10 questions with: Rahin Salimi (23)
From: Kapisa, Afghanistan
At City Plaza since: 10/16
- What does City Plaza mean to you?
Freedom (thinks for a moment), solidarity and zero discrimination.
We have freedom here. We are in the center of Athens, we can go into the city, go to shops when we want to. We weren’t supposed to leave the camps. One day, I remember, I left and went to a shop. I tried to buy a snack and the shopkeeper refused to serve me. He said ‘no, you have food in the camp. You can’t buy food here’. After 5 minutes the police arrived and took me back inside the camp like I was a criminal.
- 3 words to describe the experience of living with 400 others at City Plaza:
Friendly, solidarity, kindness
- For you what is the difference between the camps and City Plaza?
Here we have food 3 times a day, and good food too. In the camps we were given a piece of cake and a cup of juice twice a day. If we were really lucky we’d get plain rice and 4 pieces of potato (laughs as he remembers)!
Just having a room and shelter from the weather makes a huge difference to day to day life. In the camps when it rained the tents filled with water. It was impossible to sleep or rest when the weather was bad.
At City Plaza we finally have basic things like toilets and showers. When I first arrived at a camp I asked a soldier, ‘where is the toilet?’. He pointed to the trees and told me, ‘go there, do what you want’.
- Where is your favourite place to be at City Plaza?
Actually I don’t really mind where I am at Plaza. As long as I’m busy, I’m happy.
The most interesting place to be for me is in the bar because it’s where I learn the most. In Afghanistan it’s not always easy to get straight answers (laughs), here a lot of people give straight answers and talk very honestly about interesting things.
- What are your hopes for your future?
I travelled to Athens by boat. When I arrived at the port I was in a very bad place psychologically, it was hard to process the fact that we were on land, for the reality of the situation to sink in. At the port I met a Spanish family from the Basque country. They are working on my case and with lawyers for me to be able to move to Spain and live with them there. I also met a Greek woman called Dora at the Piraeus, I lived with her for almost 2 months in Athens before coming here to City Plaza.
Rahin at Piraeus Port
Dora’s sister, mother, Rahin and Dora
Rahin with his Spanish family (Koro ‘sister’, Inaki Inglesias ‘my king’, Inaki ‘my friend’, Rahin and Inaki ‘bro’)
I hope it won’t be too long before I am living in Spain. When I’m there I want to study Economics or Computer Sciences.
- What will you miss about City Plaza?
I will miss my friends and my little friends (children)!
Rahin in Athens with friends who are also living at City Plaza
City Plaza is good place for us all to be and I will miss the people here, but it’s important that we leave. We all have to rebuild our lives and move on.
- How do you participate in the self-organisation of City Plaza?
On Saturdays I work in the kitchen preparing food. I also translate (Rahin speaks English and Farsi), taking people to the hospital or the pharmacy. For example yesterday I went to the hospital with a woman to have a blood test. City Plaza is a good place for me to improve my English, I learn new vocabulary everyday.
- Have you learnt any words here in the languages of refugees from other countries?
I know a few words in Turkish, the basics in Arabic and it’s fairly easy communicate for me to communicate with people who speak Kurdish because it’s very similar to Farsi.
I love language. When I was 10 I would write poems everyday. When I was older my friends and I found a studio (Studio 021). That was when I started rapping. We mixed rap with punk, it was amazing. I had to keep our project a secret from my family. When my father asked me, ‘where are you going?’ I’d make up something but make the 021 sign (makes with his fingers). Now it’s all in the past, 2 friends are in other countries and 1 died in a suicide bomb in Afghanistan. I still love to rap.
- How often do you speak to your family?
I speak to my mother once every 2 to 4 months. It’s hard to make contact with her as she rarely has Wifi as she is now living in a very remote area. I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters but most of my family have cut contact with me completely because I didn’t accept the arranged marriage my family had planned for me.
My family told me that I had to marry my cousin. I spoke with her and we really didn’t get along. I said to my family, ‘you can do anything, but I won’t marry her’. They said that if I refuse, I have to leave home. For 6 months I slept in a park. I had a job but I spent the money on a tent and food. My mother would leave breakfast on the windowsill very early in the morning so that nobody would see.
- City Plaza is not supported by NGOs and is supported entirely by donations from around the world . What does solidarity mean to you?
For people from around the world to be in solidarity with everyone at City Plaza, it means supporting a project which creates opportunities for those who have been forced to leave their country.
Always in a bad situation, there is hope. Let’s spread the hope.
Detail of the day:
Today I went to a conference about how to be a good interpreter. I was there from 11-6. Such a long day!
Now I’m back at City Plaza, sitting in the bar.
City Plaza relies entirely on solidarity and donations from around the world. To keep this project going City Plaza needs your support: www.youcaring.com/keepcityplazaopen