Leen Hadidi

Age: 18 years old

Interviewed in: Berlin, Germany

Date: October 18, 2015

Der-ez-Zor, Syria
Berlin, Germany

© Miguel Winograd

My name is Leen Hadidi. I am 18 years old. I'm originally Syrian from Der-ez-Zoor but I grew up in Dubai.

I used to go every vacation with my family to Syria. And I loved that. I had my greatest memories and all my family members there, so it was home. Even though I lived in Dubai, I still considered Syria my home. I used to go to Damascus. My family loves Damascus, but I always preferred my actual city, Der-ez-Zoor, because I felt like everyone knew each other. Even though I wasn't actually living there, everyone still knew me and I felt like I was home once again. But I always got so depressed when I went back to Dubai. It was like I was leaving my home to go to a foreign country to continue my education there.

When I was a child I moved to Dubai with my family. I went to American schools, and I got the language and the education. I never caused any problems and my family didn't cause any problems for anyone, but due to the civil war in Syria we had to go through many problems for being Syrian. My dad worked at an American company and he was going through many problems because of his nationality and he just thought: “enough.” He didn't want us to go through what he was living at the moment; he just wanted the best for us.

More than a year ago—one year and two months ago—we moved to Germany. I was very depressed for the first six months. Even though I had a few family members around me, I felt alone and that I didn't want to be here. I thought that I had never harmed anyone in Dubai and wondered why they asked me to leave. I was looking around me and listening to all the stories about what was happening in Syria. Not being able to go back there, or to Dubai, it just felt like I was alone in this world.

And then I had to come here and learn German. It was very difficult. I was depressed. I had an eating disorder. I spent some time at the hospital. I had a kidney disorder and many, many different problems. Then 6 months later I decided that if I was just sitting down and doing nothing, I would not be helping my country, and I would not be helping myself either.

So I decided I would learn the language, considering that is what the Arab world wants, people who know different languages and have the education. So I started German language classes, and now I am in the second B level. There are about 6 levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. I got to the B2 and I wanted to continue but then I found an English university here in Berlin. I applied to it and I honestly had no hope that I would get in because I felt that my luck here was just horrible. Then two weeks later I got a phone call from the head of the university telling me that I got accepted to the International Business Management Course. A month later I found out it had been canceled because they couldn't get enough students for it. So I ended up going to the Media Management and Communication major. I'm hoping that once I am finished with my education I can get more into the politics side, so I am able to talk about politics freely, and eventually be able to go back to my country, Syria, and participate in politics, help them out with something.

How have Germans treated you?

I feel that some of the older German people don't want us here, they are not happy with us here. They get annoyed if you go up and speak to them in English; they expect for you to speak German to them. Coming here as a refugee, you need to give me some time to understand and learn everything.

But the teenagers, they love the fact that there are different nationalities, and that Germany is going to be multicultural. They are fun and helpful. Whenever they hear that I am from Syria, automatically you find this expression on their face that says they're so sorry for what is happening. I also get some people come up to me and say that they wish their country could help me even more. I met a girl from Austria who told me that her country disgusted her because they are not helping Syrians properly. She said she had seen many Syrians and seen what they're going through in Austria and that she was just disgusted by what was happening. I kept telling her that it would be fine. But she said that it was not fine, that it was a problem that needed a solution. I find the solution very simple. We don't want a dictatorship; we want democracy. We want to be happy and free, and not under all this stress.

So generally the teenagers are fine. I am in an international university now although I am the only Arab there. But everyone loves that: the fact that I am Arab, and I am outgoing and social. They feel that I am like them. I was able to make friends and all of that, so it was all good.


© Miguel Winograd

How does it feel to have refugee status?

When I got here I always used to tell my mom, whenever I looked at my German passport or ID, I would just hate myself. Whenever I meet anyone and tell them that I am Syrian, automatically they go like: “Oh, you are a refugee.” And I ask why am I given this title. I am a human, you are a human, so why I am given this title.

To this day I look at my mom and tell her that I will never be able to forget all that I have been through. There was a time when I went to this supermarket to get water, but I didn't even have enough money for the water. There was a German behind me and he offered to pay for it, I offered to pay it back and he just said no. That was one of the worst nights of my life. I felt like I had everything and then suddenly I lost everything. Whenever someone looks at you as a refugee they automatically think that you have nothing. But what they don't know is that there were so many families that had so much money but they spent it all just to get here safely. No one understands that.