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June 18, 2018

Meet Rima

Rima's Story
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Christoph Buerglen
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I like to listen to what my heart says and do what I want. My name is Rima, I am a Kurdish 21-year-old girl from Aleppo, Syria. First, my family lived in the Kurdish regions in Syria in the North, but there were always problems with Arabs and Kurds. Even though Syria is Arab in origin the Kurds were living there before. Many people dislike the Kurds. However, with the war, everything changed. People used to be impolite to us, but with the onset of the war, no one had the energy for such conflicts anymore. My parents were employed by the government before we came to Germany. My father was working at the train station and my mother was an engineer. I came to Germany with my whole family. My mother came first, then the Familiennachzug allowed my two sisters and my father to follow and eventually I too, along with my uncle, joined my family.

Our decision to leave is hard to explain. You have to leave your country behind. However, you are leaving it in a way you do not recognize. It no longer is your country as your country once was due to all the changes. For me, it was really difficult because I had to finish school first. Going to school during wartime is tough. I was still doing my A-Levels when the war started. Of course, we did not know that it would become even more difficult. So, we stayed for another two years in Aleppo. I finished my Abitur and even started studying Architecture for one year. But it wasn’t long until I had to stay home because going to university was too dangerous.

During wartime we had no internet, so we had to work with what we had. I never used a computer or mobile phone and if one does not use this, one forgets. This empire of knowledge that the internet provided was, at least for us, unable to reach for so long. However, when I came to Germany, I was able to dive into this ‘online knowledge bubble’ again and read and learn about German culture and so much more. When I arrived in Erfurt I simply stayed, doing nothing, for two months in the camp, until I finally could do a language course and was allowed to start learning German. Back in 2015, a friend of mine told me about Kiron and I registered right away to study Computer Science. Working with the computer really interested me since I wanted to learn JavaScript and learn to construct and build things online. The courses were really useful and I was also able to improve my German. Kiron means to me… the beginning! Kiron truly helped me to begin my new life in Germany.

Now, I am in my first semester of Architecture in Weimar. I always loved architecture. In school, I was in the drawing club, and since those early days, I just knew I want to build things and create all kinds of new things. One day I will be a successful architect and I will make new things that people have yet to discover or make. My studies here are so different from the University of Aleppo. In Syria, we have to study for five years, here we only study for three. In Germany, you have to learn faster than in Aleppo. I like the atmosphere at the university – it is really cool! I have friends from all over the world including Germans and even friends from China and Afghanistan. In Weimar University, everyone is open-minded and treats me like a normal person. Of course, they were interested in my being a refugee from Syria and asked a few questions, but they were always really nice to me. They never treated me strangely. Instead, they helped me! Here, I am just a normal woman simply going to school, studying Architecture.

Being a woman in Syria is of course very different. You are treated like you are no more than a weak person that cannot handle oneself. Even though there were a lot of girls at my university in Aleppo, everyone always looked at the girls as if they were weak, did not belong and should stay at home. The problem for many refugee women is often that they have not had the chance to discover themselves. They still have ideas in their head that girls have to marry and have kids. They should learn to allow themselves to follow their dreams and educate themselves. Being an educated person will open doors! I don’t want to see myself as a weak person – education makes me strong. Here in German, any person is just like the other. It is not important if you are male or female. You can get a driving license or even do heavy work, like construction, no matter your gender. You are able to simply do what you like and you don’t have to justify yourself. I am a Muslima but I do not wear a headscarf. Here, it is not important if I wear a hijab or not – I can wear what I want to. My advice for female refugees is: Be yourself! Believe what your heart says and be more courageous!

Back in Syria, everything has to do with society and religion. However, religion and society are two pairs of shoes that should not be tied together. Society does not understand religion. Society misunderstands these two pairs of shoes too often and is shaped by male perspectives. People have to find their own way. It is neither the fault of society nor religion. In Germany, I see the benefit of learning and being influenced by German culture. It affects me, and in turn, influences of both cultures will affect each other. I believe that cultural exchange benefits and enhances society. While German society has welcomed us in such a warm and nice way, I believe that integration takes time. Within the time we will just learn to accept each other. I think it can be done if we simply have our hearts clear and open to others. The problems always seem the same – each person has his or her own ideas. It is important to listen to each other, hear different ideas and work with one another to find the best ideas together. I try always to look at the souls of people and treat people as they treat me, and I believe this to be the best approach.

When I first came to Germany, it felt very strange to be in this new country with all these new faces, new behaviors and this language that I did not understand. Now, I do not feel strange anymore – I like Germany, there are so many things that I like about this open-minded culture. However, of course, I often still miss Syria terribly! I miss my friends and the places that I used to go to. I miss my home – even though it is no longer my home. I hope the war in Syria will finally end so that we as Syrian engineers, doctors and whatever we are can come back and build up our country again with all that we have learned. Being an architect – it would be my honor to help and rebuild my country again.

Interview conducted by Flora Roenneberg #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation

Interview conducted by Flora Roenneberg #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation