AntiNote: We encountered this testimony via our comrades at Refugee Strike Berlin, whose blog publishes all manner of material related to the wide range of struggles around the issue of migration and migrants in Germany, with a center of gravity at the briefly occupied Ohlauer School in Berlin and the many initiatives which began there and still continue.
One of those initiatives is the International Women’s Space Berlin, which fosters the self-organization of migrant women into campaigns against their isolation and invisibility. A principal aspect of their public work has been to share these women’s stories in a continuing series on their website.
“I risked everything. I wanted freedom, a place to feel safe. But, for me, this is hell.”
On life as a woman in Saudi Arabia and seeking asylum in Germany
May 27, 2015 (original post)
I wake up every day and see a wall. The building I see through my window is a wall. I always keep my important things packed. When I go to Aldi, I look at goods I may need, but I don’t buy them. I think I won’t be able to take many things with me when they deport me.
I am from a country, Saudi Arabia, which is religious, a dictatorship. It is not comparable to Iran, where there is a parliament, where women can drive, where there are places where men and women can work together. In Saudi Arabia, we cannot make a complaint as a group. Everybody complains alone. It is a crime to form groups.
I am very lonely here. I am not like the Iranians or the Afghanis, I am a Saudi and I don’t have the experience of being with other nationalities. A woman from Saudi Arabia is nothing. There, the men are the citizens and the women are exactly like slaves. The men must give you permission to study, to work, to marry.
Even if I have the money to rent a flat, I could not do it in my name. I always need a man to sign the contract for me. It is like the relationship between a master and a servant. You can be lucky and have a good master. But that doesn’t solve the problem, because men can take me out of my work whenever they want. They can easily say: enough now.
When I was seven years of age, my father took me away from my mother, without her knowledge. Imagine! He took me from her simply because he had the right to do so. She spent years without seeing me.
If you are a woman and have always lived with your mother, and have even studied, got a job, married and then divorced, it is possible that your father, who has four wives, could ask you to live at his house in order to finance his family. Or it may happen that you say: “I want to marry this man,” and your father says: “No, you cannot.” Or in the case that you are already married and your father dies, say your brother doesn’t like your husband’s family, your brother can come and tell you to get a divorce. Even if you are together with your husband and you like him, your brother is your master. You have to be a good slave, because the men can do whatever they want with you.
There was this woman I knew, she was 21 years old. She had been raised by her mother, who did everything for her. Then she wanted to work and had to ask permission from her father in order to do so.
After the year of the reform in 2003, there is no freedom of press. For years the government agreed the reforms were somehow needed, but then they changed their minds and started arresting people. They say you should always obey your government.
In Saudi Arabia I have no chance. I am an ex-Muslim. I am scared to go back, to continue being a slave. I have already left and if I go back they will take my passport and see that I’ve spent some years away. There would be no excuses, they will humiliate my family. Saudi Arabia is not Egypt or Lebanon. They would arrest me. If I do something wrong, I would be punished and the men in my family would be punished too, because I am not a human to them, nor am I responsible. So they punish the others, too. One’s family is in every part of your life. You cannot make a decision alone. If you don’t want the men to get punished, you have to watch yourself.
The religious people are stronger. If they make a demonstration and they get caught, they can still go and make it again. But other than the religious people, ordinary people can’t do anything. There was a case when a Saudi man went to Iraq, during the time of Saddam Hussein. He was suspected of being involved in the hijacking of an airplane. They went after his father and the father said: “I don’t know this person.”
“The funny thing is that Saudi Arabia speaks about human rights. Who are they to speak about it?”
Before I came here, I heard about Geneva, this place where they speak about human rights. I thought I should come to Europe. I thought of Norway, but there is no sun there. In Germany, there is sun. I risked everything. I wanted freedom, a place to feel safe. But, for me this is hell.
I don’t want to stay in Germany. I know that Germany is financially supporting me, but I just want my papers and then I can go to India or to somewhere in Africa. I can even sleep on the streets.
I want to be safe, but not always trapped, scared that people are watching me, that they may do something against me or against my family. I love my family very much. Maybe I will never see them again. Since I have been here, I haven’t gained anything. I am only losing.
I would like to speak for the women from my land. I told only a few people I was coming. I told a colleague at my work and she asked me to tell the world about the situation of Saudi Arabian women. And I have tried to speak about it, but I began to get scared. The authorities wanted me to give proof of what I went through. I gave them everything I had, my identity, my story, my passport. When you leave your country, you don’t collect proof of what is happening, you just leave. Everybody knows how things are in Saudi Arabia. I needed my brother to sign a permit for me to leave, a paper for me to be able to travel. Isn’t that some proof of what I was going through? They knew I had money. There is money in my country. I really thought I would be accepted, however they rejected my case. I was shocked. Now I have no hope. I never lied. I thought they would be rational.
