Amina’s Story, Greece

“You can’t do anything with empty hands,” says Amina from Afghanistan. She’s frustrated with her inability to help her children start new lives in Europe. “If you don’t have anything, you can’t do anything.”

“I lived in Iran, Tehran, with my family for two decades. Two of my four children were born there. We had sought refuge from the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan, which in 1996 overthrew the Najibullah government, imposing sharia law across most of the country. Two years ago, my husband went on a trip to Afghanistan. He did not tell me why he was going there, but it was to discuss a property issue. The property was a hectare of farmland and a house, which my husband was trying to secure for our children. He disputed over the division of the property with his uncle and cousins. A month later his cousins came and found him and knifed him. My children spent ten days watching their father die in hospital.

My life changed drastically. I had no income. I raised my children with great difficulty. We left Tehran and went to Mashhad, but found we couldn’t live there either.

Early last summer, I received warning from my husband’s family that my children weren’t safe. The cousins are still chasing us – they want to kill my children to prevent them from inheriting the land.

My brother, a farmer, put up the money to send us to Europe. From Iran to Turkey we paid 600 Dollars per person and from Turkey to here 2,000 Dollars per person. A car came to the border and took us up a mountain. We walked for 4-5 hours, and waited for several more hours and were met by another car, which took us into Turkey. Despite the vast sums I had paid, the smugglers robbed further 2,800 Euro from us.

We spent only a week in Turkey. On the ninth night after we had left Iran, we were put in a rubber boat holding about 45 people and pushed off the Turkish coast, pointed in the direction of the Greek island of Lesvos.

We spent four hours on the sea, bailing out water and praying to Allah. The waves had taken us far.

When we reached Lesvos, we walked for several hours. We saw a house, knocked, and asked the man who lived there to call the police. He gave us food and water and called the police, who took us to the holding cells.”


The family tried to trek to Germany. They were arrested in Skopja and sent back to Greece. They went back to living in a municipal summer camp on Lesvos, run by volunteers. They have now applied for asylum in Greece. Amina’s daughter, Arizhu, who is 12, has started an induction course to enter Greek school. Asked what she’d like to study in university, she says, “Mathematics.”

Amina’s testimony has been recorded by: John Psaropoulos



1 family torn apart by war is too many

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