Ghaid Hashemi

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Peaceful Coexistence in the Diaspora,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Berlin, Germany
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A single mother with two nationalities, Ghaid Hashemi defines herself through her religion and education. She says, "I am a woman, I am a Muslim, I am half Syrian and half German, and a specialist in political and educational sciences."

Ghaid was born in Damascus in 1962.  Days later, she returned with her family to Aleppo, where her father came from, because her mother was studying at the University of Damascus and there were no universities in Aleppo at that time.  She has been a migrant since she was born and bears the seeds of ambition and desire for knowledge.

Ghaid's father migrated from Syria in 1976 for political reasons that led the entire family to leave the country after nearly two years. She and her mother went back to Aleppo from to time, then joined her father in Saudi Arabia after a short period.

In her desire to search for a better future, Ghaid went to Germany. She says, "My husband needed treatment for his eyes in Germany."  In 1981, she arrived in Berlin alone, then her husband and daughter joined her. She could not continue studying medicine because she was pregnant with her second child. She says, "During the autopsy course I was forbidden from practical training due to pregnancy. I postponed it for a while, and then I delivered my child so I took leave. During my leave, I got pregnant with my third child.” This caused a crisis for her so she decided to change her major to political science and education. Before arriving in Germany, Ghaid had suffered from various restrictions in Saudi Arabia from when she was fourteen years old. She says, "In Syria, my father allowed me to go out whenever I wanted but I had to be home by nightfall. In Saudi Arabia, I was only allowed to go out by car and accompanied by my brothers even though they were younger than I was. When I came to Germany, I was happy because the difference was not between Syria and Germany, but rather between Saudi Arabia and Germany. I felt liberated from Saudi Arabia. The actual sadness was when I left Syria to go to Saudi Arabia.” Ghaid did not suffer from racism because she was from another country. While the issue of her veil was at the heart of the social differences she experienced initially, she now considers Syria and Germany as her homelands. Her lifestyle improved when she left Saudi Arabia where there is a feeling of “discrimination against foreigners. Whereas in Germany, discrimination is not clear. I was 19 years old and encountered racist people but that was because of my veil."

Since Ghaid had a university degree, she tried to find a job and continue to integrate. However, she was shocked when she applied to run a project about “How to deal successfully and respectfully with Arab and Syrian students and their families" and was rejected. She says, “The management’s point of view at the university council was divided. Some clearly said that they voted against me because they did not know me personally. The rest decided that such a project was not necessary.

Ghaid noted that she had "worked for months on that project for nothing." The dean of the university said to her, "We have democracy but we also have racism" (meaning in German society).

Ghaid was shocked when her project was rejected because “I had worked for many months and accomplished a massive job”. She says she was invited by her teacher to be a visiting professor at the university in order to reduce the shock of the rejection. Ghaid got her German citizenship when she was still studying political science and education. Before that, she applied for asylum in 1987. She says, "When I got the German passport, it was 1991 or 1992.  I felt German when the locals looked at me as a German. At that time, I felt that I was really a German". Before that, she considered the Germans as friends. She says that during that period she participated in the "Tottoriol", an event organised by university students.  She says, "They were preparing an event entitled “The Legend of the Islamic Enemy”, and I supervised two students, one German and the other Colombian. They were very happy with my participation as I was the only Muslim student in the event and I represented the party that they talked about. The reactions were divided but after a year I noticed that it had become an annual event. Its main topic was society’s criticism of racism, and the view of others.” In 2000, Ghaid separated from her husband having had three children. She says, “After I left the university, I worked in an association called the Islamic Women’s Association that took care of children after school. I worked with them for a year as an educational consultant and then I got married for the second time”.  Afterwards, she left her job at the association because she was taking care of her own children and had separated from her second husband.  She felt that her awareness and maturity as a divorced woman with children was different and she had become more responsible. "I feel that my awareness has developed through my experiences, whether it is the encounters with the Germans, the discussions that take place, or the questions they ask about Islam and the veil.”

Ghaid considers that today the Syrian refugees in Germany are an open majority because “Syrian society is an open society. Personally I have not encountered obstacles to integration because religion. Difficulties in integration are due to psychological problems,” she says. She describes today’s refugees as “relatively spoiled” compared to refugees in the past.