“One day I will be a politician and rebuild my country.” – Ahmad, Kiron Student
“It’s none of your business! You are just a translator, we give you money, you are working for money”. But I did not care about the money, I wanted to help my people. My name is Ahmad, I am 23 years old and I come from Afghanistan. I grew up Kandahar, but the war changed our city and I finished school in Kabul. It is hard to say when the war broke out – because we always have war in Afghanistan. I grew up with war. During the time I was working with the American army, I was injured twice. Two times a bomb was placed in our car. Still, I decided to become a translator. I did not know what difficult times were awaiting me. Caught between two cultures, between Afghan people and Americans, between Taliban and the army, between rivalry and hate, between conflict and dialogue.
They always called when it was already too dark to see, with a mumbling voice on the phone grunting: “Tonight!”. Then we went off to one of the villages where the Taliban had been. It was always at one, two or three o’clock in the morning when we took the cars and went off searching houses, always looking for the Taliban. Everyone was sleeping, so we woke them and of course they were terrified. Women and their children were crying, soldiers frightened them by banging on their doors, entering their homes with their weapons and their loud and foreign language in the middle of the night. The Americans were very rough and inhumane. I tried to tell them “It’s not good”. But I was just the translator! Both sides were suspicious and did not trust me. The Americans did not trust me because I was an Afghan and they did not understand what I was translating, and the Afghans did not trust me, because I was working side by side with the Americans and they did not understand what I was translating. So I was constantly the enemy on both sides.
When I started to work with the American army the Taliban sent people to my family and said: “If he doesn’t leave his job, we’ll kill him, if we see him we will cut his neck.” I responded: “Now I have everything, but there are also a lot of people who have problems, Afghan people, they need help, they need somebody to help them, someone to talk to.” It did not matter to me whether the Taliban would kill me or not I just wanted to help. The Taliban were killing my people, the Americans were killing my people. Everyone was killing. Like when they dropped a bomb on a wedding ceremony with more than hundred women, children and men – all because they were celebrating love. I was shocked and in pain about what was happening to my country.
Once, when we were searching a house at night there was a woman who was lying on the ground and refused to get up. She was pregnant and in pain. The soldiers got angry and kept shouting: “Wake up! Get up!” In pashto she said: ”I can’t stand up! I’m sick!”. And the Americans got really angry and one of them kicked her in the stomach. That was the moment I stepped out of my role. I could not brace myself any longer. I – the translator – shouted at them. I ran outside and I took a gun from one of the Afghan soldiers. I shouted at him: “Give me your Kalashnikov!” Back inside I pointed my gun and said “All of the Americans, go outside! All of you: out!” They called me a terrorist and threatened to shoot me. I said: “You call me a terrorist? You always say you are saving the Afghan people but here you are hitting this pregnant woman? They are not Taliban, they are just families trying to sleep” By that time, the whole village was on the street. But in the end the women and her husband were brought to a hospital.
I had broken my trust with the American army. I knew that if I would have come with them after everything that happened that night – they would have killed me. So I stayed with the Afghan army. The next day an official meeting was held to clarify the situation. A lot of people came together, US forces, Afghani generals, everybody. I told the story of the house search and how this innocent woman had lost her baby. They said: “Ok, this was a mistake”. My response was: “If your army does something wrong, it’s a mistake. If our people do something wrong, we are terrorists.” After that moment, I left my position as a translator.
I knew they wanted to kill me so I went to India for a few months. It was my first time out of Afghanistan and it was quite cultural contrast but I loved it. However, I could not stop thinking about my country and so I went back. That was when I decided to study Politics in Kabul. Hoping that maybe in the future I can do big things for my country and change the situation.
I had only finished my first semester when they tried to kill me. I had just come back from university when two people crossed me with their masks, guns and motorcycles. Everyone thought I was dead, but I survived. The second time was after a picnic with my cousins and some friends. It was a bit outside of the city, very green with gardens – a beautiful place. When we came back I went to a small supermarket. Stepping outside again with my grocery bags in my arms, they were waiting for me. Two people with their black car, one driving the other one holding a gun. It was then that I knew I had no choice. My mother cried but I packed my bags and left for Europe.
