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Amina: The Storyteller

To respect Amina’s privacy, In-Sight Collaborative will refrain from using her real photo.

Amina is a 23-year-old well ahead of her time. From Afrin, Syria, born in Aleppo, Amina has overcome many odds that came her way. She left Aleppo when she was 16 because of deteriorating conditions in the region, and was forced to leave school after the 10th grade due to war. After being in Afrin for about two years, in 2013 she was finally able to finish school through courses even after the schools had closed down. In 2014 she left Syria for Turkey, an ambitious journey for a 18-year-old woman looking to continue her studies.

In Syria her life was immersed in studies. However, in Turkey, she worked in a supermarket to support her family. She still hoped to attend college in order to finish by the time she was 22 years old. Unfortunately, that plan was put on hold. In Syria, she wanted to study Pharmacy, but in Turkey she was not aware of her options; she didn't know what she could study or how she could study, with limited opportunities to pursue higher education in Turkey. Despite this she learned Turkish and after a year and a half in Turkey, left for Greece by sea. In Greece, she thought she would find refuge in Germany, perhaps in two weeks time. But the borders closed; they were too late. “We did not know what was going to happen. You knew you needed to live and survive, but not for where or what.”

Amina and her family applied to the relocation program, interviewed, and were placed in Sweden in August of 2017, after a year and a half in the informal refugee camp community in Idomeni, on the mainland in Greece. Despite the hardships, she learned so much during her time in Greece. She recalls: 

  • Learning about what human rights really means in EU; Her viewpoint changed

  • Thinking she could continue her life, work for her future and studies but realizing the grim reality of putting everything on hold

  • Working hard and not giving up; She worked as a translator for Aljazeera English, Time Magazine with their piece “Finding Home,” Vice Greece, NOS Holland, BBC Scotland, to name a few!

On top of all her achievements, Amina has been working on a documentary with Swedish filmmakers from March 2016 up until now! After four years, they are finally finished. The documentary “Idomeni” is about the journey taken by two Yizidis families from Sinjar Iraq to Greece. It premiered for the first time in February 2020.

With Omnes, she was also able to collaborate with and translate for UNHCR on a housing project aimed to place refugees in proper accommodations. She partnered with the Swiss Embassy to work with locals in Greece, while simultaneously trying to find job opportunities for Greeks as well.

Amina was invaluable as a translator and volunteer with NGOs (Amina can speak Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic English and Swedish) but she also understood her community best. She could offer feedback to organizations because she could identify as a refugee. She truly understands the stories she is translating. She is, in her own words, “...not a translating machine. I can truly understand.”

Amina wants the world to know about herself and about refugees in general - others might see refugees as not knowing anything, as clueless or ignorant or terrorists; and this is the WRONG perspective.

“We did not come for no reason. We came because of war.”

Amina believes that people should see everyone as a refugee instead of potentially harmful individual identities. Refugees are an invaluable addition to the countries they have traveled to. “I am studying, I have worked with so many people on the same projects. I had an important role in their job.” People who are working in healthcare during the pandemic in Sweden are foreigners; many people who were racist/against refugees, are getting treated by foreigners after being affected by the virus. The takeaway here is that we are the same, we help one another, we all share the earth. We should not be against each other simply for being Muslim, or a refugee or Syrian; we are all human no matter who you are.

Amina’s hope is that she will have the freedom to travel wherever she wants in the future; she would love to go to Yemen, Africa; visit friends in the US and see loved ones in the UK. Borders complicate things; we are one earth, why are we banning certain people from entering/leaving? This lack of freedom also greatly affects her work; before Sweden Amina was supposed to go to Greece to finish documentary work but she was not able to until she could get a resident card in Sweden. For her Non Citizen Archive work, she was not able to go to Serbia because of passport limitations; she was in a space where her coworkers could do their job simply due to their documents whereas her opportunities with a Syrian passport were greatly limited.

However, Amina does not want to be limited due to personal reasons; she wants to help humanity and humanitarian crises around the world that do not gain visibility. She wants people to be more like kids - accepting each other without conditioned categorization. “If we can learn how to hate as we get older, we should and be able to learn to love because love helps you and others around you.”

How does she do this? Non Citizen Archive is a digital platform saving media for the future on social impact causes and refugees. It gives agency to the voice or lens of how the person wants to share; people can tell their stories without a filter, and to hold on to their story for life…”so that the information held is not a just fleeting story.” NCA also holds workshops for refugees such as filmmaking.

What else does Amina want you to take away from this? Amina wants to stress the impact of advocacy, of sharing your message to do good in the world.

“If I can change one mind, it makes a difference. Because that person can influence 10 other minds. If you are reading, make your message heard even if it is just one person in front of you. Every voice is important to share.”

This is Amina. This is her story. It’s still being archived, and she hopes you will join in her efforts to share stories because every person has a role, anyone and everyone can make a difference. Everyone deserves to be heard.

Thank you.

Connect with Noncitizen Archive online, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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