In 2013, I was living in Kirkuk, working for a car security company. At checkpoints we would check to see if a car was stolen; sometimes we would catch one. Once we stopped a vehicle that was a car bomb—that was great.

One day, two men came along in a car that triggered a red warning. I stopped the car and called the police. The men threatened me. Their papers were forged. The police came. Later I got a text message … that I shall die.

I was living with my mom and dad and my younger brothers. It was my parents’ idea that I should go. I flew to Istanbul. A family friend met me there. I stayed three months in his house, then I decided to return for a visit to see my family. They were happy, so happy. I decided to stay. My parents said I could go to Irbil, to my grandmother’s house.

One night, as I put my key in the door, I noticed three men in a car looking at me. I ran. I think it was a kidnapping, and they maybe didn’t want to kill me—because my family has money. But now I know that I’m not safe anywhere in Iraq. 

I returned to Turkey in 2015. I paid $2,500 to a smuggler to get to Greece. I bought a life vest for €60, and wrapped all my papers and clothes in plastic. We left at midnight. There were 70 of us. The boat was tiny. It only took a few hours but the waves were high and coming up on my face; they were salty. I am surprised I survived, and thankful.

The smuggler wouldn’t go to shore. He forced us over the side. It was deep. There were four babies on board, and kids. I took my bag and one of the babies and swam. On shore we were freezing. A police car came and they let the children in the car to warm up.

After two days in a horrible camp, I started my journey to Germany. I went by car, bus, train, on foot. In Austria, I bought train tickets to Berlin. Police stopped me on the train. I had my fingerprints taken. They gave me asylum and a temporary passport.

I’m staying in a refugee camp in Berlin. It is crowded and hard to sleep. Most Germans accept refugees. But some people will get scared, because you come from an unsafe country. I get scared too.

I have changed. In Iraq, I think sometimes a neighbor would say “Hello,” and I maybe didn’t say “Hi.” Now, I would say “Hello.” I see how the Germans are so helpful. I was younger; now I am older. I see people are all the same. Now I understand. 

It is stupid to be racist.

The Stories