– I was happy in Sweden, had friends who loved me and a clear vision about my future. After a long time I had finally started to feel at home again, but then all that collapsed and I became all alone, again, says Arash Khawari.
– As a child my dream was to become a professional fighter, but I couldn’t follow it because of the circumstances at home. When I came to Sweden I finally got the opportunity to start training properly on my passion, Mixed Martial Arts. The first few months went well, I was making good progress. My friends and my coach encouraged me to keep on, they could see me developing and it made them happy. Until one day I got a letter from the migration board and when I opened it my whole world crashed. The letter said my asylum case was rejected.
Arash came to Sweden in the winter of 2015, like many other refugee children. He started school and began to dream of a life in the Swedish society, a future free from war and insecurity. But his asylum case was rejected three times in three years, and in the spring of 2019 he got an expulsion order and had to leave Sweden, just like thousands of other youngsters have done since 2016.
Arash was a real fighter, a truly patient young man who did his best to stay in Sweden and follow his dreams of studying to become a police officer and at the same time a MMA fighter. But life was too cruel to him, he never got the chance to develop his skills and make his dreams come true.
– I was happy in Sweden, he says. I thought I had finally reached a place where I could breathe freely without being afraid of what disasters tomorrow may bring. My friends inspired me to become a better fighter, my teachers helped me to take effective steps into the Swedish society and my mother was happy for me, because I smiled with all my heart.
He was not afraid of the challenges he had to face – again, he was sad because he had to give up his dreams and the ones he loved here in Sweden. And that is the feeling that Arash shares with many other youngsters at his age.
– I arrived in Switzerland in the beginning of the summer last year, he says. Things went faster than I had expected and I got my asylum in three months.
Arash has got a temporary resident permit for five years. After five years he will have to apply for an extension, and if things go well and he has no criminal records then he will get a permanent permit, if not then again a temporary one which will last another five years.
He is fine now, as he says himself. He goes to school to study language and he still dreams. But his dreams have changed; now he is planning to become a mechanic instead of a police officer or a MMA fighter.
– Training is expensive, people here are not so interested in MMA and there is no motivation anymore, he says. I think I am still happy, not as happy as I was in Sweden, but I am ok. Sometimes you have to accept the situation as it is. I know it sucks to start it all over again, daring to make new friends to cope with the loneliness and trying to put on a smile so that people around you won’t call you a “hopeless case”. But you have to try because you have no other choice. And between war which leads to death, and suffering, which may one day end, I chose suffering because I am too young to die. And maybe one day in the future, I will have the opportunity to do what I truly desire.
The thing which is the most puzzling to me is Arashes answer when I asked him what country he would choose, Sweden or Switzerland, if he went back to 2015 with the experiences he has now.
– Definitely Sweden, he said. I don’t know why, I just have this feeling of belonging when I think of Sweden, although I was treated cruelly by the system.
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This interview is part of a series of stories of what has happened to some of those who were in the center of the events in 2015. Faiaz Dowlatzai is a young author living in Sweden. He is the chairman of The Alliance of Unaccompanied minors in Sweden and works as teacher and student assistant at Vinsta Public School.
To Faiaz fleeing his home country has meant fighting for his life and his future, defeating darkness and death, reaching the light. He says some will succeed, many will not. Faiaz is writing on a triology about his and his siblings flight, published by Semafor Publishing House.