Deep down, somehow, I knew there was a possibility they could reject me. Germany is an ally of Saudi Arabia. To apply for asylum here as a Saudi Arabian isn’t easy. The day I got my rejection, last August, was a terrible day. I am now appealing.
I used to work in Saudi Arabia. Now, after two years I don’t know if I could still work. In my field you must be constantly updating yourself, always studying. I don’t know if they would accept my certificates here, but if they did, maybe I could catch up. I am working on my papers, to see if they can be recognized here.
I used to work a lot. I don’t want that anymore. Now that I have not worked for two years, I realize how much I used to work. When you are doing it, you don’t think it is abnormal. Now, when I look back, I ask myself: How come I used to do that? Now I am sitting here and I am thinking: that was too much work.
When I first arrived, they sent me to Halberstadt, to a former military barracks. I told myself: it will be alright. One or two months I can handle. Everything will be alright. Then they brought me here, where I’ve been for almost two years.
“Before, I was trapped in my land. Now I am trapped here. It is the same thing: I cannot go anywhere without asking for permission.”
If you ask me how many people are living in this Heim, I wouldn’t know. The names, I don’t know. I am here waiting. Is this a life? I don’t know. When we say life, we don’t mean the Heim life. Maybe I am only just surviving. Day and night in the same place. So far I have no hope.
Anybody from the Heim’s office can come into my room. They can open the door. The police can come in as well. They come in to take people who are going to be deported, but sometimes they don’t find who they are looking for because the people have already left.
Once I was sleeping and woke up because I saw someone inside my room. I was alone and got frightened. They don’t tell you what is the problem. They just start asking us for our passports. They don’t say why they are there and they don’t say sorry. The first time it happened, I thought they could be looking for drugs, but later I understood why they were coming. It was to deport someone.
The other day my lawyer wanted me to go to Bremen. He writes in German. I show his letters to my German friend. My lawyer also only speaks German with me. I speak a bit, but not enough. She looks at his letters, speaks to him and then explains it to me. He had sent a letter telling me I needed to ask for two days permission to go to Bremen. My friend had to argue with the foreign office to get my permission, which I got, but only after she had argued with them. Without my friend I would not know how to solve all this.
I am not a person who goes to others, to people I don’t know. I don’t like big circles. It is not in my character. I am more of an isolated person. The people here are always with their groups. They have their own group, I am always the foreigner.
I go to the foreign office. I go to school, I come back. You know they don’t allow us to study, but I have an exception, I am going to the Euro-Schulen. There is no internet in this Heim, otherwise I could do a German course online. And if they install the internet here, they will make us pay around 15 or 20 Euros for it.
I cannot connect with the German society because of the language, but I am not going to get closer to someone just because the person is from Saudi Arabia. Language is not everything, but at the same time it is not always easy to live with people from different cultures, languages. I have a television, which has an Egyptian channel. The Egyptian channel is silly. There is news from their government, however all I want is to see and listen to something familiar, something I can connect with.
“I don’t know for how long I will have to stay here. This place is killing me. We hear the propaganda about human rights, but in reality there is not such a thing here.”
After the rejection I lost all interest. I once wanted to learn the German language, I was trying to translate things. My German was not good, but it got worse. I don’t have any interest left in anything. I feel like a mouse. I only have this Egyptian channel and my Facebook to speak with friends. I am already in a prison. I just use this as a way to communicate to the outside world.
I have been drinking. I was drinking every day to try and overcome the sadness. After the rejection, it got worse. But I recently stopped drinking every day because I realized I was getting more depressed. Now I only drink twice a week, because I enjoy it. It is a good time I take for myself. I feel the music in a different way. I only drink wine and listen to music on my headphones. I don’t know from where the depression came. There is nothing new, but I feel it. Sometimes I wake up at one o’clock in the morning and ask myself what the problem is. From time to time I have a nightmare where I see myself in the airport.
I just hope that I could be free, but I am a coward. I wish I could take the decision to kill myself. I would just be free from here. I think about hanging myself. I also think about using a gun, but I don’t know where to get one. Taking tablets could work, but I don’t know where to get them either. I know that nobody will help me. They want you to live even if you don’t want it anymore. I think about jumping in front of a train to finish with all this, but I don’t know how to finish it.