Zaher’s Story

I may be a radiographer technician by day and a father of three by night, but in every breath I take and in every book I read and knowledge I spread, I am a political scientist. Since the young age of 14 I fell in love with political science, and in some ways over the last 21 years, it consumed me to a point of no return. Maybe it was the lack of its acceptance in Syria and Jordan or perhaps it was the secrecy of learning about democracy and politics from the darkness of my room, hidden from the outside world. Regardless the reason, I learned to live a practical life working towards an occupation that would be considered a real job with a real wage, raising and providing for a family, and ultimately following the path I, as many young men in my situation, are expected to lead. My name is Zahar, I am a 35-year-old Syrian refugee who fled to Jordan in 1987, and after a brief return to Syria for three years in my late teens, eventually made my way to Germany. I have been in Germany for XX years, and in these years many things have happened, and many things have not.

My refugee status is unlike most others. Not that this changes much in terms of bureaucracy, but still, my case is unique. As a child, I was never given a Jordan nationality, I had a chance to get a more permanent residency, but it is too expensive – that kind of money is just not easy to come by, let alone for a family with three children. Even though life would be easier with a better passport or a more stable chance to live and stay in Germany, I remember that my refugee status also led to the greatest gift of my life. I was accepted to study with Kiron for its online political science track. This chance, or should I say childhood dream, to become a true political scientist, one with a certificate to prove it, was given to me by Kiron, and for this, I am forever thankful. With Kiron I have been able to transform my lifelong secret of reading forbidden books into a daily, acceptable practice. My nights of studying materials and histories not recognized or accepted as legitimate fields are no more. The countdown towards turning my dream into a reality are within reach, I just know it! And all thanks to Kiron…I am taking the first real steps towards going back to school, doing a masters or maybe even a PhD.

I want to share my secret lifelong knowledge with the world, and teach places like Syria and Lebanon (who need it most!) the importance of understanding societies, democracies and political science. I could go on and on about the role of political science and the power of understanding society in order to re-stabilize a broken state, but I will spare you in attempts not to jump overboard. For me, talking about politics is like taking the first bite of your favorite food…once I get started, I just can’t stop! Back in Jordan, the prospect of continuing my education, let alone in something as ludicrous as political science, seemed impossible. This is one of the false stereotypes of the Arab world – the idea that working towards a master or PhD will only allow you to be smart about that specific field and that you will lose all other knowledge. It doesn’t make sense, and maybe there is some legend that keeps people thinking this way, but for me, going to university and continuing your education (the longer the better!) is the best option for just about anyone and everyone. The more knowledge we have about the world we live in, the more we can contribute to our society and the better we can be as people.

This lesson of education is something I want to instill in my children and family. Even my wife wants to study business with Kiron now, that’s how much I rave about the online courses! My daughter, at only 9-years-old is already determined to be an archeologist, and I want to do everything in my power to support this. I have two younger sons, one of which already plays the role of the little philosopher of the family. It’s great, we are a mix of people with different interests, which makes family dinner conversations always interesting. I love being at home with my family. I have never been one to be out socializing at great lengths. In some ways I feel I always isolated myself to a certain degree, but I am thankful for this, because it was in my moments of solitude that I focused on my books and on my passion for political science. In the past few years I have become more social, and while it isn’t always easy, I realize how important it is, especially in social science. Studying from books only gets you so far, but I have found that I am learning so many interesting things about society and politics in my daily interactions and I love it – an entirely new perspective, one more outward and enlightening.

The best part about the new perspective, is the self-acceptance I have learned along the way. Maybe it’s because I’m more social and maybe it’s because I’ve experience more and have this new found wisdom..but whatever it is, I’m going to take advantage of the energy I have for learning. Even at 35-years-old I am as eager – maybe even more – as a young 18-year-old teenager having the first chance to learn at university. You are never to old to learn, to dream or to be curious about the world around you. In fact, sometimes i think that the older you get, the deeper you learn. This is not to say that there are not other important things in life. Safety, peace of mind and happiness – I also believe that if you are safe and happy you can be the best version of yourself. I try to turn every situation into a good one, even if I do not have access to things I want, I find a way to make it work. Whether it was sneaking forbidden books as a teenager or working a radiographer technician job to provide for my family while I chase my dream of becoming a political science – you just have to make due with the tools you are given.

Despite being a refugee nearly my entire life, I am determined to follow my dream of becoming a political scientists. And although the status of refugee has proven difficult for my family and I on multiple occasions, like everyone else, we manage. And in fact, had it not been for my refugee status, I would not have found Kiron, and without Kiron, I would not have found myself. I am a lucky man, with a good family. There are so many chances in life, all of which might lead you in a different direction. My advice is to hold on to your dream, and that if you believe in it, it doesn’t matter which way life will take you, in the end, you will reach your goal and you will feel the greatest sense of satisfaction.

Interview by Flora Roenneberg #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation