Young Iranian told us how it is to be a refugee in Croatia

We met him while participating in the program ˝Film and discussion˝ organized by the Festival of tolerance

He loves songs by Oliver Dragojević, stuffed peppers, prosciutto, and Vegeta spice. His favorite part of Croatia is Dalmatia, especially island Prvić. But he is not a Croat, he is 18 years old Iranian with a distinctive smile. We have met him while participating in the discussion about refugees’ problems organized by the Festival of tolerance. It is a part of their programme ˝Film and discussion˝ organized on the platform DIJALOGIJA. Participation in this discussion also included a mandatory watching of the short film about refugees and organizations that help them. As representatives of our school at this event, Lara Trušček and I have watched this film on the Vimeo platform.

The moderator of the conversation, film critic Hrvoje Pukšec, introduced us to the meaning of the term refugees at the beginning. He said that refugees are people who were forced to leave to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Migrants, especially economic ones, are those who decide to leave their country on their own to provide better living conditions for themselves and their families.

This young man from Iran is one of those whose lives were endangered and he fled Iran together with his sisters and mother. But he and his family did not flee for political reasons, nor because of the state of war or religious beliefs, which are the most common reasons for exile. They fled because of a violent father who threatened his mother to pour acid on her. He planned to marry his sisters at the age of 9, and after the age of 12, he forced his son to leave school and hired him as a locksmith. The mother had no rights in the family. Iranian police did not respond to the mother’s reports and in fear for her own and her children’s lives she left Iran with her children.

My mother was given medical assistance at the Croatian border without asking her for documents 

We came to Croatia 2,5 years ago after 11 torturous months away from home. – We were in Belgrade for about 9 months and then in Bosnia. I didn’t even know about Croatia before. We ended up in Croatia by accident because my mother hurt her leg on the border. They immediately gave her medical assistance without asking her for documents. They treated us humanly and in the end, we have stayed here – a young Iranian man told us. We have also found out that this experience and treatment his mother got here were the reason he enrolled in medical school in Zagreb where he is now a 3rd-grade student.

He has already mastered Croatian well and has a lot of friends at school. – I am the first refugee and the first Iranian in medical school, he also added that his favorite subject is anatomy and that he would like to study medicine in college.

While answering the questions of participants in the conversation, the young Iranian told us that he has not had any problems since he came to Croatia. – I was well received at school and I have a lot of friends from the very beginning – he said. However, he also returns the good with the good and volunteers at the Red Cross, and teaches refugees the Croatian language at the Zagreb Refugee Reception Centre.

There are not many asylum seekers in Croatia (refugees to whom a state protects the territory of their state because their lives were endangered in their state). Only about 1,000 people have received asylum status in Croatia in the last 10 years. In Croatia, they are cared for by the UNHCR – the International Organization for the Protection of Refugees and the Jesuit Refugee Service. Diana Ravlija, a representative of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said she was also a refugee child born in Germany.

Speaking about her experience in working with refugees, she said that we should get to know them rather than make an opinion based on prejudices. – Some people convey prejudices by saying that refugees want to Islamize Europe. I see refugees primarily as people and I approach them that way, and I like to do my job because of people like this young man from Iran – said Ravlija, adding that people whose lives are endangered deserve help.

Unfortunately, not all participants joined this conversation on a serious topic with good intentions. There were a few of our peers who used inappropriate expressions in the chat and interrupted the conversation with different sounds. Yet there were more of us who had good intentions and wanted to meet a young refugee from Iran. So, I hope he felt as welcome during this conversation as he did in his medical high school. Lea Hrandek, 7. b: photo: screenshot/

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