September | #peopleofwelcome
#peopleofwelcome is a series that gives users and team members a face and let them tell their story. In this edition we sat down with Zerdesht who told us about fleeing from Syria, making plans and dreams.
Zerdesht and I have decided to make a video call for this interview. We still live in times of corona and besides it saves a bunch of commuting since Zerdesht lives in Leeuwarden. I call him through Zoom. On my screen appears the 21-year-old. He was born in Afrin, Syria. That’s where he lived until he had to flee from the violence of the fight between Turkish and Kurdish coalitions. At age 13 he ended up in the south of Turkey where he studied mechanical engineering.
His younger brother had to flee too. In 2015 and at age 14, he made the dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greece per boat. Via Switzerland he ended up in the Netherlands and lived in an asylum in Drachten for three years. By means of the asylum protocol it was possible for his family members to come to the Netherlands as well. On the 1st of July 2018 Zerdesht, their sister, father and mother (who was pregnant at the time) arrived in the Netherlands. Zerdesht calls his brother ‘the hero’. Their mother gave birth to a boy named Axin in spring 2019. I can hear him squealing in the background during our conversation.
The reunited family lived together in the asylum for another three months before they were assigned to an apartment in Leeuwarden. That’s where they still live. I ask Zerdesht whether the apartment is big enough for all of them. Zerdesht answers: “Well, actually not. But I have in mind to move to Amsterdam next year so that I can start studying International Business at the Vrije Universiteit.” He will take the entrance examinations and he’s working hard so that he will pass the exams mathematics B, history, and English. He hopes to start his study in 2021. That’s his dream. He’s already familiar with the city. He used to commute to Amsterdam to follow courses at Edu4U on Saturdays and Sundays. On every Saturday night he stayed over at his aunt’s place: “That saved me some travelling time.” His words are drenched with gratitude. He wants to complete his study and give something back to the Netherlands.
Zerdesht tells me he likes the Dutch. He appreciates that they put effort into having a conversation with him. “If it doesn’t work out in Dutch or English, they use gestures to communicate.” He befriended his 71-year-old mentor who lives around the corner and who he sees on a weekly base. “I love him”, Zerdesht says.
As long as the Turkish coalitions are in Afrin, he won’t go back to Syria. Zerdesht: “I love Syria. But is not safe. In both Turkey and Syria there is no freedom. It feels like prison. The first hour after I arrived in the Netherlands I said to myself: This is where I can make my dream come true. We need to spend the money made available by the government well.”