quit the school. And just when he was 18 years old, he understood, what is actually happening in his motherland and what does the war mean. After finishing school he decided to go out from Iran to Europe. His wish was to get higher education and build a future. Jamal’s father wasn’t happy about his decision to go to Europe because he knew – his son will have to go there in a very dangerous way.

After his mother died Jamal decided to try and do something for himself and to go to Europe anyway. He was 21 years old, it was 2001 when he paid for the smuggler to help him reach Greece. This time was unsuccessful and he had returned to Iran. After two more years he tried again. It was a dangerous way, but he finally reached Greece.

For five more years he was going from one European country to another while facing extremely dangerous situations, hiding and running from police and trying to start the life he was dreaming about. And just in 2008 he finally got a residence permit in Italy.

Positive look at future

Now Jamal is living in Catania, city of Sicily. He is 34 years old handsome young man. He says that at the moment he is just trying to be happy and create his life in the way he wants. He is creating the recipe of his own life. “I was born in Muslim family and it was religion which was given for me, not the one I chose. So I was studing different religions,” Jamal told me. He was not exited about lots of things in Islam, for example gender equality. Now he is proud to say, that he is Christian.

It’s just one of the examples of way to create better life. Our conversation about the world outlook took a few more hours. But his life is not yet exactly how he wants it would be. He sees a lot of discrimination around him: sometimes he gets refused entry in the bars or night clubs as they invent new policies just so they would be able to deny him. Sometimes he hears people calling him a thief, even though they don’t even know him. And still he tells all those things with positive and smile in his face.

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