Reflections From a Refugee – Foreigners or Fellow Humans?
I’m an Iranian Refugee
I remember the night when the police came knocking on our door. We were refugees in Turkey, having fled from Iran with my mother and sister. A family had taken us in, they were refugees themselves. The father of the family treated me like his own son, who was about my age. He had become a sort of role model for me, after all I hadn’t seen my own father for years. That night, I answered the door, seeing two men standing outside in the dark introducing themselves as the police. They were looking for the head of the household and asked him to go with them. The following morning he was found tortured to death on the outskirts of town, and we were again fleeing.
After that night, we were in constant movement hiding from those who killed him. One day we got an invitation to meet with officials from a country called Finland, a country which we knew absolutely nothing about. A few months later, we were resetteling in a small town in Finland, a foreign country with a strange language and a very cold climate. My mother, my sister and I. In a country far away from war and persecution that had shaped the previous ten years of our lives.
Criminality is not caused by birthplaces.
When I see pictures of refugees it is hard to imagine what they are going through, even though I was in that position myself once. It seems so far away, but yet it is so close. Because when I see them, I don?t wonder what it would be like if it was me. I know what it is like, because it is me. When I see a young boy drowned on the Mediterranean coast I know that could have been my end as well. When I see young men beaten by the Hungarian police I know what that feels like. And when I see young children crying for their mothers as the US Customs separates them from their parents I think of my mother. A woman who had already lost her husband and all of her security. A woman who over and over again risked her life in the hope she could provide us with a better life. A life in security from persecution, harassment, and violence. Even though we made it to safety she never fully recovered from the trauma, and I can not even think about what would have happened to her, or my sister, if we were separated from each other once we thought we were finally in safety. It is as inhumane as can be.
There are 68 million people on the run in the world today. 68 million people just like me, who?s only crime is to have been born in the wrong place. 68 million people who have skilled hands and intelligence and a drive to build good societies but are not allowed to. 25 million of these are refugees, and half of all refugees in the world are under the age of 18. Children. Children that are not a burden but a resource for the future that can be utilized if you allow them to. Children like me and my sister. What we need to do is stop thinking in borders and start thinking in global solutions. To start looking at our neighboring countries as friends, and not as enemies, and to collectively solve any problem that comes up. Because I believe there is no single challenge so big that we can not solve it together.
The current number of refugees is higher than it has ever been, including at the end of WWII. But we are also richer than we have ever been and have more resources to help. If the Europe of 1945 with all the rebuilding that needed to be done could relatively easily accommodate 6 million refugees, a much higher percentage of the population then the recent Syrian crisis was for Europe, then we can easily do so again. The same applies to the US, and the influx of refugees and asylum seekers from central America. It is a country built by immigrants, many of whom came in illegally, and could really become great again if they would figure out how to enable these immigrants to build a successfull life in a new country.
We often act as if world peace is naive and inconceivable. But it is not. It is just a matter of the politics we run. Perspectives. Seeing the world as one place, where we need to join forces to solve our problems. Seeing fellow humans instead of foreigners.
Stop thinking that criminality is caused by birthplaces.
Today is World Refugee Day. I think we should use today to reflect on what we are doing to help refugees around the world. To think about why people are afraid of other people in dire need, and not just to think about it, but to actually do something about it. Write a senator. Donate to a charity. Hire a refugee at your company. And do it today. What ever you do, don?t separate children from their parents. Ripping children out of the hands of mothers who have nothing else left will only create more damaged individuals and less stability in the world. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.
So be human. Take action. We need bridges, not borders.
Co-founder of Space Nation
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