I walked from Kabul to Pakistan, through the mountains. From Pakistan I went to Iran where I met someone who promised to bring me to Istanbul for an horrendous amount of money. I paid and barely made my way to Turkey. We had walked 15 hours through snow when the police shot us right before the border to Turkey in Iran. One of my friends died and the other one was injured. We were put into jail. We were about 200 people crammed into jail. When I was just about to give up and go back to Afghanistan, I met the prisons translator at the police office. The next day, the translator helped me and I was free to go. It seemed ironic that I had to leave my country because I was a translator and in the end, it was a translator who saved me.
I made my way to Istanbul got on a small boat and went to Greece and then walked to Bulgaria. After three nights and four days of walking, after we had successfully passed the border, the Bulgarian police came. They captured us and hit us with very big sticks and took everything we had. Then they sent us back to Greece. I walked barefoot from Bulgaria to Greece. I was in a lot of pain and when I finally arrived in a small village, the police put us in jail again. There was no food and we drank water from the toilet, all squeezed into one prison cell. Then they sent us back to Turkey.
I then made my way to Greece again. Another journey, another small boat. In Greece, I spent some time in the camp and then walked to Macedonia and then Serbia. The border police in Hungary made me pay and allowed me to pass. The police put me into a camp near Budapest. From here I took a white van to a village near Munich where they dropped us in the middle of nowhere. A German women passed by with her car and helped us to get to the next S-Bahn Station. From there I made my way to Munich and finally Berlin. I arrived with the Flixbus on the 20th of August in 2015.
In Germany I was faced with another kind of mountain: German bureaucracy. I finally heard about Kiron and gained new hope. I started studying Political Science with Kiron and spend my time in the library at Friedrichstraße. The first month were really difficult, but I felt welcomed and part of the Kiron family. I started taking German and enrolled in a course about International Justice at Humboldt University. After that I founded a refugee theatre group in Berlin, with people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Then I took part in the welcome program at Freie Universität Berlin with the United Nations Security Council, where I also did an internship. One day I saw a posting on Facebook about a program for refugees and I wrote to Brigitte Zypries and applied for an internship at the Bundestag. I got very lucky and stayed there for seven month before I applied for the refugee project: Jetzt schreiben wir – with the Tagesspiegel. I started the journalist project on the 1st of May 2017. It is a great program, we have courses at the journalist school, German lessons and are able to do internships in different media departments, such as taz., Deutsche Welle, rbb Radio and Television, Bild Zeitung etc. I am so happy and proud to be part of it.
However, my main goal will remain to become a politician one day. Many politicians were journalists before. My big dream is to become the president of Afghanistan and to stop the situation in my country. I’ve been in Germany for two years now, and since then nine of my family members have been killed. The Taliban came and burned down my house. I keep asking myself: Why do people have to die in my country? Why is Afghanistan not free and living in peace? I believe the biggest problem is: Education. People are not educated. I have talked to the Taliban, it was my job. I realized that they are not educated. Some believe that women should be killed when they go to school others think women should be educated. They all believe that once they die they will go to paradise. They believe all of this, because they are not educated. If they were educated they would not kill. So, they do horrible things – like when they bombed my school and I saw my friends dying. Losing their heads, their hands, and their feet. When I held the lost hand of my friend in my hand – I knew that I would never forget this moment. It is horrible if you cannot forget and your mind forces you to remember.
So, I have no choice – one day, I will go back and help my country. Because I am a person who always wants to be helpful. If my enemy would knock on my door and ask for help, I would welcome him, because we are all human and that is what being human is all about. We have to do something, we are not here in Germany to sleep or be passive, we need to be active, we are here because we have a big responsibility. Our country needs us! We have to rebuild our country and create a better future for the next generation so they can live a secure and peaceful life. This is why we should study and do something – to bring about change!
Interview by Flora Roenneberg