Nermeen’s Quest for Happiness

It was a cold Friday, I am heading towards a refugee camp in Berlin. A social worker welcomes me and guides me through the alleys of the camp. After a short journey, she knocks on a door and a smiley face opens. On the door step my friend introduces me to a woman and then goes back to her activities.

As I enter the apartment, I find the room in best shape and most of the things are accommodated very well. The apartment is a reflection on the ecstatic sense of the woman who now offers me a chair. A cute baby is playing with some toys. After a few minutes, Nermeen stands in front of me. Besides her homelessness, Nermeen’s (29) face is bright and smiley and she is in full confidence. I am sure the long journey of wretchedness made her beautiful and brave both on the in- and outside.

Nermeen was a Palestinian born in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and had lived in Syria for years without ever being to her parents’ home country due to it’s uncertain state. Her father had been doing business in Dubai but lost it and so they shifted back to Syria. Life was hard in Syria because Arabic wasn’t Nermeen’s mother tongue and in the UAE she underwent an English education. “Home affairs were not favourable for further studies”, Nermeen begins her tale. At the age of 16 she started a marketing job in Damascus. “I would keep two bags on my back to sell local and other companies’ products to support my family”, she describes.

She would work 12 hours per day, dealing better than others because of her English skills that allowed her to address foreigners, too. “But the problem was I just wasn’t a marketing person at all. During that time, I fell in love with a guy and after few meetings we got married”, she narrates. “We were together for almost five years but only half of the time was gloomy. And then we separated, I was back alone and struggling to stand on my feet. Then I went back to the UAE with a broken hearth and felt like a totally failed person.”

“From the UAE, I went back to Jordan to work and start life along my sister. But I was not settling in the Arabic desert, although I was giving it my everything. At that time, news of war from Syria were coming in. I even heard they were hiring people forcefully to fight in the war. So then instead of Syria I packed my bags for Egypt. As I didn’t want to land in an uncertain Syria”, Nermeen goes on.

In 2013, she willingly married a 32-year-old Egyptian. It was the second blunder, the free bird got caged in again. “This man was cruel, I couldn’t leave the house. He locked my mobile phone and passport. He would beat me if I demanded anything. I was again helpless and could not find any means to contact my family and complain about this barbarism. Although I tried to flee a couple of times, I did not succeed. At last, my mother arrived and I came back to war torn Syria. But this Egyptian husband never stopped threatening me and would tell me he would find a way to kill me with the help of terrorist organizations.”

“I was pregnant and near to delivery, I was badly weak and when my family took me out to hospital but the roads were blocked and health facilities were not available due to streets warfare. So, my first baby died”, Nermeen tells and starts sobbing. She tried her luck again and travelled to Jordan and afterwards Turkey, from there she travelled to Greece with the help of smugglers. From Turkey to Greece, she undertook the journey in a boat crossing the ocean. “I saw life and death from the thinnest view”, Nermeen remembers the mountainous water waves and vulnerable condition of the boat.

“Then I came to Germany in December of 2015”, she resounds with a sigh of relief. “I am super happy living here with my son. The respect for humanity is greater here in Germany.” Later, Nermeen got married again in Berlin but this marriage also didn’t last for long period. She gave birth. The tears are rolling down her chin while she braids her baby’s hair. Nermeen is clearly upset about her child’s future. She perceives life in Germany being safe and well facilitated. She wants to continue her study and pursue her education to live independent life.

This story is part of a brochure in the making by Noor Badshah Yousafzai. He is a journalist and contributed articles to media outlets such as e.g. the BBC Pashtu and is also an editor for The Pashtun Express. As soon as the brochure is printed, we’ll publish it here on our blog. Until then, we want to share the stories with you individually, one by one. The brochure is funded by “Partnerschaften für Demokratie Treptow-Köpenick” through the programme Demokratie Leben!

Noor Twitter Handle @NBYousafzai


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