Ibrahim's Story

I am Kurdish from Iran – 18 years old. I lived with my Mum and Dad and older brother and sister. We were a poor family. My Dad didn’t want me to stop school - it was very hard for them to manage financially but they did it. I was a good student- every year I was in the top three. Despite this I found it impossible to get into university because I am Kurdish and the Kurdish people in Iran have a very, very difficult life. I took the entrance exam for university but I did not get a pass. If you want to go to university in Iran you need to be supporting the government politically. It is well known that they give you 20% + more marks if you belong to their party. After finishing  school age 16 my life took a dangerous turn…

The next year I was seen with other Kurdish people distributing leaflets at an anti-government rally. From then on I was on the run and my life was in danger so I had to flee from Iran. Leaving my family was heartbreaking and the journey was really difficult.  We went from Iran to Turkey – it was so hard to cross the border – you have to hide – sometimes police with dogs come and you have to run quick. After one week in Turkey we went to Bulgaria inside a lorry. In Bulgaria the police caught us and we went to prison for three days and were beaten. It was very frightening. An agent arranged for transport to France – we were inside the lorry 5 or 6 days and the driver came once a day with food and a bottle for toilet. We spent about 80 days living in a tent in Dunkirk. It was really hard and very cold.

 I didn’t have any idea myself where I wanted to go - I didn’t know anything about Europe except from a map. The agent decided on UK. So back in a lorry again….if you are lucky the dogs and border security won’t find you but the agent forced us to try so many times. Once, I remember, the police and dogs caught us  but soon the agent said “you need to go again NOW!” He was a difficult man because they get money  - it was very, very cold but he forced us to go again and again.

 Finally I arrived in Dover and then went on to London . I came out of the lorry on the motorway…the driver was so angry and I ran. I walked 2 hrs to a city. I found a petrol station and I asked them to call the police. After 36hrs in the police station I was sent to a detention centre for 13 days then to a hotel in Crawley and after that for 2 months I was in a hotel in Wigan. Fortunately there were some Kurdish people there who I am still in contact with.

At that time I had terrible nightmares but my friend would wake me up and bring me water. I had nightmares about lorries and anytime I saw a lorry I needed to look underneath the lorry because once I had to hide between the two tyres of the lorry when the lorry was going.  I have needed to get some help to talk about what I went through. It is always with me but has got a bit better over time.

I was then moved to Darwen. Two guys from Iran and Afghanistan were so kind to me. They realised I was very young and didn’t know anything – right now I want say again  “thanks so much for your help” they were like my family. I lost my family once and they became like my family - like my older brothers.

 When I first came to UK  two social workers came to see me…they told me “you are  not 17 , you are over 18” so I did not get the support I needed as a young person and I felt very vulnerable . The Darwen church drop-in was my lifeline for meeting people and for English classes. It was there that I found Natalie and Alexandra from British Red Cross. It was clear to them that I was not over 18. They helped me to sort it out with Blackburn social services and a solicitor as I had ID proof. It was a big, big worry of course. I don’t know why they didn’t believe me ..because of my face? or because of my beard?…

 I didn’t know what to do the other days – just going out and eating and coming home, so boring – it’s really difficult with £35 a week. At the drop- in I knew Leslie ..… she is like a Mum to me. She introduced me to ARC - she said “your English is good , you know 2 languages ..you could be  a volunteer interpreter. I love working at ARC and spending my time well these days.

I am proud of ARC because they help all refugees and asylum seekers. I cannot imagine, if we did not have ARC what would we do …..so many problems. It’s really, really important.

 I think ARC is perfect – 2 days English classes and 3 days office open to help people job search …with doctors, benefits, everything. I am studying at Blackburn College now. I want to say thank you to Tahira who was my social worker when I was under 18 …she was the one who took me to college. Now I have another social worker, Christine Fernandez and she is so kind.

It was Christine and Ibrahim (from Syria) who helped me to first contact my family in the ARC project. I contacted a relative in Iran one year ago but my Mum and Dad had moved. He told me it was too dangerous to contact him again . But a few months later he sent me a message from Iran…’.this is your Dad’s number’. I could not face contacting him by myself so Christine and Ibrahim made the contact and spoke first to my Dad  “your son is here and he is safe”…..I cried so much and my Dad cried so much and Christine cried. I do have contact with them now but we have to take great care because of security in Iran. 

I like my life here now.  I feel safe -  that’s the main thing and you can find yourself here and follow your wish and you take  your future in your own hands - that is how I feel. It is not important what your style is, what you wear, what your sexuality is  …nobody cares about this and here you learn not to listen too much to anybody but follow your own wishes. I am happy but I don’t know if I will stay here …I don’t really know what will happen to me. I’m going to be honest,  up until I got my leave to remain this year I did not feel ok. Now for 3 or 4 months I have been alright.

My dreams for the future - I want to go and see my family every year….hopefully we can meet in another country…in Kurdistan …this is my hope. I was planning to study computer engineering in Iran so I want to study this in UK.  In school I was quite good at English and am now doing English (ESOL) at college - I want to be perfect!

If you think about yourself and what you want to be you can get there if you try.  I think I can do this because I believe in my God and I pray to God and God has helped me so much and I need to say thanks for everything.