"I’ve lived in Baghdad, Iraq for almost my entire life but I had to leave with my mother for the Netherlands in March 2011.
It was not our preferred choice to leave our home, friends and family behind and go to a totally different country. Since the situation in Iraq was only getting worse from 2003 onwards, my mother, a secular university professor who did not wear a headscarf, had faced discrimination for a long period. She eventually received an envelope with a bullet and a threatening letter telling her to leave her work and our neighborhood or they would kidnap her children.
Luckily I lived with my family in Syria in 2006 for a year. Life was extremely different, it was safe and beautiful. People were very nice to us, loving and caring. Most of the Syrians were very compassionate and took care of us, and we did not have to worry.
Unfortunately, my mother had no choice but to take this threat seriously in 2010 when my brother was taken away. She decided to take me and leave.
In 2011, the Netherlands was one of the few countries that offered refuge for Iraqis, so our smuggler took us there. We lived in four different centers all around the country and settled down in a house in the south for three years. We finally got a small apartment in Utrecht in 2015.
I miss sharing moments with people of the same culture, I miss the air of my neighbourhood, and I miss how simple my people are and the way things work so naturally. It may seem impossible to have a normal life in an abnormal situation when you know you might die at any moment, but for us it was normal.
It always fascinates me to experience new cultures and hear new stories. Moving from one place to another can be discouraging and painful when you have to say goodbye and leave people behind. But I always look for the positive side of every situation I face. It’s not easy to keep in touch with people you care about when you’re both in different time zones and situations but we always have to do our best to show how much we care about each other. I had to learn to not get attached to objects; it makes it easier to let things go.
If you ask me where my home is, I’d say it’s wherever I feel loved. Home is a state of mind, the inner peace that a person needs during the journey of life.”