Amjad Job is 32 years old and lives in Germany. This is a translation of the transcript of his recorded story:
"My name is Amjad and I am from Damascus, Syria. I have been in Germany for four years. I was in Syria studying law, and when I arrived here I started working with the self-learning project for Arabic-speaking children, then I went to work at a legal research and studies centre in the field.When I came to Germany, I went to Munich, and there, of course, I didn't know where I was. I was far away from where I came from, and I said to myself: “Well, let’s see how they treat me”. When I came I thought there were a lot of new concepts but later I learned that they were not real. Some things were completely opposite to what I knew.
I came to feel hurt and shock from what happened in Syria. I certainly wanted to start my life and stay working for the Syrian revolution from here, from where I am, Germany, until I started to contact people when I was placed in the camps. It was a difficult period for me because I was shocked by the change of place and I did not know how to communicate with people. The world's views were annoying as if you had been accused of something and you had fled. It felt as if you were restricted and couldn’t do anything and that was very difficult for me.
After that, I remember that I went out for the first time from the camp and found a bicycle belonging to a Syrian guy so I took it for a little ride. I was riding the bicycle but stopped because I came across a German guy who wanted to pass me and the road was for bicycles. I smiled at him but he looked at me with disgust and went on. It felt as if I was obliged to stop.
I started to witness more of these looks to the point that it felt suffocating. I wanted to leave the camp. I no longer wanted people to look at me in such a way, it was very difficult. I decided to leave and go elsewhere, and eight months later I was able to move to Berlin.
When I arrived in Berlin, I felt relieved. At the beginning when I first arrived, I went to sleep in the public park. I stretched out on the ground and slept. It was a nice feeling to sleep in the garden without being judged by anyone. There were many people lying there and sleeping, and they were of all races and colours. People were in it together and I felt that no one was judging me. They were living in peace and this made a big difference for me. It made me feel I belonged there, and that this place was my place where I wanted to start again. I was relieved and I asked myself where I would start. I decided to start from the place where I was - the garden. I stretched and slept. When I woke up, I started arranging my papers and affairs then joined a language school. When I was done and settled in my new house, I volunteered for a children's project. It was a very lovely experience in Berlin. I felt everything was different and I felt that I belonged. I felt comfortable meeting people here, their looks at me were kind so everything was different.
I still remember the way they looked at me in Munich as if I was not good enough for them. When you talked to them, they did not listen to you. When you greeted them, they did not answer with details. Berlin was the opposite. For example, when you walk in the park and a dog comes running by, the dog's owner looks at you and smiles, and if his dog approaches you, he apologizes politely without speaking. That is enough because he feels that he invaded your space just a little bit.
Well, you are asking us for something called "integration"! Integration must be approached by both parties. Integration is accepting the customs and traditions from which I come from and which are appropriate for you to adopt, and vice versa. I take what suits me and what makes me stronger. I am not an enemy to anyone here. I have come here to live a life away from the conflict that has occurred in my country, and it may be a temporary situation where everything goes back to normal and I go back, but I don't know. What I do know is that I have to start out, and if they are determined to support us to start, they must remove the restrictions on us so we can do it. They should not be judging us continuously, this is not acceptable!
Okay, I understand what you do and the way you live due to your culture and life, but I take what suits me, my personality and my way of living. I take what makes me evolve as a person and the tools that will help me get to a better place. There is also stuff that I want to do if I am comfortable with it. I feel comfortable greeting you with a handshake or a hug. I do whatever makes me comfortable, I do what I want without any restrictions.
Here in Berlin, there is no judgement. You do you, you are free to be who you want to be, so just be yourself.
I do not know how right it is to think of belonging as one man's work because integration should be from both sides. The confusion about this scares us. We want to have mutual trust with German society. We build this trust through experience and if feel betrayed once, twice or three times, then there will be no trust with that person. I build trust between you and me.
I mean, when I started, I said I want to get up from here and I want to start, I have to do something. That is when I researched and found a project that needed volunteers, and I went and I am sure that people did not look at me and say that I work with children but don’t understand anything about children. These looks and judgements were in Munich, but here in Berlin I felt like I was freed. I have been working with children for a year and a half now. We should let out this energy inside of us and let go of any restrictions placed on us by the society we live in.
I am Amjad and this is my story from Berlin."